Elemental Kingdoms conjures card battles and quests on Android

The perfect mix of card collecting and role-playing

Earlier this year, Perfect World Entertainment announced their intention to move into the mobile gaming business. Perfect World is best known for publishing PC MMOs such as Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and even one called Perfect World.

The publisher’s first domestic mobile game Elemental Kingdoms appeared on iOS back in October. Now it’s out on Android too. If you like collectible card games and role-playing games, this is one of the best mobile games in town. And it’s free to play! Head past the break for our detailed gameplay impressions.

Save the kingdom

To begin with, you’ll select a male or female Hero. Then your campaign begins in the kingdom of Tundra, part of the Northern Alliance. A former ally, the Scarlet Nation suddenly joins up with the Black Swamp Tribe to invade Tundra. Your Hero will need to seek help from another kingdom and investigate the cause of the Scarlet Nation’s aggression as the game unfolds.

The world of Elemental Kingdoms is divided into numerous maps, each with multiple stages (battles) to conquer. By simply winning a battle, you’ll gain one star for that stage. But battles have Medium and Hard goals too, such as eliminating all of the opponent’s cards or winning with a certain quantity of HP remaining. Revisit stages to complete these extra goals and win up to three stars for the stage.

The stars you’ve earned on a map contribute to your revenue for that area. Players receive their revenue in a treasure chest once a day. If you want to increase revenue you’ll need to unlock more stars. But conquered stages will occasionally be invaded, threatening a map’s daily income. Fight off the invasion before the end of the day in order to keep your people safe and the coins flowing.

Money to spend

Gold coins are the game’s soft (non-premium) currency. They can be spent on card packs and Runes. You can’t get the rare 4- or 5-star cards with gold, but you will find material cards that help enchant (level up) other cards. Enchanting cards and Runes costs gold as well.

Gems act as the game’s premium currency. They’re mostly acquired by In-App Purchase, but players can also get them as login rewards or for completing certain events in the game. You’ll want to use gems to buy premium booster card packs that contain 4- and 5-star cards. They can also be used to skip cool-down times, restore energy, reset tower mazes, and increase the number of daily ranked matches a player can participate in.

Players can also get rare cards with Fire tokens. These tokens are given out as login rewards and for participating in special events.

Collecting cards and Runes

There are many more ways to get cards than just buying them with coins and gems. Players can get them as loot from winning battles, receive them as login rewards, or by exploring mazes.

Those mazes help keep Elemental Kingdoms from being just a succession of battles. Clearing all of the stages on a map (other than the first map) unlocks a maze to explore. Guards and treasure chests are hidden throughout each maze.

Not only do mazes have higher card drop rates than standard stages, some 4- and 5-star cards can only be found within them. A maze can be reset once daily for free. You can spend gems to reset them sooner as well.

On top of the collecting, enchanting, and selecting cards for your deck, you can also outfit it with Runes. Each Rune has a condition that triggers its spell. Trigger it during battle and it begins casting its spell. Runes can be discovered through exploration or by meditating in the Temple. Sometimes meditation will also uncover Rune shards, which can collected and exchanged for new Runes.

Laying down the cards

All the windows dressing in the world wouldn’t matter if Elemental Kingdoms didn’t have a good card combat system. Thankfully, the combat is easy to learn while still offering plenty of strategic possibilities.

The card combat screen consists of the battlefield in the center (active cards), each player’s preparation zone above and below the battlefield, both Heroes’ HP and the current round number at left, and Attack and Auto options on the right.

Every round, players draw a random card from the deck, which is then moved to the preparation zone. Cards in the preparation zone have a wait timer. Once the timer counts down to zero, players can select the card and move it to the battlefield.

Cards have HP and Attack attributes. They automatically attack cards lying directly across from them. If there is no card across from the attacking card, it attacks the opponent’s Hero instead.

Cards with zero HP get sent to the Cemetery. If your Hero’s HP runs out or all cards get sent to the cemetery, you lose the battle. Winning the battle gets you coins, EXP, and possibly cards.

In addition to HP and Attack attributes, cards can also have special abilities. A card only starts with one ability, but it can gain new ones at levels 5 and 10.

In keeping with the game’s highly approachable combat system, these abilities activate automatically when the right conditions are met. Standard skills cast each round that the card is on the battlefield. Quick Strike skills cast only when the card first enters the battlefield. Desperation skills only cast when the card gets destroyed.

Speaking of streamlined combat, players have the option to switch individual battles to Auto and let the AI fight for them. Only do this when you’re assured of victory!

Player versus player

Collecting cards is half the fun of a card battling game. The rest comes from testing your deck against other players and seeing who comes out on top. Elemental Kingdoms lets players battle it out online in two types of matches: Friendly and Ranked. Both support matchmaking, so don’t worry if your friends haven’t downloaded the game just yet.

In Friendly matches, the matchmaking system suggests 6 players of similar level for you to challenge. The matchmaking page can be refreshed in order to find different players. You can also challenge players on your friends list or via global chat. Friendly matches don’t carry risks or rewards; they’re purely for fun.

The goal of Ranked matches is of course to climb your way up the global leaderboard. Ranked matchmaking suggests five opponents of higher level to battle. Win and you’ll take the rank of your opponent while he or she drops down to your previous rank. There’s no penalty for losing a challenge you initiated.

A kingdom of potential

Elemental Kingdoms has just about everything you could want in a collectible card game: a deep story, beautiful artwork, slick combat, online multiplayer, and even exploration. And being free to play, you can easily try it on for size without spending a dime.

The only element of a physical card battling game that this one lacks is the ability for players to trade cards with each other. Perfect World tells us they “have no immediate plans to create a trading system,” but it is a frequent request. Perfect World and iFree Studio do plan to support Elemental Kingdoms with updates and special events in the future, so perhaps trading will come along eventually – if it’s in the cards.

Paul Acevedo