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Spicy Horse merges action real-time strategy and collectible cards in The Gate

Spicy Horse Games, best known for its work on American McGee's Alice and Akaneiro: Demon Hunters, is teaming up with DeNA to launch The Gate, a game that studio lead American McGee describes as Pokémon in hell.

The free-to-play mobile title, which is due to launch later this year, merges elements of collectible card games with a real-time strategy game, and embeds it in a lush 3D world that plays on western concepts of demonology and hell. Divided into two modes, players will be able to experience the Dante's Inferno-inspired universe on their own, or challenge others in player versus player matches.

In the single-player mode, players venture through the layers of hell and fight monsters and demons. The ultimate goal is to fight the grand masters of hell, defeat them, and claim the title of greatest demon master. In the player versus player mode, players will battle each other in arenas for the title of demon master.

"... Really advanced players tend to focus on having multiple combat decks that they can take into any scenario."

The Gate allows players to be strategic on two levels: in building their deck and in their battle plan. The deck building element follows the format of traditional card games. Players will be able to buy packs of cards that contain various demon types at different levels. These demons can be leveled up through battle, and cards in the deck can also be sacrificed to strengthened other cards. Each card has a unique skill tree, which allows players to populate their deck with distinct demon types.

These cards are then taken into battle. In the arena, the cards come to life and players can control their units by tapping and dragging demons. Every demon has unique abilities that can be deployed in a fight, so it is up to the player when they want to rain these attacks on enemies.

According to McGee, there's lots of room for players to be strategic in the game at the deck-building and real-time battle levels.

"All the cards have different stats about how quickly they move, how quickly they deliver damage and how quickly they recover from damage, so different strategies do evolve from it," he told Polygon. "So I've seen one guy who has four extremely fast units that will move in and swarm and destroy one group of units and then another group very, very quickly. So that's one way he may try to win against a deck that he comes up against. But that strategy won't always work, so you get other ones who have really slow-moving, heavy damage.

"So it's very traditional in the way you approach card collecting games," he said. "You have certain cards that are very special to you, you have certain combinations of those cards that you assume will work in certain matches and not others. So the really advanced players tend to focus on building up a collection so they can have multiple combat decks that they can take into any scenario."

The Gate is expected to launch on iPhone and iPad soon. Those who pre-register will receive a bonus card when the game launches.