What’s Up with Chaos Academy 5 Months Later? [Review] [Early Access]

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Overview

Chaos Academy is a collectible card-game (CCG) developed by Dragonest (same people behind games like Auto Chess), in collaboration with Rayark Infuse (which many attribute as the source of the very captivating illustrations). This was made available globally five months ago, and is still in the early access phase. Currently only avaiable on Android.

It puts a twist to the genre by incorporating a chess-type dueling style to the card matches, adding a very unique layer of strategy to the traditional way of playing cards. Although a grid-based combat system isn’t that unique, it certainly does spice things up in terms of playing when it comes to CCGs.

It is still in early access, so there are still a ton of things to tweak, and of course there are some really broken cards in the meta right now, but that’s to be expected. I will be focusing on the beginner’s experience playing the game, and how I think progression will take place from novice to veteran.

First Impressions

This review will be structured as three aspects of the game. The first views General Design, the second focuses on gameplay and mechanics, and the third touches on recommendations. If you’re looking for a quicker read, then you can proceed to the very last section of this article for a run-down of the most important notes and ideas.

During the five months that the game has been out, it has released a new class, new cards, and some small events. We will be exploring these in the next few sections in addition to the base content.

Note: there are factions in this game, and I will call them classes from time to time. I will use these terms interchangeably.

General Design
  • Battlefield Layout and Design

    Heroes from your hand can be summoned to any of the spaces on the field that is within your Emperor’s range.

    Spell cards are not limited by the location of your Emperor, and can affect anything on the field, generally.

    The battlefield is essentially a 4×4 chessboard where you summon heroes to fight for your faction’s Emperor and cast spells and equip items to support your units or to destroy your opponent’s. Matches are generally fast even by card-game standards, but it can draw out to a crawl on certain scenarios. Which, for a game still in its very early phase of its life, is understandable.

    It would seem like such a strange way to play card games however, if you’re not used to chess-like strategizing (like other gacha RPGs have, but the battlefield provides a unique-enough twist that even if you’re not used to this kind of thing, knowledge of general card-gaming still comes in handy).

    This is heavily challenged of course by the fact that you’re not just playing on your side and your opponent on his, because in the board, you’re all basically sharing the same space, and where you put each card matters.

  • Factions and How They Affect Deckbuilding

    There are five factions in the game that have different core concepts and mechanics. They differ also in aesthetic and design. The goal of the art was to combine Oriental and European fantasy, and I think to that degree they have succeeded. Playing a deck from each faction brings with it a different experience, not just with how they play out but also their deck-building.

    In Chaos Academy, you cannot mix cards of different factions, which makes sense since all of the heroes of a specific faction serve only that faction’s Emperor. The only exception to this are the Neutral Forces, which can serve any Emperor regardless of faction. This makes it easier to fill out your deck since it is more likely to have more neutral cards than faction-specific cards.

    A Deck in Chaos Academy has 30 cards and can accommodate 2 copies of each uniquely named card, regardless of rarity (which means you can put in 2 copies of any rarity, from Normal to Legendary.)

  • Packs and Cards

    Packs are bought at the store for 100 gold. They may also be bought using real money.

    Cain is one of the guaranteed SSR’s you get at the beginning of the game. He is a Neutral SSR, and can be used by any faction deck.

    Just like with any other CCG, your primary source of getting cards is by opening packs. Lots of them.  Each pack has a guaranteed chance of giving you a card that’s at least Rare or higher, with the other rarities beside Common being: Super Rare (SR) and Special Super Rare (SSR). You can buy packs from the store using gold which you farm in-game by winning matches and completing missions and quests. You also have the option of buying them with real life money, but the game is still playable even with just the gold you get.

    An example of a wild card.

    Wild Cards

    These are special cards which can be substituted for any of appropriate-rarity card. So far as I’ve played around in the game, this cannot be bought in the shops and can only be acquired as mission or quest rewards. These are very useful when you’re trying to get a specific rarity card, but the randomness-element is still there.

    Having the concept of a wild card implemented is a good sign for a card game, because it reduces the chance of relying on packs alone to get cards. Of course, there is another way to get cards aside from winning them from missions and buying them as packs.

