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Mystic Vale Review – A Relaxing Deck Building Experience

Mystic Vale is a virtual deck building game that is based on an award-winning, yet niche card game that was released in 2016. There have been many board and card games that have made the transition to the form of video games over the years to both amazing and lackluster success. So where does Mystic Vale fit in that spectrum? Let’s find out!

STORY

All of Mystic Vale’s story comes in the form of the tutorial. You take the role of one of four druidic clans that are attempting to restore the cursed lands to their former glory as some event led to the destruction and degradation of the Vale which is presumably their home. Each clan has their own parts of the valley that they are tasked with revitalizing and their goal is to gain as much as power so they can bring new life and vitality to their domain. As more life grows in your valley, so does your power, and with it the spirits of nature to revive the Vales.

The entirety of the story is introduced within the first few minutes of the tutorial and unfortunately that is all the information given to the player. I am sure there is a rich lore out there, but that is nowhere to be found in this game. Now I don’t really see this as a major issue as the story is there as a framing device for playing the actual game, but with the transition to console it would have been nice to possibly have story elements sprinkled into the gameplay. I found myself wondering more about each of the four clans, what made them unique, why they were in separate factions, and ultimately what tragedy led to the state of things at the start of the game. Though I would like to reiterate that is just a minor gripe that I had with the game, but I feel that anything that can draw a player into a game’s world always enhances the experience.

GAMEPLAY

Mystic Vale is probably the most unique experience that I have had playing a deck building game as there is very little interaction between you and the other players. I tried to think of other games that are similar but couldn’t think of anything in terms of gameplay. The closest comparison I could make in regard to how the game feels to play is a competitive solitaire. Now I know how that may sound confusing with it being a competitive deck building card game, so I will give a basic explanation of how the game works.

Mystic Vale is probably the most unique experience that I have had playing a deck building game as there is very little interaction between you and the other players. I tried to think of other games that are similar but couldn’t think of anything in terms of gameplay. The closest comparison I could make in regard to how the game feels to play is a competitive solitaire. Now I know how that may sound confusing with it being a competitive deck building card game, so I will give a basic explanation of how the game works.

As most deck building games you have various phases that consist of drawing, playing, and discarding cards. Mystic Vale is no different in that regard than any deck building game you may have played in the past. Your initial turn is called the “Planting Phase” which involves you drawing cards from your deck to your hand which is called your “Field” in this game. Now unlike most games where you can only draw a set number of cards, you can seemingly draw as many as you want. The catch is some cards have a “Decay” icon on them and as you can only have three “Decay” icons on the “field” at once, this could mean that sometimes you can have as few as three cards available to play. Now if choose to keep drawing cards because maybe you want to have more buying power for your next turn, you can choose to do so. This also comes with a catch as if one of those additional cards you draw has a decay icon on it then your “Field” is considered “Spoiled”, you forfeit the remainder of your turn, and all current cards on your “Field” is moved to the discard pile. While making this move can sometimes be worth the risk to buy card that improves your deck, it can also give your opponent an additional turn to make a more powerful deck and score more victory points.

Now the number of cards and which cards you have available become important in the second phase that is referred to as the “Harvest Phase”. This allows you to purchase from one of two sets of cards that are shared and available to everyone else. Now there are two sets of cards. There are “Advancement” cards and “Vale” cards. You need a combination of cards from both “Advancement” and “Vale” to build a more powerful deck and win the game. Once you figure out which card or cards you want to purchase, another unique aspect of the game comes into play and that is creating your own cards.

Each card that you originally have in your deck or that you purchase during your “Harvest Phase” is actually one third of what the game considers a complete card. That allows you to craft countless combinations of cards and can lead to some really powerful combinations in the end game. For example, if you have a card that has a lot of buying power, but also has a lot of “Decay” stopping you from drawing additional cards, you can simply buy card that cancels out “Decay” on any complete card that it makes up. This is further complicated as each card is either considered a top, middle, or bottom card. Each complete card can only have one top, middle, or bottom card so placement is key with each card you purchase. You can always create entire new complete cards, but you want as few as possible as you want as few cards as possible to make up your hand so you can get more bang for your buck with each turn.

This is also the only phase you really interact and effect other players as you all buy from the same replenishing set of “Advancement” and “Vale” cards. While you never really do anything to affect the gameplay of other players directly as in most games, any card that is being used to make your deck more powerful is one that won’t help your opponents claim a victory over you at the end of the game. This is something you always want to keep in mind as I sometimes found myself just focusing on making myself more powerful and forgetting about my opponents altogether until the game ended.

mystic vale

Victory is achieved through acquiring “Victory Points” which you gain with certain cards you purchase during your victory phase. There are only a set number of victory points and that varies depending on whether you are playing with 2 or 4 people in your session. Once all victory points have been claimed from the pool available to the players, the game is over and the player with the most points wins. The average game took me around 20-30 minutes which is great for commutes or small breaks.

