Publisher: Aeria Mobile
Release Date: January 16
The Marvel heroes have quite a presence in mobile and social games, but most of that content is focused on the Avengers. With the X-Men celebrating their 50th anniversary last year, it only made sense to give them a free-to-play card battle game of their own, and when GREE decided to pass on “X-Men: Battle of the Atom,” Aeria Mobile stepped in to give the mutants their due. The result is a treat for fans of the franchise thanks to its thorough exploration of X-Men history (in all its convoluted glory), but nothing special for most everyone else.
One thing comics fans will definitely appreciate is the way the game introduces its concepts. Narrated by Wolverine, the opening comic-like screens explain his falling out with Cyclops during the “X-Men: Schism” mini-series from a few years back. It also explains how to play the game, but only in the broadest and most basic of strokes.
Like just about every one of the legions of mobile card battle games, the goal of “Battle of the Atom” is to build up the best deck of 10 cards featuring the X-Men, their allies, and even some of their foes. You begin with one of the headmasters or professors from the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning—Wolverine, Kitty Pryde, Storm, Iceman, Rachel Summers or Beast—and add to the deck with cards won in missions or through random draws from the store.
Some familiar faces show up quickly, as I got Gambit, Rogue, Colossus and Nightcrawler on my squad in no time. But because the game draws liberally on just about every X-Men comic ever for its characters, only really devoted X-fans are going to recognize some of the mutants who show up. Most of the common cards are either obscure heroes or alternate reality versions of more famous ones. That could be good or bad depending on how versed you are in mutant lore.
The core gameplay involves tackling missions that spin off from individual stories for each of the six main characters. The amount of mission content is impressive, and the one way this game separates itself from the other inhabitants of a very crowded genre. Plenty of dialogue cutscenes help move the plots along between battles.
Unfortunately, the battles themselves are both repetitive and somewhat confusing. In each fight, you have the option of a simple attack or throwing up to five cards from your deck at the enemies. Provided they are leveled up and of sufficiently high rarity, the cards are usually the way to go, though you’re always at the mercy of the draw to determine which five cards are available to you. Cards from the same team or in the same power category get bonuses when used together, but the best boosts come from “Connections” between two characters who are linked together in the comics—like the aforementioned Gambit and Rogue cards I got.
It’s also a little bit strange that the graphics in the battles look like leftovers from the 16-bit console days when the card art is fantastic and taken directly from the comics. In the other featured mode, XvX multiplayer, it’s even more jarring, as pixelated groups of X-Men bounce in place waiting to attack each other. The XvX battles take place six times a day and pit teams of up to 20 players against each other. There’s some strategy involved in both coordinating attacks among your X-team (like clans or alliances in other mobile games) and managing a pool of Command Points during the 30-minute sessions, but the actual fighting isn’t much different from solo play.
Maybe it’s more interesting when events are taking place, but there wasn’t one running during my review time. Aeria is promising the opportunity to have teams take down big bads like Apocalypse, and an event based on the introduction of Hope Summers from the “Messiah Complex” storyline is on the way.
Can you stick it out long enough to find out? Probably only if you’re a big enough X-Men fan to appreciate the extensive cast of characters, or even just one who knows what the references to Blue and Gold strike teams are all about. Otherwise, “X-Men: Battle of the Atom” feels like a missed opportunity to inject some excitement into a genre badly in need of a super-powered shot of adrenaline.
+ Super deep roster of mutants should be fun for diehard X-Men fans
+ Great card art taken right from the comics
– Graphics during missions and multiplayer battles border on silly
– Does very little to distinguish itself from other mobile card battle games