It's amazing the lengths some developers will go to expand on their universe and add a little depth to the characters and plot of their games. Sometimes the side games that result can be truly wacky or completely off-the-wall. Sony Bend Studios, responsible for the Vita launch title Uncharted Golden Abyss, have decided to expand on the world of the entire Uncharted universe by making a card game based on the events and characters that inhabit it. Yes, a card game. Uncharted: Fight for Fortune is a collectible digital card game based on the series, and despite its flaws it's actually pretty fun!
The mechanics of Uncharted: Fight for Fortune won't be too complicated for most seasoned card players to pick up on, but for others it might seem like a lot to take in at once. You make decks of summoned characters and creatures, divided into three factions: Heroes, Villains, and Mercenaries. Each of these cards has an attack stat, a defense stat, and a cost for use, as well as its own flavor text giving it specific bonuses, and a set of icons representing characters they can combo up with. As your turns go by, you gain points in each of the three factions. Once you've gained enough points in a faction you can summon a character from that category. For example, once you get 8 Hero points, you can summon Nathan Drake, who has 8 attack, 8 defense, and combines well with the character cards for Elana, Sully, and Marissa.
Once you've chosen the character you wish to summon, you put it down on one of five card slots to determine the card it will be facing off against. Once you've chosen a card the screen shifts and you get to choose from one of three hidden fortune cards that have pre-determined values. These cards can either be applied to your summoned characters or instantly discarded for 5 fortune points. Banking the 5 fortune points is quick and carries no risk, but equipping them on your characters has a higher risk as well as a higher reward. Equipping a fortune card on a faction card that gets destroyed by the enemy gives them the fortune points, but keeping it alive long enough or getting a modifier that lets you bank it instantly gives you the points. These points are used on resource cards that give faction cards extra attack or defense, and in some cases can be used as a status effect or direct attack on your rival.
Once your faction cards, fortune cards, and modifier cards have all been played, the combat phase commences and your cards attack the opponent's cards directly across the board to them; if no card is present in the opposing slot the rival's health points are drained. It's a good system, but one thing that really ruins the experience is the fact that there are an excessive amount of load times in-between fights, and even in-between each round in a fight. Given the relative simplicity of the game, I see no reason for the loading times needing to be noticeable at all, let alone as lengthy and frequent as they are in Fight for Fortune. On the flip-side, everything evokes an Uncharted feel with ease; the sound effects, visuals, music, and even the resource cards are a perfect recreation of their source material and in some cases are taken right from the game in question.
The main game is $4.99, but there are also two $2.99 add-on packs, which include cards and scenarios from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Despite sounding like a simple game of nothing, there's actually a decent amount of content for such a small price point. There's a campaign mode where you make your way through various characters from the games, fighting an uphill battle against increasingly challenging AI coupled with unrelenting win-stipulations. In one fight against Sully, the winning requirement was to bank 50 fortune points, completely ignoring traditional health points; this was simple, but there are some fights where you are expected to beat an enemy that starts the game with full faction points and multiple cards already placed. I'm not a regular card game player, so the required intricacies of micromanaging a deck was a bit more challenging than I expected, but the rewards are great. You can fight enemies up to 5 times to get unlockables such as new cards for your deck, new backs to your cards, and new avatars.
But if you're the kind who isn't so much into dealing with the occasionally absurd and sometimes flat-out cheap tactics and stipulations in the campaign mode has, then online is where it's at. You can play against friends or random people online in ranked or unranked matches, and the one major change is that these battles could, in theory, last days. In fact, when you put in your moves and send it out over the wire, there's a notification in the bottom corner informing you that your rival has two days to return fire. Because of this, the game supports multiple games played simultaneously, allowing you to save one and go play another one while you're waiting on a response.
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by Uncharted: Fight for Fortune. For a mere five dollars you get a game that could last you about five hours on a first play through and much, much longer if you're a fan. The game's mechanics are pretty deep but simple enough to pick up in just a few rounds, and it evokes a proper sense of continuity with the source games, even if trying to unlock everything is frustratingly hard at points.
This review is based on a PlayStation Vita copy of Uncharted: Fight for Fortune.