The game is less of an RPG, and more of a Trading Card Game, but less about trading, and more about... summoning the cards, and leveling them up by sacrificing cards you don't want. In other words, a "card game", that really isn't a full-blown card game, but mostly just comparing each cards' attack and defense stats to see how much damage you do to each other's cards. It wouldn't be a good game if it was done any other way, like with actual cards, or even as a video game, but for a mobile game, it might just be the thing to keep you entertained for a few minutes at a time.
Gameplay - The first thing you do in Dark Summoner is choose which Guild to fight for. There are three guilds; The Guild of Sin, The Guild of Rancor, and The Guild of Tyranny. From what I have observed, the Guild of Sin seems to be ahead of the other two guilds in points most of the time, while Guild of Rancor and Guild of Tyranny are usually very close to each other in points. I believe the guild that has higher points at the end of the day gets bonus Ally Points, so if you'd like to conform and take advantage of being in the winning team, Guild of Sin may be your better choice. I chose Guild of Tyranny, but even as second place, I get 100 Ally Points for beating the Guild of Rancor. Other than that, there doesn't seem to be too much of a difference, other than what the game tells you about what stat bonuses each guilds have. Guild of Sin gives a bonus to your Attack stat, Guild of Tyranny gives a bonus to your Defense stat, and Guild of Rancor gives a bonus to your Health stat. Although I have no clue how much, or whether if this bonus is inherently active, since I see no mention of this stat boost anywhere in-game.
The first thing to note in Dark Summoner is that you make a deck of 5 cards, with one of them being the Leader card. Leader cards get double HP bonus, and also becomes the card that represents your user avatar as well. If you put 5 cards of a certain combination in, you can activate a Combo Bonus, raising the whole party's stats. For example, having a full party/deck of a specific guild (Sin, Tyranny, Rancor) gives you a 10% boost to both Attack and Defense for your whole party. It is possible to stack other combos as well, like Level Combo where all cards in the deck are the same level. Surely there are other combos out there, but I have yet to discover them.
So how do these stat boosts help with the game? Dark Summoner is a very PVP oriented game, as you have two, separate, regenerating points; Energy and Battle Points. Battle Points are used to summon the creatures on your cards to battle against other players. The more BP you have, the more stronger cards you can summon, or fight more often. Fights are done automatically, where each card attacks once per turn, although I'm not sure what determines the order they go in as I don't see a speed stat on the cards. For the most part, sweeping strategies with fast cards would dominate, if you can figure out which cards are faster. Some cards have special abilities that they can use in combat, which can add to strategic elements, but I haven't seen it be put to good use yet. As far as strategy goes, you can choose which enemy cards to target first, which you can set when creating your deck formation. There are many options, so most likely you will find what you would want in the list. My favorite is "Target enemy with least HP" to quickly whittle down their attacking forces.
Outside of combat, there are missions you can do to gain Summoner EXP and Gold, as well as more monsters and collectable loot. This is what you will be spending most of your Energy in as it is your main source of monsters and gold to sacrifice to level up your cards. By sacrificing cards you don't need, you can level up your other cards. Sacrificing costs gold to do, and Rank C cards has a chance of mutating into a different card when sacrificing one, other Rank C card. The chance of mutation happening is rather low though, so I wouldn't expect it to help out much. Rank A cards on the other hand can Evolve by sacrificing the same cards together, if you have a duplicate Rank A card.
Leveling up as a summoner is important as it gives you stat points that you can put into either Energy or BP. My suggestion is, once you have enough BP to summon the 5 monsters you want to battle with, focus on Energy so that you can become stronger faster. Once you feel like you have enough Energy, you can then build up more BP to allow you two battles with your full party. Keep in mind, the later missions will start costing more Energy to do.
You can gain more of these stat points however by leveling up and adding Allies to your list. In fact, adding allies is highly recommended as allies will help you with fighting raid monsters. Raid monsters can be summoned by collecting all 6 collectable loot in a set, and defeating them will reward you with that monster card, which is an easy way to get an A Rank card. Raids are timed, however, and you only get 2 hours I believe to take its HP down. Each attack will cost 10 Energy as well, so when building up max Energy, it might be a good idea to aim for multiples of tens. If you fail to take down the raid monster within the time limit, the monster will escape, and you will have to re-collect the set of collectable loot again to try again. When you have many strong allies however, this is hardly a difficult task. If you are having trouble, try leveling up to increase your max ally count, as well as your max Energy, and add more strong allies. Having allies will also give you Ally Points which is used to summon more monsters, so it is certainly beneficial to have as many as you can.
There are also bonuses for collecting many different monster cards in the achievements section. By unlocking these achievements, you also unlock some boosts to help you out, like shorter Energy regeneration time, and gaining additional gold per hour.
