Dominate the board with the card! AXEH is a new style game that is board game with flavor of card game. Read the next move of the opponent., and make full use the card to neutralize enemy castle ! You can play with various of AI to grow your skills at solo-mode. Of course, also supports online matches of XBOXLIVE!

Despite its terrible voice acting and horrible story, Culdcept Saga remains one of the best collectible card games (CCG) and strategy titles available on the current generation of systems. Culdcept Saga is an oft ignored system exclusive and one of the major factors in my own decision to purchase an Xbox 360 to be my HD system of choice as I have loved the CCG meets monopoly gameplay ever since I first imported it back on the Sega Saturn. Thus, when I booted the dashboard and saw the somewhat similar CCG-strategy game AXEH available on the New Arrivals tab, I spared no second in purchasing the game before even giving it a trial run. All I knew was that the screenshots looked awesome, the gameplay looked familiar, and the summary text even noted the inclusion of on-line support. How could AXEH miss?

AXEH<??>, a strategy game from new Japanese XNA developer Pekoyama Kikaku, is initially very promising. We're given a vertically oriented hexagonal map broken up into three fields: the player's green territory where his or her castle sits, the large neutral blue field in the middle, and the opponent's red land at the opposite end. A detailed English tutorial explains that the player is allotted some amount of mana per turn based on his or her kingdom, and drawing and playing cards cost mana. Bases can be built upon highlighted hexagons, and one card can be drawn from each available base per turn provided the player can afford the mana cost to do so. Only three types of cards are available -- general cards build forts, priest cards construct shrines, and strategist cards creates a capitol -- but each one offers additional cards and benefits. A player has a chance of drawing six different magic cards from shrines which can be used to attack enemy bases or restore health. Tactics cards are available from the capitol and can be used to reinforce forts with additional power and defense depending upon which of the six are drawn. Finally, the forts comprise the general means of defense and attacking in the game and as with all bases can be bolstered by building infantry bases (forts, shrines, and capitols adjacent to an existing base but not built upon a highlighted hexagon), which add to their power and durability. A winning strategy involves using these bases to generate mana for drawing and playing cards as well as enhancing morale which determines how far the player's territory extends into the neutral zone.

At least, one would think a game such as this would require strategy to win. Sadly, beyond the limitations of the sparse card set, AXEH is also hampered by a grinding experience system. Players must spend skill points into five categories in order to have the option to draw magic and tactics cards or extend the castle's benefits. This severely limits the strategy available to players and forces them into a tedious grind in order to earn the experience points necessary to have the other elements of the game become available. The computer opponent comes in four difficulty flavors, and players will find themselves playing against the easy opponent ad nauseum until they are finally well equipped to handle the two normal CPU opponents and then finally the hard one. The challenge comes not from a well developed strategy but from simply having access to the big guns which are initially locked out from the player. What's worse is that players even lose experience points for losses, leading to care bear grinding against the easy opponent to ensure enough points are earned. Likewise, the limited availability of cards, both artificially via the experience grind as well as the lack of quantity in the game, stifles creativity and enjoyment as players will find themselves enacting the same moves day in and day out on the game's single map.

Disappointing as the gameplay is, AXEH does bundle it up in one nice looking package. The tutorial could explain things a bit better and not cut the player off mid-battle, but it does a fair job of explaining the gameplay details and introducing people to the game. The card art is nice and easily recognizable, and the magic effects are well done. Despite the wealth of information thrown at the player, the board and display still feel uncluttered and with all elements easily identifiable. Most all of AXEH's text is in English when the system's language is set as such, making for a Western friendly release, and the inclusion of on-line and systemlink battles is definitely welcomed in a game such as this. The title screen and menus are rather attractive, and the background music suffices for elevator music, which is fine here as it never becomes intrusive or annoying during several turns of gameplay.

I played several rounds of AXEH and sadly found no point where I truly enjoyed the gameplay, largely due to the restrictive nature of having to unlock options. Granted, many games of this sort including my beloved Culdcept Saga or Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers force players to earn cards, but at no point does it ever feel like a chore nor do they restrict the beginner player so severely as AXEH does. Variety is the spice of life in a good CCG, and I'm afraid that the scant offerings in AXEH just doesn't cut it. While the backbone here has the makings of an excellent title, AXEH desperately needs more variety and to become more user friendly if it wishes to draw in an audience and find a place among the better entries in the CCG and/or strategy genre.

August 16, 2010
August 14, 2010 | 80 points
Developer | Video N/A | Download

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