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That Berlin job was a mistake. Jackson thought it’d be a breeze, but what did that cockiness get him? A body bag! That’s what you get when you mess with the syndicate. To be quite frank, you’re lucky to be alive yourself. That assassin ambush in the cafe only saw you losing your deck, and, well, your hand, thanks to that damn grenade.

The latter wasn’t too hard to replace thankfully. It was just damn expensive! The colour of your new attachment doesn’t quite match, but you’re alive, and that’s all that matter. All you’re lacking now however, is a deck. Having spent all your credits on a prosthetic limb and six months worth of dodging the syndicate, you’ve essentially got nothing.

You eventually find yourself back to San Angeles – a familiar, albeit dangerous place, filled with high rise towers and swirls of smoke. So as not to pop up on anybody’s radar, you opt to borrow some credits from a loan shark. Miriam lends you five thousand to get your new hardware, but she expects double  that amount back, and in just 30 day’s time. Good thing your old pal JoJo just gave you a call – he’s in need of a good runner, and he’s willing to pay for your services…

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The narrative component of System Crash, if you hadn’t already garnered, is excellent. It’s packed with detail, and it forges a very believable world set in our very distant future. The above for example, all took place in the space of around two minutes, before I’d even experienced any actual gameplay. What followed was, perhaps a tad longwinded, but an intriguing tale nonetheless, filled with mystery, surprises, and fascinating characters.

Oh, and there were cards too. You see, System Crash isn’t a shooter, or an RPG, or anything action-orientated for that matter. It really is just a card game at its core, and a fun one at that. Somehow, that works in conjunction with the narrative really, really well. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t literally battle anybody with cards. They merely serve as a metaphor for how you deal with whatever situation you find yourself in. Beat your opponent’s deck, and hey, you’ve just hacked into that corporations tight security system. Oh no, the law are chasing you? Beat their deck, and you’ve slipped from their grasp, again.

What I particularly enjoyed was that certain parts of the story played out in a bit of a “choose your own adventure” fashion. One mission for example, required that I break into a building. I had three choices; enter through the front, the rear, or via the underground parking system. Each door held a very specific, often thematic deck to beat on the other side of it. This meant I could build my deck accordingly, or keep my existing one, and challenge whatever scenario suited me best.

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Being someone who has only dabbled with the likes of Hearthstone, I fully expected to be overwhelmed, possibly even bored by another card game that didn’t have Blizzard’s stamp of approval on it. Thankfully, that was not the case with System Crash, not by any means. It took me an hour or two to really understand and appreciate the mechanics underneath it, and once I did, I couldn’t stop playing.

Looking at it now, its system is surprisingly simple to understand. Each deck consists of forty cards, made up of different characters (who fit into certain classes), gadgets (both offensive and defensive), support abilities, utilities, and more. The goal of each match is to reach a certain number of objective points (OP) – typically 50. These are earned by attacking an opponent directly, or hacking (cards that earn OP passively just by being on the board).

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See, simple! There are little intricacies and underlying mechanics however, that make System Crash deviously tricky. Working them all out, or perfecting certain strategies and combinations is where I drew a most of my enjoyment from however.

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I learnt everything I know from the AI, truth be told. Early on in the campaign, once I had the basics figured out, I felt that System Crash was a little too easy. My opponents tended to always exhaust their hand, leaving me to grab OP without a care in the world. Later on however, the difficulty ramped up accordingly, and my opponents had strong decks built to do specific things. They played a lot smarter too.

Frustrating at first, but later, I realised that I was being taught a lesson every time I suffered a defeat. I learnt to mimic what was used against me, and in turn, I started picking up on what each deck’s pros and cons were.

So to give you an example, I’ll explain the hacker-focused deck, which proved to be the most frustrating one I went up against (until I figured out how to counter it). The premise behind it is straight forward – play a whole lot of relevant runner cards, add buffs that improve their rate of OP earn significantly, and then drop a smoke bomb card. That smoke bomb card reduces every card’s attack, both friend and foe, meaning that the board becomes filled with characters that… just sit there. This leaves the hackers to farm up OP without issue. If you’re playing against this deck with high attack focused characters, and little utility to deal with it, you’re in for a bad time.

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Building an appropriate deck to fit a situation is actually very easy, thanks largely to the fact that there are no F2P mechanics or microstransactions in place. From  the get go (well, after the first few missions at least), you’ll be able to purchase every single one of the hundred or so cards. All that takes to unlock them is a few in-game credits, which after a few hours of playing, I had an abundance of.

You’ll unlock more just from playing the game too. Finishing missions, particularly the more difficult ones, granted some neat rewards in the form of rare or elite cards. As I played, I adjusted my decks accordingly, slotting in whatever I unlocked to suit the situation at hand. What’s nice is that you can sell cards too. I found myself with many duplicates at one stage, which I traded in for some expensive, but powerful cards that I had not already earned from completing missions.

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These powerful decks I’m left with now? I’d love nothing more than to test them out on real, human opponents. Unfortunately though, I can’t, as System Crash features no multiplayer whatsoever. I don’t know why that is exactly, but I hope that Rogue Moon Studios consider adding in that functionality in the near future. The problem without it is that once I’d finished the campaign, which took me a good 14 hours or so, I had very little to do. Sure, there’s the arena, which allows me play against high level AI and their own strong decks to my heart’s content, but that gets old after a while.

That being said, as a single player game, System Crash monumentally exceeded my expectations. The campaign was perhaps a little too long (it dragged on with unnecessary filler usometimes), but I loved it in spite of that. I’d be very happy to find out more about this world Rogue Moon Studios has put together, perhaps in an expansion or two, which ship with even more cards to keep my newfound itch scratched…

 

 

Last Updated: August 1, 2016

System Crash
Summary
System Crash’s campaign is compelling, as are the actual card game’s mechanics. It's smart and satisfying - but having multiplayer functionality present would have catapulted it to the upper echelons of digital card gaming.
8.0
System Crash was reviewed on PC

Matthew Figueira

Defence of the Ancients? More like Defence of the cabbages! Have you seen my head? I look like a Merino Sheep on pole. NO SHANGE only SHAPPIES! :D

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