[Review] Mystic Vale – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Nomad Games
  • Publisher: Nomad Games
  • Release date: 12/03/2020
  • Price: £16.99 / $21.99
  • Review code provided by Nomad Games

Intoducing: Mystic Vale Review

I. Love. Deck-builders.

I don’t have a ton of experience with the genre since I only got properly introduced to them in the past year due to starting to play board and card games more regularly, but they have quickly become one of my favorite types of card games. As a result, I’m always on the lookout for them when I go to my local resale shops. Turns out that I should have been looking a little closer at the Eshop, though, because Mystic Vale just went digital. 

Learning Something New

I was not personally familiar with Mystic Vale when I went into playing the Switch edition, but there was thankfully a tutorial that walks you through the basics of the game itself and how to navigate the screen while in a match. Everything was fairly clear and concise, teaching me the essentials in just a small handful of lessons (though there were others for expansion content waiting when I finished). While I understood the lessons well enough, I have to wonder how they would go over with someone who is not familiar with deck-building games. While I picked up on the concepts presented to me fairly quickly, a few more brief explanations of simple strategies might be helpful for someone unfamiliar to the style of game.

Build ‘Em Up

Mystic Vale is part deck-builder and part card-builder. While you are making purchases with power that you accumulate with your cards, your number of cards never actually changes. You actually are slotting your purchases onto one of three positions on your cards in order to make them more powerful and give effects that will help you to acquire more modifications, special types of points that buy passive cards, or victory points from the pool. When the pool of victory points runs out, whoever has the most of them is the winner. Simple enough, really.

What makes this different from most of the games that I have played is the “spoil” system. A few cards in your starting deck and some of the powerful modifications that you can purchase have a little symbol that looks like a withered tree on them. You draw your hand until the third symbol of this type is revealed. This final card is laid face up on the deck and is not part of your hand. This is where the first phase begins in a risk vs reward setup. You can draw that card to gain whatever effects that it has, but the next card will be revealed and if that one has a fourth spoil symbol, you lose your hand and thus, your turn. There are a few ways to mitigate this loss, but they’re not super easy to get and are not always reliable. Once that phase is finished you move on to your actual purchases and points.

Ways to Play

In terms of starting up a game in the single player mode, the options that are available for customization are quite nice and allow for a good amount of wiggle room. You can play against up to 3 other people (either AI or couch co-op) and the AI have several difficulty options in order for you to adjust just how brutal you want them to be. I personally was quite happy to see an option to adjust how many victory points were in the pool which could lead to longer or shorter games depending on how long you want to play. I normally played on the standard amount, but I never felt like my games overstayed their welcome or were over too quickly. 

Unfortunately, this was a case where I was not able to check out the online functionality, because I was unable to connect up with anyone else thanks to my playtime coming before the game launches. However the steam version launched last year and seems to have a decent player base so we can hope that the switch release will have the same fate. Even if not, the couch co-op functions perfectly fine and will work great for those who want to play a round or two with someone and let the game take charge of keeping track of counting everything for you. Mystic Vale makes a great companion for fans of the physical game who want to play during some downtime alone or without having to keep track of the little details that the game handles for you.

Shuffle

There are only a few places where I think the game falls short. While the art on the cards is lovely and does a great job distinguishing them from one another at a glance, the sound design feels like a letdown in comparison. The music is really understated, which I normally like in a game that requires some thinking, but in their desire to not distract me, it fails to fire me up or spark any determination. The other sounds are what I can only describe as “generic magical fantasy”. There is a lot that could be done with the theme of druidic clans that really was not capitalized on. It’s just sparks and wooshes and swooshes, not much else. Maybe I’m a little spoiled from my days of playing Hearthstone in college and the jaunty music in that game, but I often feel like Mystic Vale is trying to downplay itself, which it doesn’t need to. 

The other issue is that this is quite clearly a port of the PC version of the game, with the same interface. This is one of those interfaces that I could see working really with a mouse, but becomes a bit clunkier when you try to navigate it with joysticks. It’s just the little things. Sometimes it would be tricky to get to the tinier icons and I would change to be looking at something other than I wanted to on accident. My biggest frustration, though, was whenever I scrolled to the end of the lineup of modifications to make a big ticket purchase, my cursor/highlight would not stop at the last card and would instead jump over and up to another icon. It does this because of the way things are laid out and I don’t think it would be an issue if not for the way input works on the switch.

Packing It Up

Overall, Mystic Vale is a really fun game that had me considering picking up the physical version. The digital seems to be getting some, but not yet all, of the expansions so it will be interesting to see the way that it evolves when these are added in and if more are released. I’m personally just happy to be able to play a deck builder without having to find other people who may not exactly be willing to play with me.

Pros

  • Fun base game play
  • Expandable
  • Lots of options for single player customization

Cons

  • Controls are not exactly optimized for the switch
  • Sounds are subdued or generic

Verdict
Mystic Vale is great fun, but tries to undersell itself at times.
4/5

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