Review: Card Thief

I don’t expect to review many iOS games on here. Hell, I don’t play many iOS games. But Card Thief sounded cool, so I decided to try it out.

I’m glad I did.

Card Thief is, as you might expect given its name, a card based game. It is also, as you might expect given its name, a stealth game. Players are tasked with navigating a 3×3 grid of cards to steal treasure, defeat enemies, and escape with a chest full of loot while staying in the shadows and making sure they don’t run out of stealth points.

Stealth points are limited, and they’re required for just about everything in Card Thief. Want to put out a torch to stay in darkness? That’ll cost you some stealth. Ditto for taking enemies off the grid. The cost multiplies as you complete moves in spaces not adjacent to your starting place—but so do the rewards.

Card Thief screenshot
Card Thief, Tinytouchtales

Treasure and stealth cards increase with those moves as well, as does the treasure that can be stolen from enemies. Sneak up behind an enemy in shadow and they won’t even cost you stealth points. Wiping out the entire board in a single turn replenishes stealth as well, but only up to the original ten points, which may not matter for more skilled players who have unlocked a few upgrades and mastered the game’s techniques. Even in late stages, there’s little more satisfying than clearing the board or building up a combo of moves that ends up with gaining 20 stealth from a single card.

Card Thief rewards strategy, both during and before a heist. Equipment cards are unlocked after earning enough insignias from successful heists, with each upgradeable equipment card providing a unique benefit. A cloak for bonus stealth, water arrows to douse torches, powder to blind enemies—there are a lot of options that make Card Thief an incredibly dynamic experience. You’re limited to three equipment cards at a time, though, so it’s best to select cards that complement each other.

Card Thief features four separate maps, for lack of a better word, each with new enemy types and increased challenge. This is where completing quests to upgrade those equipment card comes in handy. Whether its additional stealth from the cloak or additional ammo and uses for other items, upgrades are essential for success toward the end of the game.

Daily heists provide an incentive to keep playing, with each throwing players into a heist with a pre-selected equipment loadout. I’ve failed these more often than not, largely because I wasn’t familiar enough with the mechanics of the equipment cards in question. Therein lies the problem with Card Thief—a lack of clarity.

There’s a lengthy tutorial in Card Thief, but even that doesn’t fully illuminate proper strategies and techniques. Many of the things I know about how Card Thief works are only in my head because of Google searches, scoured forums over at Touch Arcade, and direct communication with the developer on Twitter. Some of the quests are obtuse, with wording not matching up to actual requirements. In many cases, figuring out what the game wanted me to do was much more complicated than actually doing it.

Developer Arnold Rauers (as Tinytouchtales) has been outspoken about fixes coming to the game in addition to more content, so the game I’m writing about may not be the same game you’re considering if you’re reading this months this posts. Even now, though, it’s easy to recommend Card Thief. It’s a rewarding experience, even if some of those rewards don’t match up to the difficulty of figuring out exactly what the game wants.

8.5/10

What I played: completed dozens of heists, fully upgraded several equipment cards, failed a few daily heists, successfully completed a couple.

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