    Temporary Decks

    From time to time, you’ll encounter temporary decks. These are decks that can only be used for a limited number of times (so far I’ve encountered 1-use decks and 5-use decks), cannot be edited, and disappear from your inventory after it has been used at its limit.

    All of the factions have their own respective temporary decks. Using each of them can give you access to cards that you might not currently have, and give you the chance to experience the gameplay from the perspective and cards of other factions.

    I personally think it’s a very good test of skill to try and test your skill in the game by climbing ladder using one of these. It goes to show that even when you don’t have enough cards yet to make your own deck, you can just take one of these into the fray and start dueling immediately!

  • Crafting and Soul Coins

    Besides the modes of acquiring cards I mentioned in the previous tab, there’s also a function found among many CCGs that allows you to make cards from remnants of destroyed cards: crafting. Chaos Academy also has its own crafting system, and it follows the same mold as with Hearthstone, Shadowverse, etc., with players being able to create and disenchant cards as they need.

    When crafting cards, the game uses a currency called Soul Cash. Soul Cash is obtained by disenchanting cards and by completing quests.

    A Normal Rarity card selected. Costs 40 SC to create.

    A Rare-rarity card costs 100 SC to create.

    For each of the card rarities, there are respective Soul Cash costs, and with each increase in rarity comes an increase in the cost of crafting. An SSR card like Cain, costs 1,600 SC to create, compared to a Normal rarity card, which costs only 40.

    The system is actually very similar to Hearthstone, even down to the number of crafting resources required per rarity.

Gameplay and Mechanics
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    Turn-Based Strategy.

    The games of Chaos Academy always start with the Emperors being played out. It is the card you must play on your first turn, before any other card in your hand. You may choose to summon your Emperor on any space on the field, and alternatively you can also just tap the “Turn Over” button to make the AI find a random spot in the field to summon your Emperor.

    Once that’s done, and assuming you have sufficient Action Points (AP) to spend on your cards, you may  do one of the following actions, in any order:

    1. Summon units or cast spells in the appropriate space (within the Emperor’s range for heroes)
    2. Turn-over previously flipped cards.
    3. Move ally units one space or attack enemy units within one space of the attacker.
    4. Draw an extra card.
    5. Activate your Emperor’s ability.

    Once you have done all the actions that you want, or if you have run out of usable Action Points, then you must end your turn and your opponent begins his. Very standard CCG stuff, besides the strategy that comes into play by utilizing space limitations and unit ranges.

    Card Advantage

    Card advantage is common to all card games, regardless of the brand. Although the concept is challenged a bit when you introduce chess-concepts to a card game like Chaos Academy, the core idea still stands. Card advantage is when you have more options at your disposal (perhaps due to having more cards in hand or having more cards in field), or when you have more value in the cards that you currently have (despite having fewer cards than your opponent).

    Shown to the right is the mulligan phase that occurs at the beginning of every match. It allows you to choose any or all cards to replace with cards from your deck.

    Draw Cards at an Increasing Cost!

    To the left is a typical game scenario. If you would look at the lower portion of the screen, there are three active areas on the bottom that can be activated by tapping them.

    • Turn-Over – Ends your turn immediately, and activates any end-of-turn effects.
    • Emperor Skill – Indicated by a small illustration of your current Emperor
    • Deck – Your main stack of playable cards. You have 30 cards at the beginning of the game.
    What’s different from the other CCGs I’ve played before or have tried out before is that this mechanic actually allows you to generate hand advantage just by spending extra mana. It’s a free draw on a stick. Given, the cost of using it increases by 2 AP every usage, but it provides a good way to topdeck especially if you’re running low on options or are backed up into a corner.

    This is an extremely powerful tool, and is available to all factions, not just the one shown in the screenshot.  Drawing cards is always useful regardless of the type of deck you’re running, may it be small-cost aggro, midrange, or control. A free-draw mechanic that starts out at 2 AP and gets more expensive the more you use it in the game is balanced and gives each player a chance for the potential outs they need or the key pieces they would require for a combo.

  • Cards and Factions

    There were five base factions introduced to the game when it was first opened for early access. There has been however, a sixth faction released last April, which was the Cthulhu’s Call faction.

    Each of them has been designed to be particularly be focused on a key concept. I will briefly talk about them here.

