Gentle persons, I present to you, my take on the deck building roguelike adventure Game of the Year.
The basics are that in the adventure mode, you pick one of eight types of ‘Summoner’ and embark on a 3-act series, very much Slay-the-Spire like.
However, it gets interesting right away, in that you get to pick the ‘biome’ you start in, determining visuals, challenge and enemy types and you get to perform your first initial deck build customisation by choosing the 3 cards you will begin with. Initially, you have no choices, but as you unlock the 400 or so cards through play, you can choose from them all.
As you explore the overland you reveal the contents of map tiles. Whenever you encounter a battle you always have the option to immediately flee, no penalty, which means you can really plan out your order of encounters, by gaining the preview, and taking them in the order you want.
Exploring, battling and stores give you new cards, both for the run, and the meta-progression. Once you are an act or so deep into a run, you will have more than 20 cards - the deck limit - to choose from, at which point the deck building begins in ernest, as you can choose which 20 to take.
Here is a hook . . . . whenever you play a card during a battle, it is discarded until you rest again, no shuffling. This might feel uncomfortable at first, but it nudges you strongly to experiment and make the most of your cards. The tactical battles range from quick and simple to epic and hugely memorable, and I would compare some of them to the best from Trials of Fire and Urtuk the Desolation, very different, but just as interesting.
Here is another hook, some of your cards can become ‘Guardians’ or ‘Loyal’ units that persist from battle to battle, rather than disbanding at the end. So you pretty quickly build a bit of a party, and arrive into battles, including with other summoners, very tooled up.
Oh, yeah, the battles versus other summoners? Epic. You are summoning, they are summoning, it is a crunchy bloody sometimes messy tug of war between powers, and some of the powers are just crazy. You have everything from swarms of ants to titans and dragons, and every unit card becomes something on the board - just like in Faeria - and gets to move when you play it.
Splattercat has covered it, and after watching the first 10-15 minutes of his video, I was going to pass, but reading a comparison of this to a Magic The Gathering RPG intrigued me, so glad it did.
A couple caveats . . . maybe three. There is a specifc art style that has the units look directly up at you, at the screen. It feels uncomfortable to look at, for some, and there is an option to disable that. Second is that the walking around between fights, which Splattercat shows in the first 10-15 minutes of his game, is kinda pointless. However, I think you might welcome the mental downtime between fights, since they can get very taxing. Lastly, on “middle” difficulty and above, this might well offer some brutal challenge. I sure as heck got stomped by a very special undead dragon boss on my first three tries, but then learned how to beat it, and won on the fourth. Some tolerance for failure required!