The are two basic game modes and a tutorial. You can play offline against up to 3 other opponents which can be either the computer or actual people. You have the ability to pass around your controller or Nintendo Switch in handheld mode though I really couldn’t see myself enjoying playing that way over an actual physical card game. Computer opponents are as challenging as you want them to be in this mode. I am a beginner and found the easy difficulty challenging enough to defeat me the first few times I played, but by my 5th session I was able to deliver a crushing defeat. When I ventured to hard mode I found myself wishing I had not chosen to do so when I saw how few Victory Points I had compared to the computer which I’m sure is kind of challenge veteran players of the game would be seeking. I wasn’t able to try the online mode at the time of this review, but I am sure it will be the same basic experience, but against online opponents.

Overall, the gameplay modes and features in Mystic Vale are a very bare bones package. I really would have like to see some additional challenges and modes as I feel unless you really just love playing this game you may find yourself growing bored of playing the same basic match over and over again. The tutorial mode could have been designed to better introduce new players to the game as it took me around 2 matches to really understand all the basic mechanics of how the game worked.

Audio

The music for this game was better than I expected for a deck building card game. The upbeat adventure music that would be at home in a classic medieval RPG from the past. This really set the mood for me as I prepared to enter each gameplay session though it does wear on you over time. The music only really changes when you enter a match and at that point it changes to a more serene and peaceful melody that really put me at ease. With the nature of a mostly solitary experience, I found myself just feeling relaxed and at peace as I competed at my own pace. That was a very unique experience to me as when playing other games like this I often find myself feeling very alert and tense throughout my entire experience and it surprised me how much the music really effected my approach and the feel of the game.

The sound effects for the card as they were drawn or selected felt solid crisp. It really brought the game more to life and helped sell the appeal of playing this in a virtual space over the physical version. While I found myself tiring of the starting menu music as time went on, I always made sure to turn the sound back on during every match.

Visuals and Performances (6)

The visuals featured in Mystic Vale left much to be desired which was a surprise to me. The menu screens are very boring and basic with no artwork from the cards or promotional materials being featured. The loading screens just say the name of the game along with changing phrases in a brown box such as “Summoning Woodland Creatures” or “Studying some old tomes” as the loading bar fills up in the middle of the screen. I really felt putting a little extra effort to make those menus and loading screens look unique with some art or pictures could have gone a long way.

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The cards themselves sometimes moved slightly, but most of the time they were static. This does make sense as you are using three cards to make Complete Cards and I can picture having cards that move around or make excessive sounds could be very distracting and would probably come across as messy. Oddly enough, despite not having too much going on with the visuals and sounds of the cards, there were some minor freezes and glitches in my experience. I had two games where I would hear the sound of my cards being drawn from my deck to the “Field”, but it would appear as if nothing had happened. This led to me “spoiling my field” and forfeiting my turn the first two times this happened as I didn’t understand what was going on. This was not game breaking glitch either time, but not being able to know what cards you are playing obviously doesn’t work in a game like this. I played it in both docked and handheld mode, but I couldn’t ever see myself playing this casually docked in the future as there nothing worth seeing visually on my big screen.

mystic vale

Value

At $21.99 I find this a tough game to recommend based on what you are getting at that price point. Mystic Vale for the Nintendo Switch is just so light on content compared to card and deck building games that are in my opinion superior and give you a lot more content. You are also only getting the base game and one expansion while having to pay for the additional two expansion packs which don’t seem to include that many more cards. On top of that, you can buy this game already on your phone for $5.49. Though I wasn’t able to play that version, from what I was able to see it looks exactly like what you would be paying about 4 times more on the Switch.

Mystic Vale Review provided by SwitchWatch.co.uk
Developer: Nomad Games
Release Date: March 12, 2020
Price: $21.99, £16.99, €18,89
Game Size: 291MB

  • Story - 3/10
    3/10
  • Gameplay - 6/10
    6/10
  • Audio - 7/10
    7/10
  • Visuals & Performance - 6/10
    6/10
  • Value - 3/10
    3/10

Summary

Mystic Vale was a pleasant experience, but the current price is just too high to make this worth recommending to even the most die-hard fans of the game. If a deep sale comes in the future to where it is about the same price as the cell phone, it would be worth checking out. As of now, there are just too many alternatives that are superior in price, content, and overall experience for you to get invested here.

Overall
5/10
5/10

Pros

  • Relaxing experience
  • Easy to learn
  • Fun

Cons

  • Lack of game types
  • High Price
  • Performance Issues
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