originals\ Oct 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

Week in Mobile: Elemental Kingdoms is a trading-card game for those who hate 'pay to win'

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Welcome to Week in Mobile, where the topic changes every week. Send feedback to @GameZoneOnline or @wita on Twitter.

Perfect World Entertainment is at home on the PC. As a publisher, it deals in massively multiplayer online games like Neverwinter, first-person shooters such as Blacklight: Retribution, and action-RPGs including Torchlight.

As of last month, Perfect World is now a publisher and developer of mobile games.

The company is confident that it can burst onto the mobile scene and find fast success. “We have worked hard to recruit the right people with mobile expertise," Fabien-Pierre Nicolas, Perfect World’s general manager of mobile, told GameZone. That includes veterans from companies like Gameloft, Gamevil, Zynga, and DeNA.

The first of four games on the publisher's release schedule is from China-based iFree Studios, which has created over 10 trading-card games, including battle-card game Lies of Astaroth.

Elemental Kingdoms is what Perfect World describes as a TCG “2.0.” Since its release in China six months ago, it ranks between the top 25 and top 50 highest-grossing games. It will launch by the end of next week in the North American App Store with 200 cards and campaigns that span 80 stages and four kingdoms.

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Gameplay is horizontal rather than vertical, and gamers can share battle replays, reap daily log-in rewards, participate in daily quest events (and later week-long events), and engage in a draft battle player-versus-player mode where they duel with random decks of cards. All of these features might lure people in, but Nicolas says the heavy emphasis on strategy is what separates Elemental Kingdoms from other TCGs out there.

“A lot of mobile TCGs currently in the market are just relying on two key factors per card, attack and defense, with some modifiers linked to the card colors, team structure, and a few special abilities randomly generated."

Elemental Kingdoms’ unique deployment time management system prevents players from assembling a team with only large creatures, which take longer to summon and leaves the player vulnerable. “Add to this the rich number of special abilities like healing or snipe — an additional attack of the weakest opponent — and you have a game that requires you to build the deck with strategy," said Nicolas.

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Each creature requires a certain number of turns to pass before it can deploy, and this catch keeps Elemental Kingdoms from being pay-to-win.

“If you do pay a lot to buy five-star cards, the highest current rank, but forget to take into consideration this strategy, you can still be killed by a smarter opponent who built a deck based on the speed of deployment of weaker but faster creatures," said Nicolas.

These layers of strategy will keep PvP engaging for a long time whereas other TCGs force players to buy new packs every week to achieve the same effect.

“I think a lot of TCG fans are getting sick of the ‘pay-to-win’ games ..." he said.

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Stephanie Carmichael Twitter: @wita
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