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David Carter
06 Nov, 2007

The Eye of Judgment Review

PS3 Review | One part videogame, one part card game.
The Eye of Judgment, is almost the definition of a niche product, but at least it brings something new to the table, literally. It's a unique blend of traditional table-top Collectible Card Games (CCG’s) and videogames. It’s also an intriguing package that’s a mixture of both innovation and gimmick, incorporating the PlayStation Eye camera as the primary interface. While it won't appeal to everyone, or usher in the dawn of a new age in gaming, EOJ is a different experience that deserves to be approached with an open mind.


Summoning creatures using cards never gets old.

Summoning creatures using cards never gets old.
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Over the years table-top CCG’s have been translated into various videogame spin offs. In the process, these incarnations have done away with the physical cards. EOJ on the other hand, has been built from the ground up, using real cards and a disc based videogame. Sony has incorporated a technology they call 'Cyber Code' to bring the fantasy themed card battles to life on your television screen. Essentially, the camera, reads the Cyber Code printed on the cards and translates the results on-screen. Creatures and spells are brought to life in this way and are then used to defeat your enemy, be it the game’s AI or a human opponent. It’s an impressive virtualisation, which takes place using all of the equipment that comes packaged with the game.

Included in the box is a cloth map with nine fields (a 3x3 grid), the PlayStation Eye (a USB camera), an accompanying stand, the EOJ game disc, a starter deck of thirty cards and a booster pack of eight cards. It’s a complete package that gets you up and running. However, EOJ is arguably at its best when played against a friend in a face-to-face card duel, however, this will require the investment in a second deck of cards. Extra cards are available in two forms, as pre-constructed (ready to play) themed decks or as random eight card booster packs. Those unfamiliar with CCG’s will likely question why the extra cards aren’t bundled with the game. Apart from being a marketing ploy, the purchasing of extra cards is an established practice in the world of table-top CCG’s and is an accepted expenditure for CCG purists. Hence the term 'Collectable Card Game.'

The objective of the game is to take control of five of the nine fields on the 3x3 battle grid. This is achieved by summoning creatures to occupy each of the fields, while at the same time destroying enough of your opponent’s creatures to prevent them doing the same. Despite the rather simple objective, EOJ is significantly more complex than it first appears, as there are a myriad of strategic elements to consider. So many in fact, it would be impossible to cover even half of them thoroughly in a review of this kind. It’s important to note, the disc is loaded with video tutorials on how the core game functions, a welcome addition to a game of this nature.

Dragons are amongst the toughest creatures in the game.

Dragons are amongst the toughest creatures in the game.
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One of the most important things to consider is the actual elemental properties of the creatures and fields themselves. There are five elements: Earth, Wood, Fire, Water, and Biolith, which is a neutral element. Each creature gains a ‘field bonus’ of two extra hit points when placed on its respective element. Likewise, creatures of a certain element will lose hit points if placed on their opposite element, such as a Fire Creature on a Water Field or an Earth Creature on a Wood Field and vice versa. Biolith creatures and creatures placed on Biolith fields, receive neither Field bonuses nor minuses. In addition, each of the nine Fields has a second element residing under it. There are spells and creatures, which have the ability to flip fields over, thus bringing forth the element underneath. These changes can greatly affect the creatures occupying those fields.

There are many restrictions in place that draw out the game and add to the strategy. Firstly, players are supplied a limited amount of ‘Mana’ per turn, two points to be exact. ‘Mana’ is a sort of magic energy that is required for creatures to be summoned and spells to be cast, and each creature and spell has a Mana cost printed on the card. Cards with a high Mana cost will usually require a player to forgo casting anything one turn, for the purpose of saving enough for a cast on a subsequent turn. Secondly, you may only summon one creature per turn. In this way, it’s a very back and forth, almost chess like experience, with the key difference being the ability to continually replace destroyed creatures from extra cards you draw from your deck.

When an engagement takes place, the view above the game grid seamlessly zooms in on the action as creature’s battle animations are played out. The animations range from the basic swipe of a Verzar Foot Soldier’s blade through to the screen filling magic attack of a Sciondar Fire God. As fun as it is to watch the animations in the short term, we suspect people will grow tired of them, especially during lengthy online play sessions. Thankfully an option exists in the menu to turn these off, helping to keep the action fast and flowing.

