EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
Breaking Onto the Scene
Like a fine wine, collectible card games (CCGs) are fairly unique in that they often get better with age. With minimal animations to become dated, things only get better as the gameís mechanics evolve, card libraries grow, and competitive modes expand. While digital CCG choices may be more limited than other genres, their near-infinite replayability means that you really only need one title that clicks with you. The staying power and collectible progression-based style of CCGs can make it tough for new games to break onto the scene, though. With genre giants like Magic: The Gathering Arena, Pokemon Trading Card Game Online, and Hearthstone already sporting thousands of cards, thousands of players, and thriving competitive scenes, it is a tough sell to get people to jump ship. Newcomers like the fantastic Legends of Runeterra show that it can be done, but it takes meaningful innovation and unique mechanics to carve a niche in this tough market space. With that, does Causa, Voices of the Dusk do enough to make it worth playing over other, more established titles?
Despite its claim that it features ďunprecedentedĒ mechanics, Causa plays a lot like other collectible card games. Using resources (Cause) that increases by one most turns, players play characters, events, and supports to whittle the other playerís life total from 20 to 0. These cards are largely standard fair. Characters have an attack, defense, and cost-to-play number, and they use these numbers to attack other players or characters. Events can trigger effects like healing or adding back cards from the discard pile to the deck, and support cards may provide limited-use perks on ongoing match statuses. Strategy comes with familiar choices like deciding when to attack, when to activate support, and when to attack characters vs the enemy player.
Thatís not to say everything is familiar, though. The central differentiating gameplay element is that Cause (resources) donít automatically go up. Instead, each turn, players may choose to put a card from the field or their hand into the cause area. While that card raises cause (which replenishes to max each turn), it canít be played unless the player chooses to take a permanent hit to their cause total. Leaders also have abilities that are triggered once certain levels of Cause have been met, normally giving you the choice between doing damage or summoning a character to the field. The Cause system does add an element of strategy to play, but I didnít find it to be quite as impactful or memorable as it seems to think it is. Matches usually flow in a similar way: sacrifice your high-cost cards early in the match to hit milestones, summon them later once youíve reached your last leader milestone.
A Familiar Place
Right now, in Early Access, there are already a fair amount of cards to acquire and use. These cards represent four factions, each themselves standing for different styles of play. For example, influence excels at forcing your opponent to run out of cards, while wealth lets you discard cards for strong characters and effects. All in all the cards are pretty par for the course, sporting art thatís nice (though some of the creatures with fur seem a bit unfinished) and abilities that are varied enough to give each faction a few different playstyle options. If I have any complaints about the actual cards, itís that Causa plays it far too safe and familiar with flavor and lore. What youíll find here is another standard medieval-inspired fantasy land composed mostly of warring human archetypes with a few monsters and animals thrown in. Thereís nothing wrong with that, but thatís also what almost every other CCG is doing right now. With fairly standard gameplay and a more limited card pool than its competitors, I canít help but feel that differentiating its setting is one way Causa could have stood apart. Instead, looking at any of its cards inspires little more than deja vu.
Ways to Play
Right now, there are a few ways to play, and theyíre all fun (if unsurprising). Ranked PvP matches arenít yet available, but casual ones are, and I havenít run into any issues with connectivity or dropped games. Furthermore, there are three draft campaigns in which you must complete several matches against AI players in a row with decks constructed from a pool of randomly provided cards. Doing so nets a nice amount of card packs, and the campaign can be attempted as many times as needed with an entry fee. This mode isnít free (the game is free to download), but the fun and rewards are nice enough that if youíre looking for more than PvP matches itís a solid enough way to drop a few bucks. Again, thereís nothing wrong with these game modes, itís just that they seem underwhelming compared to the myriad options available elsewhere. Hopefully more player vs player options are added as the game reaches full release.
Speaking of dropping a few bucks, I would like to commend Causa on being pretty generous with its free content. While leaders and cosmetics (deck packs, playmats) can be bought for currency, thereís lots of opportunity to earn cards in-game, and prices for cosmetics arenít insultingly high. Draft campaigns are a reasonable pay-gate given the rewards and ability to attempt them as many times as possible (many PvP draft modes only let you play until you lose once or twice), and it seems fair to charge for other such content should it come out in the future.
I like Causa, Voices of the Dusk, I just donít know if I like it enough to give it my time over Pokemon TCGO or Legends of Runeterra. The world of collectible card games is an incredibly competitive one, and it takes something incredibly polished or innovative to carve out space in the market. I hope Causa can make that happen because it really is well polished and fun. If youíre already a dedicated player of a different CCG, this might be a title to give a pass, but with its generous free-to-play policies itís easy to recommend that everyone at least give a few games a change.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.