Developer: White Wizard Games
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.5
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

The Blob have arrived, and all who stand against them will be reduced to ash. Their fleets – massive, terrifyingly organic ships – arrive with the catastrophic finality of a lightning strike, decimating anything in their path. The civilized races of the galaxy respond the only way they know how: they form and break alliances, taking the disastrous arrival of the Blob to grab for power. And so the fleets arise, intent on nothing less than total victory.

IMG_0672Star Realms started as a deck-building card game of titanic popularity, and this digital adaptation attempts to successfully capture the fast-paced, simple-yet-engaging gameplay of the physical version. For the most part, it succeeds overwhelmingly. Players take turns drawing cards from their ever-increasing decks in order to gain Trade, Authority, and Combat. Trade is spent on new ships, authority acts as the game’s hit points, and combat is used to destroy your opponent’s outpost and damage their Authority.

Though there are many ships from the four factions, the rules are fairly straightforward and easy to grasp. However, along with the relative simplicity of the design is a surprising amount of depth and strategy, as each of the factions has a different gameplay focus and bolsters and strengthens each other in unique ways. Deck-building strategies will differ not only based on what cards will form powerful combinations, but also based on what tactics are best suited to counter your opponent’s deck.

IMG_0673Fans of the card game will find it to be virtually a perfect port. The visuals are good, with close-ups of the cards showing off Star Realms’ gorgeous artwork. The animation of the cards getting dealt and shuffled could have been a bit smoother, but that aside it has a great aesthetic. The music is minimal but atmospheric, adding a tense, exciting vibe to your space battles.

There is a campaign mode, which features several scenarios with unique rules such as specialized starting decks or opponent fleets. The other single-player option is a straightforward game against an AI opponent. The game also features online and local multiplayer, but you will have to pay to unlock the pass and play as well as the ‘Medium’ and ‘Hard’ AIs and full campaign. The game shines as a pass and play because of the simplicity and elegance of its gameplay; if you enjoy playing the game, it’s definitely worth the purchase to be able to play it locally with friends.

IMG_0682Some design flaws are present, of course, but fairly minor. The game features a strong tutorial, but the way certain card effects are applied can take some getting used to. I do wish that the shuffling and dealing animations were a bit smoother, though.

Star Realms is a fantastic deck-builder, with all the sensibilities of games like Ascension but presented in an even tighter design. Played alone or against friends, it’s a truly fun experience.

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