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Tycho / on Wed, Jun 23 2021 at 12:01 am

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Dork Alliance

I know that Mike is playing Dark Alliance over on the PS5, and instantiating cats. I downloaded it on PC through Game Pass, which unfortunately doesn't have crossplay with Playstation like it does with the Xbox version. I'm playing as Catti-brie and the archery is a little weird, plus it always sorta feels like I'm walking through knee-high maple syrup. That's not really a review but it's what I know so far.

I play Roguelike Deckbuilders. It's an unswerving policy. I play them in the same way I play a new song I get obsessed with - until I can't fucking stand them. There's a new one from the Steam Next Fest where you're like the devil or something! I haven't been able to play it because I'm too busy playing Roguebook.

I think this is probably my favorite manifestation of the genre so far. It doesn't offer multiplayer, like Across the Obelisk, but when it comes to the feeling I want from this type of game - that of meticulously creating an evil clock - I don't think it gets better than this.  It does the Monster Train thing of letting me choose two pools of cards to do a run from, but MT is pulling from two Factions and this is a bit more literal: I'm choosing two of four characters that have their own growing pools of cards. And it matters that they are discrete characters, because they're physically present during battles; if they're in front or behind it really, really matters mechanically. It's like a tactics game with every extraneous protrusion cut off and then sanded down. Distinct from the broadly recognized Slay The Spire paths to the boss, Roguebook drops you on a painterly hex map blanketed in fog of war. Using Brushes or Ink Pots, you reveal money, items, and battles that will help you progress - and there's just enough meat on those bones to give it a gentle, puzzle mindfeel. Ultimately, you unlock and activate one or more "Epilogues" that make the game more difficult without just fucking with the numbers or adding shit to your deck. They're like mods or mutators, essentially, and they offer profound rewards you can use to embroider stable, long-term progression.

There's lots of games that allow you to upgrade or even craft your cards in the genre. Adding keywords that didn't exist on the card originally allows for borderline immoral acts - real warlock shit. Monster Train can be broken over your knee with such tricks. Roguebook has that too, via crystals you can socket in cards - and cards "drop" in the game with up to two slots. And you can certainly get access to keywords you can use to enact violence on unsuspecting systems: Combo makes cards cheaper when they're played after a partner's card, and Melee means that cards are cheaper when played from the front rank, so… yeah, that can get busted pretty fast. I had a card that cost zero to play, and upon playing made other cards cost zero. It was fucked.

But Roguebook's best gems go way beyond the keyword shenanigans other games of the type get up to. At the Legendary tier of rarity, which you luck into or buy from shops, you can get cards that turn any amount of block it would ordinarily generate into damage. Or deals an equal amount of bleed. Or make a card hit all opponents. Or makes a card cost more, but if you can afford it, it grants a bunch of extra mana on play. You are probably already seeing how whacked out it gets. And the game was already great! Regular keyword swaps would have been fine, but you can slap the roof of this car pensively and consider just how many combos might be contained inside.

I didn't understand until I played the game on stream that you can mix and match any of the four characters. I thought your basic character, Sharra - who gets bonus damage in the front rank, novel dagger generation engines, and a suite of effective allies - was so cool because she was meant to be accompanied in each run by one of the other decks. But… they're all that cool. The UI for this is kinda goof troop: you walk around to allies in the starting area and "Recruit" them essentially, but I never went to anybody else after I chose my first one. If I had, I could choose to replace one of my existing duo. This doesn't make a lot of sense and if somebody in the channel hadn't told me I never would have figured it out. But now I have, so I can combine the base and vile aggressor Seifer (rage mechanics, gruesome allies) and Sirocco (a tank with surprising burst potential) and wrap the game around my finger.

Golgolfa returns at 2pm, where (as we await Mario Golf) I will do battle 1v1 with Will Smith on a trove of new community courses I found. See you then!

(CW)TB out.

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