Fighters of Fate is a fighting RPG card game on mobile that looks amazing on the surface: Excellent UI, fluid and energetic animation, epic character customization, smooth control, and an interesting economy system. However, it has one fatal flaw: poor game design, and not even the most beautiful art can save it without revamping the core design of the game. For a game that markets itself as “fighting game action with RPG strategy”, it is very lackluster in the strategy aspect of the game. The main criticisms of its game design are the repetitive gameplay, lack of meaningful interaction against opponents, inability to view unowned cards in the collection, lack of uniqueness in enemies and allies, and the difficult learning curve.
For people who are unfamiliar with Fighters of Fate, here is how the rule works. You can skip to Analysis if you are already familiar.
- You draw up to 5 cards. Cards have numbers on the top ranging from 2-5.
- You try to make a combo of a “hand” to attack your opponent by swiping down any card to make a value of 1 or swiping up to make a value equal to the card’s number.
- You and your opponent attacks and damage resolve.
- Repeat until one of you wins.
To deal more damage than you take, you generally want to make a combo as long and powerful as possible. So 1 to 5 > 1 to 4 > 1 to 2. Here is gameplay footage of Fighters of Fate.
The skills required to play the game are hand management and a basic understanding of risk and probability. Generally, you are met with two scenarios. One, how can I maximize my chances of making a straight of 1-5 in the future if my hand is bad? Two, make a straight if you have (2,3,4,5, any) in hand. The gameplay can be interesting at first, but the obvious game design problems arise after a few playthroughs.
The gameplay is very repetitive. A good strategy game will provide multiple ways to win and multiple patterns of gameplay. But In Fighters of Fate, no matter what hand you get, you are always trying to accomplish one single strategy: Make a straight of 1,2,3,4,5 or setting up for a straight of 1,2,3,4,5 if your hand cannot make a combo. Sure, some cards can give you a temporary healing shield, some cards can give your opponent debuffs which can take a little bit of thinking, but the repetitive core pattern never changes. No matter what deck you build, what cards you draw, the gameplay will always be trying to make a combo that deals as much damage as possible while completely disregarding what your opponent is trying to do. This brings me to my next point…
In Fighters of Fate, you cannot meaningfully interact with your opponents. In a typical trading card game, there is a lot of room for rich decision-making. Mulligan, the timing of spells, board states, and your win conditions are all different from game to game and deck to deck. In a typical fighting game, you have to predict what your opponent is going to do and learn how different combos work.
For a game that combines both Fighting and the CCG experience, it fails to take good elements out of any of them. There is no meaningful strategic decision that varies depending on opponents and there is no bluffing and mindreading. Fighters of Fate is a game of two-player solitaire. Both players are busy doing their own thing of trying to make a straight of 1-5, the resulting gameplay is a boring damage race from zero to a thousand. Perhaps people who love betting on horses and rolling slots could enjoy this game, but there are very little real strategy and thinking involved.
Despite the bland gameplay, I wanted to feel faith, I wanted this game to prove to me that it is good. Fighters of Fate, like any other trading card game, have cards with different levels of rarity. So I went to the collection to see what powerful S tier cards are there in the game because these cards can enable crazy and fun strategies. But sadly, only collected cards are shown, and nowhere else can I find information for cards that I do not own.
While in all other TCGs, once you click a button, it will show you the cards that you do not own. I believe this feature is important because not only it provides relevant information to the player, but that it incentivizes players to work towards collecting that super epic rare they want by either playing or best yet, spending real money.
I want to believe that Pincer Games have the technical capability to implement this feature considering how wonderful their game looks, but ideologically they somehow didn’t think that it was a good idea. I think they wanted cards to remain a mystery so that when it is opened in the card bazaar, it feels fresh, new and exciting. But in this case, at least I feel frustrated.
Back to discussing core gameplay. I believe that uniqueness in viable strategies and enemy design is crucial to the success of a game. Here are some examples, in fighting games, you have a good variety of characters who can do different combos and have different sets of abilities. In a card game, you can play as a variety of characters or different factions with different sets of play patterns. If Ken is the only playable character in Street Fighter or Red is the only playable color in Magic the Gathering, it would be boring (probably still much more interesting than Fighters of Fate). Despite the ability to customize your characters and various ways to collect new cards, all characters and decks are essentially the same. I have yet to face off against any opponents that did anything unique. As I am trying to make a combo of 1,2,3,4,5 and they are doing the same after three hours of playing this game.
The cards are divided into three colors: Red (physical), Blue (magical), and Green (agility). But all decks can use all three of these colors. The result is that every deck will run the one that will give them the flattest positive values in terms of damage and healing, while all other TCGs have implemented rules that limit the deckbuilding to single character factions like Hearthstone and Shadowverse or land system that create higher susceptibility to draw failure for decks running more than one color. These limitations help create diverse possibilities of playstyles and scenarios which are nonexistent in Fighters of Fate. The game did tell me that Red, Blue, and Green are like Rock Paper Scissors in terms of balancing, which is fine except I never played a scenario where Rock Paper Scissor balancing was obvious to me. So none of the cards particularly stands out as anything but a stat stick.
Maybe if I am more patient, I would eventually discover the strategic depth of this game. But I think even if a variety of decks and unique play patterns does exist in this game, it must be introduced early on to keep players playing. Because I am done after doing the same thing again and again.
Even if your game is well designed and that my points are wrong, I sincerely believe that this game failed to teach me how it works and makes it difficult to enable self-learning. In the collection, when I am zooming in on card descriptions, I can go back to the collection by clicking anywhere on the screen. Normally, this can be a very good design because it reduces the hassle of having to move my finger upright to close the window and go back to the collection, which allows the game to be more fluid. But you only want to use this type of feature if your cards are easy enough to understand that further inspection is not needed as the description covers it all. Unfortunately, the symbols written on Fighters of Fate’s cards are counterintuitive and confusing. In a typical mobile trading card game, if there is a confusing keyword written on a card, I can learn more about the keyword by tapping my finger on the word for a textbox to pop up and tell me what it means. If such a feature is not implemented, tutorials can be implemented instead to teach people what the symbols on the cards mean. As of now, none of these features currently exist in Fighters of Fate.
With 50K+ downloads on Google Store and a 4.4-star rating on Bluestack as of today, perhaps the intrinsic satisfaction of this game is enough to carry it on its own. Fighters of Fate is clearly very polished technically and has done many things right, but no amount of technical skills can save the game design from its failure in my opinion. If the developer’s value-rich strategic decision making is a core advantage of the game, it would probably require everything to be scratched and then restart from the beginning, the game rule structure would need components that allow for more interactive gameplay to be added (turn-based, blocking, or even just buffs and debuffs that change the value of ultimate attacks you receive and take). However, if rich strategic decision-making is not the goal of this game and that the pacing and the energy are important, then I would like to see more ways to glorify the player for making big combos. Currently, it does not feel exciting to make a straight over and over again. Think Candy Crush, you can make long lines, T-shaped lines, bombs. So what if Fighters of Fate give the players a chance to make quadruple, triple, full house, or flush like combos, which, unfortunately, also would involve completely revamping the game. The pessimist version of me has no faith in the success of this game currently, but I hope I can be proven wrong!
If this first impression made you feel interested in the game, check out their website here!