    1. Lost Paradise -Emphasizes control through status effects (those effects that affect the abilities of units to move and attack), such as:
      • Paralysis – Prevents any action.
      • Slumber – Prevents any action, and is dispelled after taking damage.
      • Grounded – Prevents movement, but not attacking.
      • Blind – Prevents attacks, but not movement.
    2. Ars Goetia – Composed of demons and is focused on control by setting traps and activating switches. It showcases a very reactive style of control playing, as most of its cards are useful only when triggered, and not necessarily when played immediately.
      • Switch – Actively flipping a card face-up from a face-down position activates a switch ability.
      • Trap – Passively flipping a card face-up from a face-down position activates a trap ability. This is done when an enemy makes a move on the set card.
    3. Veda’s Deities –  Thrives on self-damage effects and HP manipulation. Cards of this faction get stronger when are injured and, fight closely with their Emperor card, instead of just defending it. This promotes an aggressive style of gameplay, in contrast with the previous two.
    4. Onmyodo – Focuses on death and destruction. It has mostly low-cost cards that die easily, because most of them have a deathrattle ability. Onmyodo cards die frequently but hit hard, so it’s better to try and win in the early to mid-game, than to try and fight it out during the late game.
      • Deathrattle – this is an effect that triggers when the card dies.
    5. Shenzhou – A spell-heavy focused faction that derives its ability form the nature of the four elements, and the rest of their cards are enhanced in some form or fashion when you play spells, or the more you play spells.
      • Fire Spells – Deal damage.
      • Water Spells – Have Recovery effects.
      • Wind Spells – Have Change effects (those that modify stats)
      • Thunder Spells – Have Status effects (those that modify status)
    6. Cthulhu’s Call – This is the game’s latest faction, added only 2 months ago. This faction focuses on self-replication and swarming the field with units and their copies. Their cards focus on strength in numbers.

    The deck-building interface, where you can select cards to put in your deck.

    Cards and Deckbuilding

    The deckbuilder in this game is intuitive and easy to understand. It doesn’t flood you will all sorts of buttons and menus, and you can easily see the list of your deck on the right and the overall mana-curve on top it. This is useful to gauge whether or not your cards’ costs are swinging towards too much on the late-game, mid-game, or early-game.

    It also features filters to go through your collection either by cost or by card-type (and eventually, hopefully, by set, when they release future expansions) and see what cards you need the most to add or remove from your deck. There is a limit to how many copies of each card you can put on your deck, and for a 30-max deck, 2 copies each is the best we’re ever going to get.

    I’m not a fan personally of having the same cap for all rarities (besides SSR). However, as I strongly feel that SR and SSR cards should have a harder cap– while simultaneously increasing it for R and N proportionately (like a 3N, 2R, 2SR, 1SSR spread)– to mitigate the effects of a random gacha and expensive crafting costs for all players, and even the playing field just a tiny bit.

  • Different Modes of Gameplay

    The Mode selection screen.

    Ranking

    It’s your typical PVP matches. You gain in rank when you win enough times, and you lose a rank when you lose enough times. It follows a typical ladder system, with rewards based on your performance at the end of every season. There doesn’t seem to be a rotation yet, and I’m not sure if there are plans for that to be implemented, as of the writing of this article.

    Challenge

    I haven’t unlocked this yet, but it looks like a jacked-up version of the normal PVE content, where you can face the faction leaders with special conditions and effects.

    Train

    This is basically where you go face-off with the computer against various difficulty settings, and you’re even allowed to change how much starting AP you get at the beginning of the match. Good for practicing deck ideas really quickly.

    Novice

    This is where you take tutorials about certain game aspects that you might find confusing. If you’ve never played a CCG before, this a good place to start.

  • Points-Based Events

    Latest event for the summer season. The points collectible are called Rubber Ducks, and were rewarded in various modes of playing.

    I’ve attempted to read back on the game’s moments for the past five months since it’s release. A majority of the events held (excluding the Cthulhu’s Call introduction) are special banners that reward points that you earn by completing missions and matches, and exchanging them for rewards, such as specialized card backs, character icons, and of course, more packs.

    This was one was an interesting find while I was searching the history books. This event’s mechanics are similar to the previous ones but the reward is an Icy effect.  Effects are animations that trigger on the playing of cards, their movement, attack, and death.

