Crypto Game Review: Splinterlands
Below is a review I wrote for the LOOP Dex community but thought I would share it on here. Would love some feedback from fellow Splinterlands players about how it could be improved! Find the original article here!
Splinterlands is an NFT-based collectible card game (CCG) built on the HIVE blockchain. Join me as I review one of the leading games in the blockchain space and let you you know if it’s worth your time and money…or not!
But first: My reviews come from a ‘game first’ perspective. I am looking to explore how the game works and why it is or isn’t enjoyable to play. Whilst I will cover the financial aspect of the games I review (they cannot be ignored after all), this is not my priority. If you want to know if this game might make you rich, this review is not for you. If you want to know if this is a game that will give you an enjoyable experience and keep you coming back for more – read on!
What is Splinterlands?
Splinterlands is online multiplayer competitive card game that sees you playing a summoner in command of a variety of magical beasts and companions. If you have ever played a collectible card game from classics such as Magic: The Gathering through to popular digital card games such as Hearthstone, you will be familiar with the idea of sitting opposite an opponent and strategising your way to victory through the clever use of card abilities and statistics. Choose a summoner, build your deck and battle in the Arena for glory and rewards!
Built on the HIVE blockchain, Splinterlands allows you to collect cards in the form of NFTs that can be used to construct battle decks. Each battle is played live against a an opponent. Each time in the the arena you will be challenged to design the ideal deck to counter your opponent while also working around the combinations battle of modifiers that make each match unique and challenging.
Splinterlands is similar to other popular CCGs in the process of selecting and building decks, but the battles are played out automatically based on the statistics of the cards. The order, speed, health, attack types, attack power and special abilities of each card determine how and when they resolve their turns as you watch on in anticipation of the result. From there, the only thing left is to perfect your strategy and expand your collection to reach higher leagues and battle for greater rewards!
A typical Splinterlands battle all set up for action. Want to watch it play out? Click here.
Being built on Blockchain technology brings some unique features to Splinterlands. First and foremost is the ability to own the cards you have won or purchased. Each playable card is stored as an on-chain NFT which gives you complete autonomy over its use. This extends to renting, selling, delegating, gifting or even destroying the cards you own. There is a robust market for renting and selling these cards that can run from a handful of cents for some common staples to tens of thousands of dollars for the rarest gold foils. If you don’t own any cards there is a pool of ‘Starter’ cards that are available to all players so ensure anybody can build a competitive deck and play. Many of these starter cards are amongst the most competitive in the game!
A typical Splinterlands card showing mana cost, attack rating, speed, health, car level and the special ability icon.
Cards can be broadly separated into four types: summoners, support, magic, melee and ranged. Each card is also assigned one of 5 elements: fire, earth, water, life, death and neutral. Additionally, the card has a mana cost and a variety of other statistics that influence its utility in the game. Cards can be levelled by combining multiple copies of the same card. Higher level cards get increased statistics and, often ,additional abilities.
When a match begins, each player chooses a deck consisting of one summoner and as many eligible minions as they can play within the limitations of that specific match. In lower leagues, this limitation is usually simply a “mana” cap which dictates how many cards you can play. In higher leagues, match modifiers begin to add complexity such as disallowing specific summoners, cards or abilities. Different summoners and decks function a very differently depending on how these conditions combine so there is no single team that will steamroll your way to consistent victory. Adapting your deck to the game conditions is just as (maybe more) important than the cards you own and a well built starter decks will regularly overcome poorly planned decks filled with expensive rare cards.
Game conditions change from match to match. At higher leagues, these become more complex with multiple modifiers and a wider range of mana caps.
This is simply the start of the depth of strategy the game goes into. Learning the cards, their abilities and which teams function best at cetain mana caps or in certain matchups is crucial to victory. Cards can also be levelled up by combining mutliple copies of the same card
Additional blockchain features include the ability to earn crypto currency for winning matches. This currency can be used to purchase or rent cards, build up player guilds or simply cash out and take home. Online tournaments are also held daily with cryptocurrency rewards for the victors. I will explain the tokenomics in more detail later in this review.
The main draw of Splinterlands, however, is the game itself. Unlike, many blockchain/cypto games on the market, which are frequently little more than idle clickers with a crypto element, the core of Splinterlands is truly engaging competitive card game, where outsmarting real-life opponents for the spoils of victory enables the continued building of your precious collection.
Want to get started in the world of Splinterlands? Here are a few things you should know before you begin.
The game is available to play in a browser or from the mobile app available on both the iOS and Google Play stores. It is worth noting that the functionality of the mobile app is very different to the desktop version and it is best to do most of your management from a browser and save the mobile app for playing some games on the go.
Splinterlands is technically a free-to-play game but most of it is locked away until you invest in the USD$10 spellbook. This is available for purchase through a one-off PayPal transaction and gives you lifelong ability to complete daily quests for rewards, earn in game currency and interact with the marketplaces.
The desktop interface for Splinterland gives access to all of the major features such as the in-game shop, card marketplace, collection viewer, guild screen, arena, FAQs and more.
Once you have puchased your spellbook you will immediately be able to begin playing using the starter cards provided. These starter cards are very competitive and it is possible to compete to a relatively high level without ever owning any fancy expansion cards. The cards cycle out periodically with older expansions being replaced with newer releases.
