I spend a lot of time on this blog tearing into things that are probably a work of passion and love. As such, it seems only fair that occasionally go the other direction, and spend some time tearing into things that were a work of “How much fucking money can we make selling lottery tickets to children?”
Maybe this approach won’t be great for optics. But if I can analyze indie games that have interesting mechanics buried under crude art or lackluster technical implementations, it seems only fair to look mobile games that have mechanics locked in Skinner boxes.
Mobile games are kinda like indie games, but there’s an entry fee of how much your kidneys would currently go for on the black market.
There’s a GDC talk somewhere in Knight’s Edge. It might be about how they managed to add in a cash shop, battlepass, and a billion other pieces of bullshit. Maybe it’s art direction-related. They could make a “How To” guide on ripping off that Clash of Clans smooth minimalistic art style that somehow has less personality than a furry OC that’s just a Sonic recolor.
Or maybe they could do one about how their cool little 3v3 battle brawler ended up tied to all the bullshit above. Actually, I can do it for them.
Anyway, now that I’ve done their presentation for them, they can spend some time talking about their actual mechanics. Knight’s Edge is effectively a combo of micro-brawler and roguelike. Your team of 3 is pitted against another player’s team, and you’re thrown into a tiny little dungeon. Whichever team makes it to the end of the dungeon and kills the final boss first wins!
It’s a simple little idea, and there’s really only two other things to mention about it. First up is that at certain points, you can invade the enemy, and attempt to kill them or mess with them to slow them down. But at the same time, it’s risky because your team won’t have your DPS during the invasion. The second one is that whenever you destroy enemies, you get EXP. Get enough, and you’ll level up, which gives generic stats. More importantly, leveling up also lets you pick between various buffs, which are determined by the weapon you’re using. This gives the whole thing a sort of micro-roguelike vibe.
That’s pretty much all I have to say about Knight’s Edge. Is there a cool idea here? Yes. But it can’t make it out from under the monetization. Also the controls sort of suck. Your actual agency to influence a given round often feels like playing a slot machine with the upgrade system.
But anyway, enough about Knight’s Edge. Let’s talk about…
I’ve written about Yu-Gi-Oh mobile games before on this site. There are a surprising number of them. Their monetization ranges from “Something resembling reasonable” with Duel Links to “Its own category in a list of shitty business models” for Master Duel.
Anyway, Cross Duel manages to sit somewhere in the middle of trashy pricing, which is to say “Typical Gacha.” But we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about Cross Duel itself.
I think one of the most interesting things about Cross Duel is that it shares very little with Yu-Gi-Oh mechanically. While ideas like like Monster Cards and Trap Cards are present, it’s easy to see how Cross Duel could stand as a separate game, or even potentially as a legacy board game. The deckbuilding only allows 20 cards, and only 1 copy of any single card.
Cross Duel is a four player lane based game. Everyone draws a hand of cards, and simultaneously places them. At the end of the starting “Main Phase,” monsters move down their rows if they were in attack position, or stay put if they were in defense position.
While many of the terms sound similar to Yu-Gi-Oh, there are a lot of mechanical differences. For starters, while the game can end if one player manages to knock out 3 others, it also just ends after 8 rounds are played or if even a single player ends a round with zero life points remaining. In addition, everyone starts with a single “Special” card in their hand serves the role of a panic button or can be used to apply heavy pressure.
Those aren’t the only differences. Players gain life points when their monsters inflict damage to enemy players. Unlike normal Yu-Gi-Oh, this only happens when a monster hits an opponent directly, not when they just attack another attack position monster and win. Damage is also maintained between rounds, meaning that a powerful bomb card can quickly be chipped down by multiple weaker cards.
Anyway, the result of all these mechanical changes is that you can actually do decently in some games of Cross Duel without selling your kidneys. Often, the players with more powerful cards are forced to fight each other, instead of wasting resources to knock you out.
The game also has what seems like a fairly interesting system for playing around with card skills and abilities. Unfortunately, it’s locked behind the usual grind and bullshit, so I don’t have much to say about it other than it seems neat.
I was going to close with “There’s no moral to today’s writeup.” But that’s wrong. There is a pretty clear moral: interesting game mechanics can be found everywhere. In every terrible prototype, or miserable whalebait app store installation, it’s possible to find something interesting or clever. Is worth going to try to find those mechanics? I mean, for most people? Probably not.
People who play games casually would rather just play good games. People who work on games would probably rather be making games than playing other designers’ terrible ones.
But I guess for me, someone I view as sitting in the middle, it can be interesting. Hell, at least it’s something to write about.