Deck Caster: Interesting premise, but lacklustre execution

Deck Caster is a hybrid game that blends deck-building and real-time strategy (RTS).

If its Hearthstone-meets-Warcraft premise sounds familiar, it is because Deck Caster is not a new game. It debuted in 2016 for the PlayStation 4 console as ArmaGallant: Decks of Destiny. Its local developer Rock Nano Global has now repackaged, renamed and released it for PCs on the Steam platform.

This Steam release retains the same multiplayer-focused gameplay as ArmaGallant, while loosening its restrictions. Like any deck-building game, the player first needs to assemble a deck featuring creatures and spells, to duel against opponents in 1v1 or 2v2 battles in a map. Play these cards to summon a creature or to cast spells such as throwing a fireball at an enemy.

Once a creature card is played, it becomes an RTS game. Click with a mouse to order your creatures to move to map locations or attack other enemy units.

The objective is to seize control points called Monoliths. Holding these points over a period of time, as well as killing enemies, depletes the opponent's life points which, like yours, start at 100 points. Once this number becomes zero, the player loses the game.

I found the game intriguing, as it spices up the RTS concept by introducing luck as another variable as you may not get the cards you want. Being able to customise your deck also lets you use a more diverse cast of creatures, as well as have the potential to mix and match cards.

Seeing as it lacks a single-player campaign - you can only challenge the computer in practice games - Deck Caster could do with a proper tutorial to ease new players into the game. Instead, you are left to make sense of the pictorial guide that gives basic information about game controls and objectives. The lore included in the game is meagre. I was also disappointed that there are just two maps to choose from.

  • RATING: 6/10

    PRICE: $16 (PC)

    GENRE: Deck-building real-time strategy

The changes from ArmaGallant are not so much gameplay-related as tweaks to the game's business model. While ArmaGallant kept 20 of its 100 playing cards locked behind micro-transactions, Deck Caster comes with every card available. ArmaGallant also required players to pay for a subscription to Sony's PlayStation Plus service to play online. However, Deck Caster is a PC game without any online servers - there is no subscription fee as players host their own games. In addition, Deck Caster itself costs $16 compared with US$30 (S$40) for ArmaGallant.

Most importantly, Deck Caster supports mouse and keyboard, fixing the game's biggest problem, highlighted in The Straits Times' ArmaGallant review. The older game felt cumbersome with a controller instead of mouse and keyboard.

The problem seems to be the lack of players. Despite trying for over an hour on the day after its launch, I managed only to find and join a single game. For a multiplayer game, this spells trouble.

• Verdict: While its premise is interesting, the execution falls short. Slight improvements from the original PS4 version such as support for mouse and keyboard, as well as removing micro-transactions, are not enough to justify the new name.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2018, with the headline 'Deck Caster: Interesting premise, but lacklustre execution'. Print Edition | Subscribe