    The point I’m trying to show in this section is that events are regular. It keeps the players engaged and motivated (or at least tries to do so), to farm points and to acquire more cards for their collections.

    We can be very sure that there will be more events like these in the future, especially with the Fall season coming soon, and Halloween, and Christmas. But we will just have to wait and see for now.

Thoughts and Recommendations

Card Imbalances

Owing to the fact that the game is still in its infancy, some cards are really powerful, to the point that they’re meta-defining all on their own. A bad hallmark of any collector game is when one unit becomes a “must-have” in order for your team or deck to perform effectively. This may not be true for lower ranks or PVE, but in PVP’s later stages, it becomes really annoying.

Now I haven’t reached mid-tier or high-tier PVP yet, but it doesn’t take too much gameplay to find out how broken these cards are, especially if you’ve had a history with playing card games and examining their power and effect on the meta. The card to the left is an example, but is not the only one.

For example, Cthugha’s the only Legendary in the Cthulhu class, which is in need of some heavy nerfing. The effect is too powerful of an effect to be able to proc every single time one unit moves. The nerf doesn’t need to change the effect directly. Changing the stats from a 4/4 or even a 2/1 or something would be good, which will put it in range of most spell removals.


There could definitely be improvements in the overall feel when navigating the game or interacting with it. For example:

  • There is no playback or card history function available during matches, unlike the other already-established CCGs. The problem is that you miss vital information when you look away. If you miss it, you miss it.
    • Sure, there is no way to react to your opponent on his turn. But that’s still crucial information you can use to figure out a strategy. Having a way to look back on the cards played during a match is essential.
  • Pack Opening – opening many packs individually takes too long. I have not opened a batch of ten yet, so there might be a shortcut there! But at least for individual pack openings, there should really be a skip animation option.
  • The rest are General UI improvements, especially with how card text is printed when viewing them.

Quality of Life Improvements

Summary

Here’s a summary of the important points I’ve mentioned in this article.

General Design

  • Feels very much like your typical CCG, in terms of deckbuilding and opening packs.
  • Having to play on a 4×4 board instead of the usual 50:50 space adds a layer of unique strategizing to the game.
  • Cards are divided into 6 factions, and each deck must be only of one faction, with or without neutral cards.
  • There are various ways of acquring packs, such as mission rewards and buying them with currency.
  • The crafting system uses a special currency that can be earned through quests or by destroying card copies.

Gameplay and Mechanics

  • You can draw an extra card by spending AP on your turn. This increases the cost by 2 every time, but is a very powerful tool to have for both players.
  • The Emperor of each faction have special powers that compliment their gameplay. This can be played during your turn for 2 AP.
  • There are differnet game modes, nothing too special about them. You have you standard ladder and your normal PVE modes. These all come with their respecitve quest rewards when you play them.
  • Events are celebrated from time to time, mostly in the form of point-collector-exchange type of events. The most recent one ended a few days ago.

Thoughts and Recommendations

  • The game has a lot of room for improvement.
    • Some cards are still too powerful compared to the rest. This will be fixed hopefully in future patches.
    • Pack openings are slow, especially if you have to open many.
    • The UI’s text is just weird in some places. Bearable, but could be easily fixed.

The developers are heading in the right direction by establishing channels to listen to their players. Plus, they have been releasing content at a steady pace. Just a month after they opening, they’ve already introduced a new faction to the game. I am feeling positive about the coming months and the developments that are in store.

Overall, if you’re a fan of CCGs (or you just want to try one out that’s not Shadowverse or Hearthstone), then give this one a go! An extra incentive is that joining this early means you get to build up your collection from the start; giving you an edge in the future. If you decide to pursue this game, that is.


  • The logos and artwork are the properties of Dragonest Co. Ltd. and Reyark Inc.

    Screenshots of the game have been taken both using a Phone and an Emmulator.

    Some of the images were taken from the Official Facebook Page.

    Download the game here. (For Android only)

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About the author: Xierxe

I play a bunch of gacha games, but I do focus on some more than others. Right now I'm playing mostly hero-collectors and card-games.
(But also grinding for those sweet, sweet limited-time event items LMAO)
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