Version Reviewed: 2.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
Heavenstrike Rivals is a free-to-play strategy game by Square Enix. In it, players duke it out against each other or AI in the quest to prove the supremacy of their squad. With some unique gameplay systems and some new twists on familiar ideas, Heavenstrike Rivals is really fun, though a little bit intimidating.
Part of Heavenstrike Rivals's promotion on the App Store mentions that the game is a trading card game (TCG), though it doesn't look like one. Much like some card games, like Magic: the Gathering and SolForge, players do construct armies of creatures and send them down one of three lanes with the ultimate goal of bringing the opposite players' life score to 0. However, most presentations of the creatures in the game are fully animated and move around the game like some kind of papercraft puppets, which makes the whole thing looks really sharp. Players that are particularly fond of the steampunk aesthetic, anime, or both should be pleased with the work that has gone into making Heavenstrike Rivals look the way it does.
As players pick up the basics of the game, Heavenstrike Rivals rewards players with different units and added challenges, and part of the fun of the game is in learning how to unlock and setup a squad of units that compliment one another, and then testing these squads online against opponents. Although the game does sport a host of single player missions, the focus of the game really seems to be on multiplayer.
Being a free-to-play game, the progression of collecting increasingly complex or advanced cards can make the game feel like a pay-to-win experience, but Heavenstrike Rivals handles the issue of balance pretty well. Again, much like Magic: the Gathering, Heavenstrike Rivals provides players with a set amount of mana that gets doled out throughout the course of the match, which ultimately encourages players to balance their squads with a mix of both powerful and basic units. Although smart, this system is not completely infallible, as a few wins in multiplayer could put players in leagues full of more advanced players, and the more powerful units are still better than the basic ones, despite taking longer to deploy.
In terms of Heavenstrike Rivals's other free-to-play features, players can expect a lot of the more typical aspects present in similar titles. Players accumulate multiple forms of currency, items, upgrades, etc. all of which can be purchased with real money, and the game limits free players with a stamina system (though there are two stamina systems: one for single-player, one for multiplayer, which is kind of nice), but none of these features feel particularly offensive, considering the game itself looks great, is mechanically solid, and is well-balanced.
In terms of drawbacks, the game's free-to-play structures isn't exactly ideal, though it is understandable. Bigger than that though is the sheer amount of confusing and unexplained metagame layered on top of Heavenstrike Rivals. Although the base game is about building a team and managing units in battle, these units can level up, there's a crazy inventory management system for storing all of a player's earned units (which is limited but can be expanded using some of the game's premium currency), and even a daily quest system for players to farm training materials, all of which make playing Heavenstrike Rivals in any serious capacity feel like a pretty huge commitment.
Overall, Heavenstrike Rivals is a pretty fantastic free-to-play strategy game. It's relatively easy to learn, but the game can feel imbalanced sometimes and the game has endless amounts of stuff for players to work toward. Depending on the kind of player that picks up this game, they might see that as a great thing, or as a weird overcomplication of the game's base mechanics. Either way, the game looks pretty great and delivers on its promise of being an enjoyable strategy experience.