Graphics - As a card game, graphics is important. If the cards don't look appealing, then there really isn't much to look at in a card game, usually. In Dark Summoner, most, if not all cards have a very dark feel. Some of the cards can be creepy, scary, or simply disturbing. There are cool-looking cards, but I have yet to find any that I really like yet. As of writing this review, I have 149 cards out of the 852 that are available in the game so far, most of which are cards in the C and C+ Ranks.
Aside from the cards, the game features some very impressive-looking, pre-rendered 3D movies, which originally got me to try out Dark Summoner first instead of Rage of Bahamut. Unfortunately, there's only the Intro movie, Summoning movie, and the Sacrifice movie as far as I know. The rest of the game doesn't look anywhere as good as these, and after seeing them for the first few times, you get tired of them and find yourself skipping them.
Sounds - The game only has two or so tracks and quickly becomes repetitive. Thankfully, there is an option to turn the music off. The cool thing about the cards is that they have sounds associated with them as well, although many of them are generic, and many cards share the same sounds. Although, really, who cares about sounds in a pseudo card game anyway?
Overall, Dark Summoner is a decent game for the social, pseudo-card game genre with a dark theme. If you think you can get into this genre, then Dark Summoner may be worth trying. However, the genre itself may not cater to everyone as it boils down to collecting rare cards and leveling them as high as you can. As a short pass time on the go, I enjoy it for what it is.
If you're going to start the game, then you will most likely want to put in a referral code to get additional starting bonuses (on top of the tips and knowledge of the game you have already from reading this review). Using any referral code will be the same for you as a new user I believe, so it would only be beneficial to do so. Unless you have a friend who already plays and wants your referral, here is my referral code so you don't have to go and search for one elsewhere.
User ID: 2763429419
Edit: After a few days of posting this, I'm seeing quite a lot of people with questions regarding the game, so I'll answer some of the common ones here.
Q: How should I prioritize my sacrifices?
A: First, decide on a team; preferably something with a combo bonus, consisting of cards with rank B or higher. Level those 5 cards equally for the Level Combo, and high to be successful. The higher the better, but will also become more costly to raise.
Edit: You may also want to focus on monsters with skills that can help with your team's strategy. If you've decided on a monster with a skill, you will also want to raise the skill level as high as you can as well by sacrificing a single monster with the same skill for a chance to increase its skill level, upgrading the skills' effectiveness during combat. The higher the level of the skill, however, the harder it is to level up. By sacrificing a monster with a higher skill level of that same skill will increase the chances of the main monster's skill level rising.
Q: How do you mutate monsters? Or how do I get more B rank or better cards?
A: I only managed to mutate a monster once, and the chances of it happening is fairly low. For the most part, all I did was sacrifice a single C rank monster to level another C rank monster, and it mutated into a B+ rank monster, I believe. Not sure if there are any combinations that guarantees a certain type of mutation, but I see no evidence of mutations working that way. For the most part, it's a desperate attempt move for getting a higher ranked monster from some C ranks... but you will have an easier time getting B rank monsters from some of the later missions where you can randomly get a Free B Rank Unique Summon instead. Best to get more Energy to speed through missions and get more chances of finding them.
Q: Should I evolve my Rank A Monsters?
A: It depends. If it's a monster that is currently in your formation, you may want to have a temporary replacement until you raise that monster back up in levels, as evolutions will revert the monster back to level 1. However, the benefits to evolving can be more than higher stats per level, as some monsters will gain new skills through evolution. In fact, there are monsters that will change its name and art through evolution.
Do keep in mind evolution alone costs about 30k, and the monster will require some leveling again, costing you more gold, so it can be an expensive investment. So be mindful of whether if what you are evolving will be something that you would like to have in your final formation.
Q: What are some good formation combos?
A: The most effective combos are the ones that give +15% to Attack and Defense. They are usually species combos, such as Brute, Wyrm, Beast, Creation, Mystic, Undead, Crawler, etc. However, there are some other, unique combos that can be done as well, such as Winged Combos.
Take note, however, that I have gotten the White-Winged Combo, as well as (Any) Winged Combo, but they both do not activate at the same time. On top of that, both Winged Combos only provide +15% bonus to attack, which was disappointing, finding 5 monsters with white wings. As cool as it is to have a more specific, unique theme for your formation, it will not provide any more bonuses than the normal species combos.
Q: What is the max level for monsters?
A: The max level depends on what rank the monster is. Here is a list of the max levels by ranks.
- C - Level 20
- C+ - Level 30
- B - Level 40
- B+ - Level 50
- A - Level 60
- A+ - Level 70
- AA - Level 100
- AA+ - Level 150