Back at Sony’s Gamers Day I sat down to play a full game of the Eye of Judgment. It’s a card battling game, but you use real cards and a Playstation 3 camera mounted to a stand deciphers what the cards are by reading a “cyber code”. When you begin the game both players start with 5 cards in their hand and a limited amount of mana. Once it is your turn you can use some of your mana to place a monster on the 3 x 3 grid, but think carefully before you place it down. There are five different elemental attributes (mechanical, earth, forest, fire, water) randomly distributed on the field. If you put a monster with a fire element on a fire field it might gain a boost its hit points or attack. Also you probably don’t want to put a water monster on a fire field, if you do its going to take damage and it might die as soon as you put it down. Unlike other card games chipping away at your opponent’s life points isn’t the way to win. The Eye of Judgment is all about territory and whoever captures five squares with creatures first is the winner.
The grid also changes the way you play the Eye of Judgment because you have to watch the direction you place your cards carefully. Take the Twin Goblin card as an example it can hit an enemy straight in front of it and behind it. If you place it in the center of the game board it will hit the top corner enemy and bottom corner enemy. Alternatively, you can rotate the card to make the goblins hit the left and right enemies, but that leaves the goblins open for attack from the top and bottom. Once a monster is placed on a board it lives there until the other player dispatches it. You can’t move it, but you can make the monster re-attack by placing an attack card over it. The advantage of attacking again is you can make multiple attacks in one turn and place a monster to secure a position. There is a cost for this though, more mana and if you re-attack too often your mana reserve will empty fast. You don’t want that to happen since you can’t summon more monsters, which means you can’t secure your five spaces on the grid to win the game. There is a lot to pay attention to in the Eye of Judgment besides the game board. Cards have text on them that informs players about their special abilities and in the case you’re playing online the text quickly scrolls on the bottom of the screen. Tricky? Yeah it is, but one thing the Eye of Judgment does warn players about is when the other player grabs four spaces out of the nine on the game board. An icon says “check” and in the next turn the opponent player must kill one of the creatures on the board or be defeated.
What makes the Eye of Judgment cool is the technology. The camera scans the battlefield and when it sees new cards it transforms them into monsters on you TV. However, the technology isn’t without its flaws. You have to hold the cards in the center so your hand doesn’t occlude the cyber code when you put them on the grid. Something else I didn’t get to try out was online play and there are some questions about it. Before online matches players have to register the cards they are going to use in the match to prevent them from digging through their collection for the perfect counter attack. While that helps prevent cheating, what’s to prevent players from searching through their deck for the right card? Also there is a balancing issue between players and their decks. Each player gets a standard 30 card starter deck used to teach them about the game and an eight card booster pack so there is some variation right away.
There are a total of 110 cards to collect, but you have to spend money to buy additional booster packs. Since playing Eye of Judgment is going to cost extra money Sony has to tackle the problem of people making counterfeit cards. I was told each card has a unique cyber code and there was something special about the ink to prevent copies. Sony is thinking about it, but I can imagine someone is going to figure out how to crack the system. It happened with Nintendo’s e-reader system pretty quickly. The other thing that puts me on the fence about the Eye of Judgment is the price. Sony didn’t specify a price, but the package does come with the game, Playstation Eye camera, 30 cards, the 8 card booster pack and a game mat. Plus you’re probably going to spend money to buy more cards from Hasbro when they appear in stores to improve your deck. People accustomed to card games probably have no qualms about buying booster packs, but after seeing how many people were upset about the price of extra songs in Guitar Hero 2 I can’t imagine the people being happy about spending extra money on the Eye of Judgment booster packs.