Nightbanes is by no means a newcomer to the card-based strategy scene. Originally a flash game on Armor Games and Kongregate, Nightbanes boasts a vampire theme and a huge selection of creepy, dark cards and interesting game mechanics, all weighed down by a strong free-to-play model with microtransactions.
Full disclosure, all reviewers of this game were given a huge sum of in-game currency for the review period so I was able to try out most of the different cards and decks available Post release though, this in-game currency was removed as all user accounts were deleted to make an even playing field.
Nightbanes definitely leans towards the more casual audience, with the gameplay being simple and fast with an option to fast forward. The game, despite the overly confusing tutorial, it’s actually a little too simple. I found that more often than not, I could just spam click my deck and useful cards would be used as if by magic. Every time I did this, against various difficulty levels of NPCs, I’d win time and time again.
The three starter decks, of which you pick one, all come with a large selection of card types. There’s your typical units that deal out damage, some of which are humanoid and can equip equipment to pad their attack and health stats. Then you’ve got environment cards which cause effects for both players that continue until either player places a new environment card. Environment cards can increase stats, heal units and debuff the opponent’s stats. Similarly to environment cards, you’ve got ability cards that do the same thing as environment ones but just for that one turn. Finally, you’ve got mounts that you can equip to your character to provide them with more health points. You can only place one card per turn so there’s no need for a mana-style card, which I actually really liked.
Battles flow fluidly. You place a card, your turn ends, rinse and repeat. The trick to Nightbanes is to place cards that can overpower your opponent. The units you place automatically fight whichever units they are placed across from; if there’s nothing placed across from them then they’ll hit your opponent, dishing out damage and whittling down their health points.
Alright let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. As with every card game, the multiplayer is where it’s at. You don’t pick up Hearthstone and think “When do I get to beat all the NPCs?!” right? It’s true though, the multiplayer is where Nightbanes WOULD shine if there wasn’t such a huge pay-to-win aspect. Opponents can have some insane card decks that would require a lot of free time to match, or real money to have yourself. Some people don’t mind this and like the challenge, which I understand, but it’s more than bordering the unfair territory.
Nightbanes features a singleplayer questline that has you going up against extremely easy NPCs that level up the more you win, providing a slight challenge and reward increase. This is where you’ll unlock the generic currency blood pearls that can’t be purchased with real money, aswell as faction reputation that unlocks more cards from certain factions. There’s also a PVP currency for cards exclusive to PVP. In PVP you can select between fighting someone in real-time and fighting AI controlling a real person’s deck. The purchasable currency, known as blood diamonds, let you buy some exclusive cards and decks, with the alternate blood pearl currency allowing you to buy different cards and decks for much higher prices. It doesn’t take long to grind up enough to buy them but the cards are often not as powerful as the others. When booting up the game during launch week, you’ll receive 100 blood diamonds which is enough to buy one of the special decks with 40 diamonds leftover. Nightbanes leaves a lot to be desired in terms of rewarding the player though. Your efforts often go unappreciated with minimal reward.
The cards all feature cool and interesting artwork but some monster designs feel uninspired. Basing their whole game around the vampire theme was a risky move because there’s only so much they can make. The soundtrack is also very generic vampire fantasy and is pretty uninspired overall.
I honestly don’t recommend Nightbanes unless you’re into spending a little bit of cash to add some variety to the gameplay. It’s free to play, so it costs nothing to check out and see if you like it, but I wouldn’t say it’s an essential free to play game. The pay to win elements are just too much. The gameplay is a lot different to other games of the same genre but