oprainfall@GDC IMPRESSIONS: ManaRocks

Thursday, July 30th, 2020

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One not so secret about myself is that I love card games. Don’t get me wrong, videogames come first, but I find the occasional card game a great mental exercise. They can be diverting and many have great fanbases. And sure, some CCGs are more popular than others. One pretty much everybody knows is Magic the Gathering. I grew up with that particular game, though recently I’ve become much more of a fan of Yu-Gi-Oh! The reason I mention popular card games is I feel ManaRocks takes many, many cues from the well known ones, notably Magic.

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ManaRocks is developed by Brazilian team Rockgames, and it’s very clear to me they’re familiar with Magic. Though ManaRocks isn’t a complete clone, it shares many similarities. Fantastical creatures, mana costs for playing cards, monsters not being able to attack and then defend, the list goes on. And while I do feel this game does a few things all its own, part of me feels it doesn’t do enough.

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ManaRocks starts with a quick tutorial showing you the basics. Unlike Magic, you accumulate more mana every turn without having to play it from your deck. Cards you activate give you more mana, and by playing enough cards of your element, you’ll power up your hero’s special abilities. In the tutorial, I was a green elf maiden, so I could summon tokens with my ability. The abilities also power up over time, but I never had a match last long enough to see how that worked. There are other elemental focuses, such as dark necromancers and wily blue sorcerers.

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While I appreciate the tutorial and Story Mode in ManaRocks, which lets you fight set battles to unlock cards and additional decks, the real focus is Ranked play. This is the only mode that lets you accumulate experience, for one. What’s interesting about this mode is that it isn’t 1 v 1 battles. It forces you to play with a partner against another duo, either a real person or CPU. Funny enough, Yu-Gi-Oh! fans have been craving actual tag team duels forever, so it’s cool to see that here. Unfortunately, in effect it’s not that interesting. You can’t really communicate with your partner, other than with preset emojis. And though you can use cards your partner has activated, I was always hesitant to do so. Play any card game in real life long enough, and you’ll learn about card etiquette. Touching someone else’s cards without permission is a no no for me, even online.

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I do appreciate the variety of cards in ManaRocks, as well as the artwork. This is an attractive game, and it’s nice that it’s free. What frustrated me is that I got a couple press codes to unlock more goodies in my time with the game, and neither worked. Also, when you start ManaRocks, you have to provide an email. After I did so, I never got any confirmation email about starting the game. So it’s clear Rockgames still has a few bugs to iron out. Perhaps most egregious was when I played a Ranked battle and lost for an unknown reason. My opponent hadn’t played any cards to deal damage to my character, yet suddenly I took massive direct damage and lost in the course of two turns. That after being in the lead for most of the game. I checked, and my opponent didn’t seem to have any ability that corresponded to that loss either.

ManaRocks | Problems

If you’re eager for a free to play digital card game, ManaRocks can definitely satisfy that itch. Just don’t expect anything genre defining. ManaRocks definitely plays it safe, but some players might prefer that. If that’s you, feel free to check the game out on Steam. Here’s hoping the game continues to evolve and grow better over time.

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About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.