Creatures and spells come to life thanks to a vibrant colour palette that is used in a way that helps players almost immediately determine a creature’s element at a glance. The spell effects are satisfying to watch and fill the screen with particles, rays of light and just about any other effect you could imagine. There’s not too much graphically that’s going to wow people, but the 3D creature models animate in a variety of ways that really help to bring the game to life. For example, idle creatures in the board view are all animated in some little way, be it fire coming out of a creature’s staff or a dragon moving its head around.

The game's audio makes good use of sound effects to immerse players. Weapons whoosh through the air, fiery magic attacks have throaty roars and there is a great variety of sound effects generally. Creatures often taunt their enemy and will verbally proclaim their superiority when summoned or during a battle sequence. Skeleton Soldiers and Dwarves, we’re looking at you. A commentator sporting a deep, dark voice announces each player’s turn and other game events. Although it suits the game’s fantasy theme, it can get a little annoying over time. Perhaps most notable though, is the game’s heavy metal sound track, which players will likely either love or hate.

The included deck builder is easy to use.

The included deck builder is easy to use.
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As with tradition CCG’s, EOJ player’s will derive a great deal of satisfaction from building and modifying their perfect thirty card deck. There are many things to consider when building a deck, including summoning cost of the cards, the number of cards that belong to each element and card combos. The included ‘Deck Builder’ option is designed to help with this process, allowing you to build, sort and save your deck configurations. After acquiring and playing with close to seventy percent of the available cards, we can safely say, there’s a great variety of creature and spell cards available. Sony has also revealed plans to release expansion sets in 2008, which should bring even more strategic options to the table.

It’s not too much of a surprise that EOJ has no single player campaign; after all it’s a card game. It does however boast a fairly robust online component that tracks wins, losses, exits as well as a global leader board. Some clever little tricks have also been implemented, to prevent cheating in online battles. After constructing a deck using the ‘Deck Builder’ option, the deck needs to be registered for online play. This process also takes place offline. Essentially, each card needs to be shown to the eye and any multiples of a card need to be shown simultaneously. Once all thirty cards are recognised, a player can then play with that deck online.

The real trick comes in preventing players from picking out any cards from their deck during play, instead of drawing them randomly. In online duels, EOJ solves these problems by using the PlayStation 3 to draw the cards randomly from a player’s pre-registered deck. A card drawn by the PlayStation 3 is shown to the player on screen; the player can then search their deck and draw that card. In this way, the PS3 knows at all times what cards each player should have in their hand, in their deck and on the game board. The system therefore never allows a card to be played, which a player shouldn’t have in their hand in the first place. Confusing? Well trust us, it works.

While EOJ will not be everybody's cup of tea, those with a love of fantasy and strategy will probably eat this up. As with traditional CCG’s, collecting all of the cards will be something of an attraction in itself, if only to view all of the different creatures the developers have created in 3D. Of course to acquire some of the rarer creatures and spells, it won’t hurt to have deep pockets and a bit of luck when purchasing booster packs. Could it have been made without the physical cards, play mat and the elaborate camera setup? The short answer, yes. In this regard, it’s equally fair to label it a gimmick. All things considered, if you’re looking for a distinctly different game this holiday season, EOJ’s unique brand of card battling fun could be just the ticket.
The Score
The Eye of Judgment is one of those rare games that breaks out of the typical video game mold. If you’re into strategy, fantasy or CCG’s generally, it’s a game that deserves a look.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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5 Comments
6 years ago
All well in good - provided we get "expansions" and not random "booster" packs
6 years ago
We should. You can already get theme decks with 30 predetermined cards, so it doesn't all have to rely on luck.
6 years ago
If i get this game, I wanted to specialize in a Mechanical build deck. If it exists that is.
6 years ago
Uh oh, ps3 is starting to get stuff that i want to read the review of, i can feel a large sum of money being extracted from my wallet in the near future.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  25/10/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $159.95 AU
Publisher:
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre:
  Puzzle
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  2

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