So I was looking around for “Darkest Dungeon” type games a few days ago and came across this one, which is really more like Slay the Spire but featuring a party of characters. Take a look at the gameplay window, if nothing else it’s a striking game with hand painted artwork worth checking out.
The general gameplay loop is really good, if familiar. You start with two characters, and there are several “species” to select from (Mouse and Bear to start, but just by normal play you unlock more tools for your toolbox, including additional species from Hares and Beavers to Wolves and Weasels), and one will have heavier armor and an axe/shield and the other will have a 2H sword. From here, you already make some important decisions, like where to put the characters from a positioning point of view - as the battlefield is a 3x3 vs 3x3 grid. I like to put the sword and board in the front row with the light armored hitter in the back, but that’s not always the way. You’ll be finding different weapons and armor soon enough, however.
From here, you’re goal is a familiar situation. Travel through three “acts” choosing a path (of a sort) to progress to a random boss battle at the top of each act, leading to The Warden in Act 3 which is NOT the actual, final true boss of course but beating him once unlocks that route (and the title screen opening credits!)
Along the way, you’ll encounter challenges to overcome, decisions to be made, improve your characters (they will earn XP and level up, each earning Talents and Passive abilities as well as finding new weapons and armor along the way), and other good and bad situations. One key point of interest - while each race has it’s own special ability that can be used by spending 1 point of precious Willpower (you start with 1 point and it does not regenerate between rounds, only between combats - more on the combat later), most of how you play your characters is dictated by the weapons you have equipped. Putting a dagger in each hand is possible, for instance, and even makes some cards that reference “if dual wielding, than X” type effects, but you might find a card that reads “Deal Weapon Damage a number of times” and you want someone wielding a massive great hammer to use that card because it has a higher base weapon damage. That said, each race gets to pick from a pool of Race specific Talent (cards) and Passives at level-up and some of these can be incredibly powerful. I am not even sure what is the best kind of party - all of one species or a mix/match up. I suppose it depends on the run.
The meat of the game is of course the combat, and I am really digging this part. Guard (or block, or Shields, or whatever) is generally granted at the start of combat based on the armor you wear, but there are cards that give more - it doesn’t (usually) auto-replenish BUT it does not vanish between rounds either, so you can build up a comfortable amount of armor and with proper planning, you can avoid any Vitality damage in the early game. Vitality, in the Rogue-like sense of the gameplay, doesn’t really have a lot of opportunities to get recovered but it’s not rare either - unlike many other Rogue games, this one doesn’t feel “mean spirited” in many ways, part of why I’m having so much fun with it - once you learn the combat and start to get good at making good choices (both with deck updates and getting new cards but also during the gameplay) I really felt confident taking on harder battles with bigger rewards.
But the back to the combat, which features Stamina to play cards (the yellow cost) and Willpower (the blue cost) as well. Most cards don’t cost Willpower, though the ones that do tend to be very powerful since Willpower doesn’t recover on its own (there are ways, however). Moving enemies out of their lane can cause their attacks to whiff, applying a Cripple debuf first will hurt them when they move! Dropping a pile of Acid on an enemy will destroy first their armor and then their body, and Acid ticks UP per turn, not down, though Bleeding is still nastier as it ignores armor and deletes Vitality directly. Some cards build up “charge” which applies bonus damage to the next attack made and then clears the Charge stack, as another example. All sorts of fun synergies both with the cards and weapons but also the Talents and Passives you earn from leveling up.
As near as I can tell, most of the negative reviews are from the hardcore audience that believes the game lacks legs for long term play. I don’t necessarily disagree, but here are some facts. First, I’m approaching 10 hours and only just unlocked the last of the two species (Hare and Beaver) and have yet to even play them, let alone unlock any of their content. I have only maxed out Wolf and only because in this last run I played with some challenging Oaths to make the game harder but also that multiplied my meta-boondongle, in this case XP, that leveled me up to unlock the last two races. Oaths are another thing - you can add them in for a bit of additional challenge (or a LOT of extra challenge), plus I haven’t even started digging into how to beat the Warden and keep playing to the real boss of the game!
If I never put another hour into this, I feel certain I got twenty bucks out of it, but I have a feeling I’ll be launching and digging into this for some time, both immediately and on and off - the combat feels really good and it’s satisfying to boot, especially when a plan works out. The weapons are a really cool dynamic that changes how each run will feel, and you see the weapons and armor modeled on the characters, which is a great touch. Hell, just playing a default attack card that anyone can play uses the weapon animation! It’s really good. Hell, it even features a short and very well done tutorial.
I see it’s also available on the Switch (and other consoles I assume but haven’t double-checked so don’t quote me) so I’m a little bummed as I’d have preferred that over Steam, especially now I’ve unlocked a bunch of stuff, but what can you do. I didn’t see a thread on this and only a few mentions in some of the group threads, so here we go.
Has anyone else picked this up?