When you first begin you will find yourself in the Bronze III league. At this level you cannot earn the in game reward currency, Dark Energy Crystals (DEC), and will need to accumulate Collection Power (CP) to reach the higher levels. Your CP is the combined total of all of the cards you own (not including starter cards) and can be increased by winning cards from daily quests or end of season rewards, buying cards/opening booster packs, or renting them from the marketplace. Accessing higher leagues will grant more daily rewards, higher end of season rewards and in game currency for winning matches.
Renting cards is an important concept to understand as you begin. To reach Bronze II, the next league up and also the first in which you receive DEC rewards, you will need 1000CP. To meet this requirement could require owning quite a lot of cards (at least US$20 or more) and grinding out rewards to reach this level could take a lifetime. Renting the same cards required to reach a higher league could cost mere . At the time of writing 1000CP can be obtained through renting for a mere US$0.007 a day. This can be paid for in credit purchased via PayPal or with Dark Energy Crystals won through play. When competing at higher leagues it is relatively easy to earn enough DEC to maintain the rentals required to meet the league CP. At just about any level of the game, rentals are a crucial to keeping the game affordable to play at a competitive level.
With this information you should be ready to tackle Splinterlands and challenge for high leagues and rewards without making some common beginner mistakes. I could go on to explain in game strategy and tips for successful play but that might be an article all to itself. Leave a comment if it is something you might like to see!
Resources and Currencies
Of course, no blockchain is complete without crypto rewards to keep people striving for bigger and better things.
Splintershard (SPS) are the governance token of the Splinterlands world. Currently they have minimal utility and are being distributed through a year long airdrop program. A recent announcement by the Splinterlands team outlines the 2022 roadmap for SPS which should introduce ways to utilise the currency for governance and more.
Dark Energy Crystals (DEC) are the in-game play reward for winning matches. The primary use of DEC is for renting and puchasing cards on the story. DEC are also used to contribute towards player guilds to unlock guild features and content.
Are a currency that can only be purchased and used in game. 1000 credits is always equal to US$1 and they may be purchased via a paypal transaction. They can be used to purchase booster packs, cards and rentals. Due to their nature, they may not be traded or exchanged outside of the game.
Additionally, Splinterlands allows for other assets such as booster packs, land plots and more to be tokenised and exchanged. This means you can even find people selling unopened booster packs for previous expansions that are no longer available for purchase.
All of the currencies (except credits that may only be purchased in game with a credit card) can be freely traded on the HIVE blockchain. Tribal Dex is one of the predominant exchanges where currencies and even tokenised booster packs, land plots for future expansions and more can be openly traded. You will need a HIVE blockchain wallet which is immediately generate on creating a game account. The details of the wallet including passcodes and private keys can be obtained in game.
The Bottom Line
Splinterlands is a well-designed, addictive and enjoyable card game that has plenty to offer for players of any level. For the entry price of USD$10 you gain access to all the cards you need to play and enjoy the core of what Splinterlands is about. From there the game will go as deep as you are willing to dive.
The game is well presented with slick graphics, music and sound effects that surpass just about anything else in the crypto gaming world right now. Some users might be put off by the cartoony style that is clearly somewhat derivate of the Hearthstone but I personally think the game looks as good as one can hope for a project that is still remarkably young, in crypto world that is barely much older.
The community around the game is thriving and filled with additional apps to help manage cards, learn more about the game or engage with other players to share war stories or even NFT cards. The games adheres to web3 values with the players holding a say in the future of the game and the team regularly holding town hall meetings on the Splinterlands Discord.
The amount of investment needed to compete at the higher levels of Splinterlands is fairly extreme, but this is well balanced with the revolving door of starter cards that enable anybody with $10 to spare a chance to enjoy the game. There are opportunities to earn but these are limited by the skill, strategy and investment level of the player. If you are looking for something to check in once or twice a day to click a button or two and earn, this is not the game for you.
Areas for improvement would primarly be adding more features and improving stability of the mobile app. The ability to manage card collections and purchase/rent cards on the go would be very helpful. Additionally, there are many noticeable glitches and bugs the pop up from time to time. Some of these can even interfere with games, causing losses at many times which is always frustrating for users. Furthermore, an ability the SPS governance token to have more utility is crucial as currently it is on a steep decline in value as it is being accumulated or simply sold. The team have addressed this in their 2022 roadmap, so I am hopefuly this will change over the course of this year.
However you choose to play Splinterlands, it is a thoroughly enjoyable (and at times horribly frustrating) original card game that would stand up to any digital or card game out there. As we head into 2022, and the world of the crypto gaming continues to explode, many developers out there should take note of the fact that a game with financial incentives does not need to dumb itself down, or compromise gameplay, to focus on the financial elements. As the the crypto game with the highest daily users of any blockchain, Splinterlands is proof that there are plenty of gamers out there who are more interested in having fun than guaranteeing ROI and this should be applauded.
If you would like to see more Splinterlands content such as strategy, card reviews or more detail on aspects of the game please feel free to leave a comment. Until then, see you in the arena!
If you want to play please feel free to use my referral link below.