I feel like the Nintendo Switch is the perfect home for digital deck-building adventures, so I’m glad to see that Nomad Games are bringing their library of releases over to the platform. After releasing Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy late last year, they’re back again with Mystic Vale – a table-top title that doesn’t pit you against monsters in a fantasy setting, but instead challenges you to restore nature to your dying land. On paper, it doesn’t necessarily sound like the most exciting of concepts, but it actually makes for a really good time and acts as an ideal introduction for newbies to the digital deck-building genre.
Firstly, I cannot emphasise enough how important the tutorial in Mystic Vale is. Think you can just dive into a game and learn it as you go along? Think again. Whilst Mystic Vale is a fairly easy-going title for newbies to the genre to get to grips with, it has a fair few mechanics that can take a while to fully understand. In fairness, the tutorial is really well-structured and goes into a decent amount of depth without overwhelming the player from the get-go, so it’ll certainly go a long way in making sure players are well-prepared for their first competitive experience.
Mystic Vale’s concept is based around restoring nature across a cursed land, with the player using their deck of cards to strengthen their field during gameplay in order to reap the most rewards. This consists of the ‘Planting Phase’, which is where you set up your field by assigning the cards from your deck and combining them to create more powerful and therefore resourceful options, and the ‘Harvest Phase’, where you’ll purchase all-new cards with your resources in order to continually strengthen your field. You know what, I’m really simplifying it there because there’s quite a lot more to both the ‘Planting Phase’ and the ‘Harvest Phase’, but provided you followed the in-game tutorial it doesn’t take too long to get the grasp of Mystic Vale’s mechanics.
There are plenty of different things to consider when using cards though, with things like the ‘Decay Tokens’ causing issues – your turn will end if you have three ‘Decay Tokens’ on your field, and since they’re associated with a lot of the cards you’ll use, you have to manage them carefully or combine other cards in order to nullify their effect. The placement of your cards plays a big role too, especially since they’re all assigned a ‘top, ‘middle’, or ‘bottom’ position, with only a combination of the three able to be used in conjunction. It means that you’ve got to be careful when purchasing cards during the ‘Harvest Phase’ and ensure that you utilise each different card’s strengths efficiently if you want to earn the ‘Victory Points’ required to be deemed the winner.
So yeah, a lot of that probably won’t make sense to players who haven’t had the chance to really dive into Mystic Vale, so I’ll sum it up: you use cards to plant a field, combine additional cards in order to strengthen your resources, purchase new cards in order to reap more resources and make your land more fruitful, and then you win by earning victory points. You’re competing against others who are also looking to set up their own perfect land, but it’s a fairly peaceful game with no real conflict or battle taking place – you’re just trying to restore nature in your own piece of land.
The most important aspect of Mystic Vale is whether or not it’s actually any fun to play. Well, I’ve ploughed through a good amount of games so far and have found it to be pretty addictive, especially now that I’ve learnt some of the tricks of the trade and have a few victories under my belt. Mystic Vale can look intimidating at first glance and the whole concept of simply looking after your land might not sound like the most exciting for the genre, but the combination of building your deck and then combining your cards ends up making for a really satisfying experience – especially when you manage to nail together the perfect trio of cards that really help strengthen your field. There’s less of an emphasis placed on simply getting the ‘best’ card as there is on combining the ones you have at your disposal in efficient ways, and managing to do so and snap up that victory is just really rewarding.
You can play Mystic Vale in single player, local and online multiplayer, so there are plenty of ways to tackle the game. Whilst I haven’t spent a lot of time in the multiplayer modes so far, I do look forward to heading online and facing off against others to show off my deck-building skills. Sure, I expect I’m going to have a fair few beatings at the hands of more experienced players, but it’s certainly one of the better ways to learn new strategies and understand more about the game.
One thing that I was a little concerned about was how well the game would actually control on console, especially with all of the different cards and menus you have to flick between. Thankfully, everything works really well on the Nintendo Switch, especially on the handheld mode where the touch controls make it a breeze to play around with your deck. Don’t get me wrong, a controller works well too, but it isn’t as intuitive as simply being able to tap at your cards right in front of you.
Whilst it might not necessarily offer the fantasy battling of the typical deck-building table-top games that I like to play, Mystic Vale hooked me in from the get-go thanks to its unique implementation of card-combining and rewarding gameplay mechanics. I haven’t had this much fun looking tending to my fields since I played Stardew Valley…
Mystic Vale is certainly an addictive game though and one that I can see myself coming back to for some time, especially with the online multiplayer and the convenience of playing on the go. Here’s hoping that Nomad Games continue to bring a strong line-up of digital table-top releases over to the Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Nomad Games
Publisher: Nomad Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC