Online mode is even less conducive to a relaxed session of gaming. To avoid player cheating, the computer randomly determines the cards you draw from your scanned deck, which forces you to search through your physical deck every time you need to place a card down on the mat. It didn't have to be a necessary evil, given that it could have been avoided by letting players use a registered deck without requiring them to use the actual cards. It's worth noting that you can purchase additional decks for $14.99 at retail outlets and online, and you can't use cards not included in the starter deck unless they have been scanned beforehand. However, the Eye will often accept a high-quality forgery, so it's quite possible you will find online opponents who are using cards they haven't purchased. That isn't a big deal--after all, you would find people who own those cards legitimately--but it's still a little unsettling. Apart from those inconveniences, the online mode is full-featured in that it lets you easily invite a friend, create or join a custom match, or use matchmaking to play a ranked game. When you first enter the online mode, you choose one of four fictional kingdoms to represent, and the leaderboards rank players individually, as well as the kingdoms as a whole.
During our play-testing period, we had very few hardware-related issues. Even when the mat was twisted or not perfectly lined up, the camera did a great job of reading the cards. Cards are read relatively quickly, and it's easy to build a deck by placing the cards underneath the Eye. We did encounter some problems when trying to register an online deck, but it was a small blip in an otherwise seamless endeavor. The artwork on the cards is beautifully drawn, both onscreen and on the cards themselves. Units are intricately detailed, and the cards give you all the unit information you need without being unnecessarily cluttered with text.
The visual effects make quite a splash.
The sense of unfolding drama is one of Eye of Judgment's greatest achievements, thanks to terrific visuals, both when you view the gameplay grid proper and when you watch battles unfold. The game grid is presented with a beautiful mix of clean lines, gorgeous backgrounds, and sparkling particle effects. However, battle animations are the real treat, with imposing creature designs and weighty sound effects. Nevertheless, you can turn off battle animations, which is a boon for players who want a quick match without dealing with the visual drama. We're also big fans of how the avatar representing the Eye emerges from the grid whenever a spell is cast. We're not such big fans of his voice, though. There isn't a lot of voice acting, but what is there is uncomfortably overblown. The metal-heavy soundtrack sets the right tone, though it can get a little grating after a while.
If you've got someone to play with, you'll find there is nothing quite like Eye of Judgment. Spreading out your map, setting up your PlayStation Eye, and getting your cards ready is a cool addition to the usual card-battle preparations, and in that context, the game is a real winner. The terrific and subtle mechanics will keep you returning for more, and it's awesome to watch the battles unfold as you play your cards. But that's the real problem: If you want to play on your own or online, all that hardware may feel like more trouble than it's worth. Sure, the whole thing's a gimmick that's aimed at a niche market. But at a retail price of $70, it's a real steal, considering the package includes a PlayStation Eye camera. If you think that's a small price to pay for one of the weirdest games ever made, then draw your cards.