Mobile card games are a dime a dozen. When the genre is plagued with so many different versions of what equates to the same game, it becomes difficult to tell why you’d want to pick up one of the newcomers that seem to spring up every day on the App Store and Google Play Store.
The same can be said of Silent Abyss: Fate of Heroes. Why would anyone want to spend a buck or so on yet another action-oriented card game with zero discernible story to speak of? That’s easy: Despite its shortcomings, it’s actually an extremely fun and gripping game that puts up an addictive challenge. It may be rough around the edges, but it certainly scratches that itch that games like Slay the Spire inspire.
It’s easy to assume that, when starting up Silent Abyss, you’ve wasted your cash on a game that didn’t even bother correcting its numerous English spelling mistakes or offer meaningful tutorial levels, just throwing you in and tossing you to the wolves. And while you’d be right on one level, as its production values are quite low in this regard, you’d be ill-advised to simply write it off. Silent Abyss has a lot to offer, but you’ve got to be willing to work for it.
We mean that – there is no hand-holding beyond brief explanations in the heat of battle. You’d better make full use of the tutorial screens, because they disappear shortly after, leaving you to try and work out what’s going on and accidentally winning a round by playing similarly to other card games you know and play.
Starting a new game will find you tasked with choosing two heroes from pre-set options at the beginning of the game: a Mage, Knight, or Warrior, each with their own decks of cards and unique stats, including HP. You choose two, as you’ll play with two different hands per turn. This can be jarring at first, but you get used to it quickly since it means double the moves and getting bored far less often. Each turn consists of dragging a card from your decks to the enemies or your heroes, buffing and debuffing with spells and abilities as necessary, setting traps for the next turn, or dealing devastating damage so you can emerge victorious. That’s the goal, after all.
One interesting aspect of this particular title, however, is that instead of being relegated to being able to play only one offensive or defensive card, you can continue playing additional attack cards, abilities, and defense cards until you run out of mana. That means if you want to play five or six cards among your two characters, that’s sometimes entirely possible. It does make matches go by quickly but can also be quite confusing if you’re used to more rigid and traditional rules of play.
As you continue on throughout the game, there are additional heroes to unlock, including the Warlock, Assassin, and Archer. Each come packing their own unique skillsets, but they’re all mostly the same until you start earning additional cards and better ways to customize them. You’ll begin to learn which cards work for you and which don’t make as much sense in your deck as you become acquainted with your playstyle.
Each new game is split into a series of short levels. As you make your way through each level, you’ll branch off into different paths. Some include treasure in the form of new cards, runes, or gold. You can imbue certain cards with runes, which can add additional effects such as the Burning status effect, or even something that siphons health with a successful attack. You’ll also nab the reward at the end of the path. You can opt to go the easier route for an easier chance at spoils, but you’ll have to deal with tougher enemies, and you may be looking at starting over again because of it, because you’ll have died. Again and again, sometimes, until you really get the hang of things.
Dying isn’t a problem, though. When you die and have to start over, you earn all that experience that levels up you team. This will unlock additional starting cards and accessories beyond pre-sets so you can truly customize each character’s role beyond their starting point. It’s all quite simplistic, and there isn’t a lot to explore here that you probably haven’t seen before already in other, bigger games with more ambition, It’s addictive to keep playing and see how you end up doing, but there’s no real pull toward the end beyond the simple desire to just play.
In fact, that’s Silent Abyss‘s biggest problem: there’s no real reason to keep playing beyond personal satisfaction. It’s mostly bereft of story and relies on the player’s desire to become stronger to reinforce the gameplay loop. This may work for some people, but we found it a bit lacklustre and indicative of the game’s lower quality than other titles in the genre. It could use some overall polish, resolving broken English here and there, adding more flavor text, and even more cards to liven things up.
As it stands, Silent Abyss is a fun, simple card battler with roguelike elements for a buck. Sure, it’s cheap, a little rough, and devoid of some of the niceties of other games in the genre. But if you’re looking for something nice and easy to keep you occupied when you’ve got a few minutes at a time, Silent Abyss is a choice it’s not difficult to recommend. Should it receive a healthy dose of TLC from its developer in the future, it could become a great contender for the heavy-hitters in card battlers on mobile devices.
At the time of writing, despite being a premium game Silent Abyss comes with two IAPs:
- Unlock Hero – Warlock ($0.99)
- Unlock Hero – Archer ($0.99)
These are shortcuts to two of the unlock-able classes.