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Duelyst launches its Frostfire Festival featuring a special game mode

Far from a winter wonderland

There's nothing quite like Duelyst. Ok, that's a lie - Hearthstone is a bit like Duelyst, but it's nowhere near as good. At the heart of Duelyst is the grid that battles take place on, which means every move requires several more layers of thought. I gave it a glowing review last year, and decided to jump back in this morning for a couple of games with the seasonal Frostfire mode.

I don't really like it! The mode adds presents that spawn on random tiles throughout the match. Picking them up gives you a random artefact which you equip on your general, which is the dude who it's your job to keep alive while attacking the enemy general. Most of the artefacts have relatively minor positive effects, but there's one - a lump of coal - that stops you from using your general's power. While most of the time I'd look at their effects and just shrug, occasionally they can be game changing. When my general was one hit away from dying, I grabbed an artefact that gave him the flying ability, and avoided certain death on the following turn by fleeing to the other side of the board.

The added randomness feels out of place for me in a game like Duelyst, which does an excellent job in its normal mode of allowing players to be lucky while not entirely divorcing that from their decisions (I'm mostly thinking about the redraw mechanic, that lets you swap out one card each turn for a random one from your deck). Still, I suppose it does its job as a throwaway mode that adds variety, and if you're a more committed Duelyster than I you will be rewarded with a Frostfire Crate after you've played 15 matches, win or lose.

Those crates can contain a new card skin, one of three Frostfire themed cosmetics for your generals and a pack of 5 regular cards. You get one crate for free just by logging in before December 22nd, and you can bag another two if you log in between December 25th and January 4th.

There's a part of my that wants to get back into Duelyst, but there's a problem. When I played last year there were just over 300 cards, and now there are more than 700. So much of Duelyst, as with any CCG, is about anticipating what your opponent is going to do and playing around particular cards. In the third turn of one of my earlier games, the enemy general played an artefact that gave him Frenzy for a ridiculously cheap 2 mana. Frenzy allows you to hit every enemy in attack range, and back when I played it wasn't something you had to think about until later in the game when high-mana cards became available. I expect many a drubbing over the games it'll take me to learn all the new cards, and I'm not convinced it's worth it.

You can grab Duelyst for free via its own client or on Steam, and you can play Frostfire mode until January 5th.

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