App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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Spellsword Cards: Demontide is a card game that takes the base mechanics of Hearthstone, jams them into a bunch of different single-player modes, and removes any and all free-to-play mechanics from the equation. It has more than its share of rough edges, but it's mostly a great looking and great playing digital card game with more than enough content to keep you playing it for a long time.
Card game collector
There's a lot of popular templates for digital card games these days, and Demontide tries to fit as many of them as possible into a single package. It does a draft battle mode (like Hearthstone's Arena), a roguelike mode (à la Slay the Spire or Pirates Outlaws), one-turn kill puzzles (also like Hearthstone's Puzzle Lab), and a Campaign Mode that feels a bit like MicroProse's classic PC version of Magic: The Gathering, where you wander an overworld map battling various foes in one-on-one card combat.
No matter which of these modes you're playing, you're in for a lot of duels featuring streamlined and intuitive collectible card game (CCG) rules. Turn by turn, you get an increasing pool of mana that allows you to play ever more powerful cards, and the goal is to use whatever cards are at your disposal—whether they be equipment, summons, artifacts, etc.—to take your opponent’s health down to zero.
Campaign is main
Out of all these different modes, Demontide’s design is focused around its Campaign Mode. Here, you play as a created character as you investigate a mysterious curse that is making all metal break like glass across the land. As you go on this adventure, you travel to beautiful locations that do a great job of showcasing Demontide’s colorful, handpainted visuals. All the while, you battle all sorts of enemies and complete quests to level up your hero and unlock cards to add to your collection.
Narratively, the Campaign Mode setup starts out intriguing, but it quickly devolves into a series of random-feeling quests that exist just to funnel you into yet another card battle. Fortunately, the encounters in this Campaign Mode present a surprisingly varied and interesting set of fights. As opposed to just fighting harder and harder enemies, there are tons of enemies with different special powers that force you to always be shifting your deck and strategy.
If I haven’t been clear enough yet, Demontide is a game totally focused on card battles and little else. Just because it has a story doesn’t mean you should come for it. This is for the best though, as Demontide’s gameplay happens to be extremely deep and satisfying. If you don’t believe me, the game is free to download, and if you like what you play, a simple $2.99 unlocks everything the game has to offer.
Although the game looks pretty and plays well, Demontide still isn’t exactly the most elegant experience. Menus for building decks, the UI around how you play some cards, and the game’s crafting system all feel a little clunky and awkward to navigate. This all comes to a head in Demontide’s roguelike mode, called Gauntlet, which feels like the most underdeveloped part of the game. Its mechanics aren’t particularly well explained, the upgrade menu is hard to read, and there’s no clear way to exit the mode unless you’re on one particular screen.
I wouldn't say any of these things are game-breakers, but they are minor annoyances that can wear on you over time. They can be particularly annoying, too, because Demontide resembles Hearthstone in many ways, and it just so happens that Hearthstone is one of the most polished mobile experiences there is.
The bottom line
Demontide offers up just about anything you could want from a modern mobile card game (except perhaps a portrait mode or multiplayer). It may not be perfect, but that’s perfectly ok. Demontide makes up for whatever shortcomings it has by providing great, offline CCG action using a very fair pay model, and that’s enough to make it worthy of your time.