In the fantasy parlance of Spectromancer, a “spectromancer” is a powerful magician who has expert control over a wide range of skills. For example, he or she might raise the dead, summoning zombies and ghosts to fight for them. Or, a spectromancer might be able to create mechanical abominations, like steampunk robots and warships. No matter which specialties you choose, Spectromancer is an endlessly fun series of card battles that has mastered all the important basics.
Like Magic 2013 and Rage of Bahamut, Spectromancer is a collectible card game for iOS where you can battle other wizards in either a single-player campaign or online. But unlike those games, Spectromancer costs a few dollars to download, and you won’t have to pay anything extra in in-app purchases later on (unless you want to unlock extra character classes). We highly recommend paying the price of admission, because you’ll instantly have access to hours of quality card battling.
A very grumpy ancient horror.
The magical combat of Spectromancer is extremely accessible– it takes just a few minutes to learn, but you’ll continue to pick up new strategies and tactics as you go. Each player starts with points in five different magical categories: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and one more category that is dependent on the type of magic you choose at the beginning of the game. You can create multiple characters to try out different specialties, but by the end of the game, you’ll have a chance to use all of the bonus magic types at once.
Players take turns spending their points on cards, which are either creatures or spells. You can drag a creature into one of five slots in front of you, and after your turn, any creatures on the board will attack your opponent. If there’s a creature across from them, they’ll attack it, but otherwise, the damage is sent to your opponent.
Those are the basics, but what makes Spectromancer so addictive is discovering the hundreds of cards and their unique effects. Some cards will change over time– for example, the elementals (powerful fire, earth, air, or wind creatures) have an attack level dependent on how much magic you have in that category. Other creatures will affect the cards around them, like the Orc Commander, who strengthens nearby cards, and the Hydra, which can attack all of your opponent’s cards at once.
You’re a wizard, Harry!
Though you’ll use many of the same cards over and over again, your deck is usually randomized each time, and in campaign mode, your opponents have special conditions for you to meet. For example, your opponent might live on constantly-shifting terrain, which affects the playable spaces you can use, or they might have special minions that they start with. Each match in the campaign is preceded by a clever bit of text, which advances the story and gives you a bit of flavor for each opponent.
Or, you can take your battles online. Spectromancer has an active community of card-battlers, so you’ll never run out of opponents. You can also join in tournaments, play locally on a network, or just pass the device back and forth.
On the downside, while the artwork is pretty good in Spectromancer, each character and card is limited to a small profile picture. The animations are also limited to just a few effects and card movements, so don’t expect Magic: The Gathering levels of flashy style. The music, a Game of Thrones-style theme, plays endlessly as you fight, and you’re probably going to want to turn it off eventually. With this much gameplay, we would have enjoyed more than a few minutes of repetitive music.
Spectromancer’s production values may be simple, but the game itself is incredibly rewarding, even after hours of play. We found ourselves glued to the couch, replaying challenging matches and marching forward when we were winning decisively. For students of fantasy and strategy gaming, Spectromancer is an expert teacher that will keep you enthralled.