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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Octopi

 

Developer

Octopi

 

ESRB

N/A

 

Released

Q3 2006

 

 

- Attractive and well-designed interface
- Fun and challenging strategy gameplay
- Friendly multiplayer community

 

 

- Tough for beginners to make the grade
- Freeze bugs
- A niche game that may lack general appeal

 

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PoxNora

Score: 7.5/10

 

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PoxNora is a new, online, Java-powered, turn-based, fantasy strategy game utilizing a card system (got all that?) from Octopi Game Development Studio and Interactive.  At PoxNora's heart is a collectible card game similar to that in Magic: the Gathering.   Players use runes, representing champions, spells and actions, which may be revealed and then played throughout each match. Though players begin with a random set of runes drawn from the over two-hundred possibilities, rune sets (or "pox battlegroups" or just "poxes") are customizable, and an online store is available for purchasing rune booster packs or swapping out old, boring ones.

 

Though much depends on the luck of the draw, so to speak, there are enough strategic possibilities on the detailed maps (with varied terrain and elevation) to keep things lively as  players maneuver champions and manage action points with the end goal of destroying each others' shrines.  The other crucial element in PoxNora is the acquisition and management of Nora, or magical energy, which is produced naturally and by various "wild fonts" throughout the map, strategic capture points which allow increased Nora and additional deployment zones for champions.

 

PoxNora's interface is attractive and well-designed, and the runes in particular are beautifully rendered.  Despite the disadvantages of a Java-based game, the sometimes sluggish and blocky graphics, the game runs fairly smoothly in a browser window.  Unfortunately, my playing experiences were marred by a succession of freezes (a common problem, judging from complaints in the game forum.)  While some kinks may be understandable in a new title, this was enough of a nuisance to sour the experience a little.  The game may have benefited from a little extra beta testing before release.

 

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Because I'm a novice at fantasy card games, my first attempts at playing PoxNora were embarrassing, and though I caught on somewhat -- the learning curb isn't too steep -- it took a while before I felt wholly comfortable.  I learned (the hard way) that effective game play requires a cunning balance of offense and

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defense. It's easy to over-extend and leave oneself vulnerable or to become impatient and make foolish mistakes.  A certain amount of trial and error are involved in finding the right balance, the right situations in which to use particular runes.  This coupled with the fact that the game already has attracted a bevy of seasoned players, ready with veteran champions and devastating spell combinations, make the game a challenge for beginners.  (The player does have the option of playing unranked games with less seasoned opponents before leaping into the fray.)

 

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One thing that did impress me, both in PoxNora matches and in the lobby, was the pleasant cordiality, a nice change from some multiplayer sites.  I was equally impressed by the patience some of my opponents displayed as I bumbled through my matches.

 

The game, in future, promises to offer single-player practice against bots, a trading and auction engine for swapping runes, as well as tournaments and battle statistics -- all features intended to draw a large and thriving community.

 

While this game isn't exactly my cup of Nora, I can see it appealing very much to fantasy card-game enthusiasts or turn-based strategists.   For what it is, it's a well-done, well-crafted effort that should reward perseverance (and maybe the investment in a booster pack or three.)  A pox on you (sorry -- had to get that in somewhere) if you don't find something to like in the world of PoxNora.

 

John Tait

(September 10, 2006)

 

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