Beat up your friends (and everyone else playing) in this action card game!
Martial Arts Brutality is a digital card game that requires fast reflexes and manual dexterity in addition to traditional deckbuilding skills. You play as a warrior attempting to gain favor with the mystical Pai Mei (yes, the guy with the long white beard from Kill Bill) to learn the most powerful martial arts secrets.
The game is played using a specially built 40-card deck, which consists of 30 attack cards and 10 counter attacks. As you might expect, each card displays a handful of game stats, effects and rarity. Turns play out far differently than most card games, however.
On your turn, you have a limited amount of time to perform as many attacks as possible. Quickly choose a card and trace its required pattern. On a success, the card will go on cooldown, meaning you temporarily cannot choose it again. Fail to perform an attack and the card becomes disabled for the rest of the turn.
You must then defend against opposing attacks which fly toward you. Swiping across an attack's green line blocks the attack, and if executed properly will display a red line you can quickly swipe across. Do this and you're given an opportunity to counter attack, which works much like executing an attack during your turn.
Tracing patterns and swiping are staple mechanics of mobile games (which MAB certainly is) that often don't translate well to PC gaming. To be fair, tracing was introduced to PC long before mobile devices were even capable of displaying anything beyond text, but it often felt clunky and has since become far more popular on mobile platforms (and to a lesser extent, consoles via motion control). The game's theme provides a valid reason to use these mechanics without feeling too gimmicky, as speed and precision are obviously critical to performing martial arts maneuvers.
While you're frantically tracing and swiping away attacks, you're also raising a few key statistics, such as adrenaline and chi. These allow you to perform more complex and powerful attacks as the fight progresses, but there's a variety of other factors to contend with. Hit location, body systems, speed, power, buffs and debuffs all effect the battle as well, meaning your brain needs to be as fast as your fingers!
Beyond the combat system itself, MAB provides a number of features. There's quest battles versus NPC combatants as well as a variety of PVP options. You can add players to your friend list and challenge them to fights or ask them to team up against NPC opponents. As you might expect, your avatar can be customized with outfits, hair styles and accessory options. You can even create custom taunts to literally add insult to injury!
The game also includes several long-term progression systems in addition to just collecting cards and improving decks. The cards themselves can be upgraded with gold, which is obtainable fairly easily. Completing challenges (which are essentially achievements) earn points toward corresponding fighting styles. Earning ranks in a style gives you points that can be spent to permanently enhance aspects of your character, from faster hand attacks to more starting chi. You also earn experience that raises your combat level (think colored belts in kung fu) and unlocks more fighting styles like karate and taekwondo.
While I really enjoy this title, it's certainly not perfect. The game throws you into battle fairly quickly (which is good), but fails to mention its main screen is actually buried several pages back. I spent well over an hour thinking I had to continue doing quests, assuming it was some lengthy tutorial you had to finish before accessing the rest of the game - including settings and options.
Speaking of options, I highly suggest finding them at the first opportunity and changing the mouse sensitivity if you're playing on PC. Turning it up even a little helps tremendously, as the default setting feels more akin to leisurely swimming than executing karate chops.
There were also a few tutorial sections which I had to replay due to clicking too fast. I suppose that's better than accidentally skipping important information, but it's not ideal. Perhaps a confirmation button to skip dialogue or something would help. This would be a fairly simple prompt that the devs obviously know how to use, evident by the relatively frequent pop-up ads for the game's in-app purchases.
On that note, MAB has a number of microtransaction options, including paid unlocks to fighting styles. On the surface, I'd worry about the game being "pay to win", but just having better cards doesn't guarantee success. You still need the manual dexterity and reflexes to attack and block, and pattern complexity typically matches a card's power.
It should also be noted that the game contains lootboxes in addition to card packs. These seem to be fairly benign though, as they're only obtainable through play and contain either an amount of gold or a single card.
If you appreciate the strategy of collectible card games, but wish they acknowledged your lightning reflexes, Martial Arts Brutality might just be the game for you!