RPGamer's coverage of PAX West continues with a couple more impressions from the event. Anna Marie Privitere had the chance to check out the card-game-slash-RPG Solitarica and the Zelda-inspired Secret Legend.
Playing card games as the driving force of an otherwise non-casual genre game isn't unique as a concept, but while Pocket Card Jockey is ridiculously fun, there's really not been a lot of foray into combining together playing card games with RPGs. Enter Solitarica, who aims to change that.
The evil king is…evil, and there's eighteen levels before you can go kick his butt, so grab your deck and let's get going. The bulk of the gameplay is classic one-stack Solitaire, where the idea is to continue playing cards from the board that are either one higher or lower than the card on the discard pile. So if a four was turned up, a player could then play either a three or a five and may choose to do so based on whether there's also a six or a two available for play. Chaining together large groups of cards is important, as only by clearing the board can enemies be defeated — there's no health meter to chip away at here.
If a player has no move, they can flip a new card onto the discard pile, but at a cost — any time a new card is revealed, the enemy gets to attack. These can be direct damage (the player has a life pool which can be depleted), buffs to the boss, or debuffs like making certain character abilities cost more. Each card is one of four suits, and as cards are played from each suit (purple, green, blue, and orange) the colours accrue into the corresponding colour's mana pool, which fuels abilities, such as adding armour to a character or removing cards from the board.
When (not if) you're eventually taken down by a bad guy, your run is graded based on how well you were able to play, including how far you got and your best combo, and gems are awarded. Gems are a special currency only accrued by completing (okay, failing) runs and can be used to power up individual cards, unlock new decks, or buy new skills. Though every deck will have cards of all four colour suits, each deck has two colours they specialize in, which tout unique skills that change how the player approaches the game. For example, the rogue focuses more on using inexpensive skills more frequently, while another deck might focus on playing more defensively, relying on stacking up armour so the player can prepare abilities with large costs.
Because the game revolves around playing against the same bad guys repeatedly, bosses leading up to the evil King have randomized modfiers. So one time a boss might have a heavy mace to pummel you in the face with, while in the next run he instead poisons or paralyzes you. These modifiers keep players on their toes and give a fresh variety of gameplay each time the tale is tackled.
Solitarica is available now for PC and iOS, with an Android launch coming in the future. The game is fully paid for once with no in-game purchases, which is a refreshing change from the slew of free-to-play card game titles that want you to pay to win or constantly flood you with ads. Now, if you'll excuse me, my Shaman deck is waiting to be played!
You're a fox in a land with a mysterious language, and you have nothing to call your own. Journey through a picturesque world that could be easily called "Zelda at your own pace." While still very early in development, Secret Legend shows plenty of potential through its beautiful art direction, calm exploration sections, and plenty of signs in a strange language.
Speaking of that strange language, while it's possible to decrypt some of it at rare junctions, it's up to the player to decide if they want to truly learn it. It's not mandatory to do so, and players can complete the full game without ever learning a single symbol if they so choose.
Much like Zelda, there are no levels nor experience to accrue, but the player will be able to slowly improve their character through strengthening their sword along with collecting a variety of tools to make exploration more efficient. Unlike Zelda, none of these items are mandatory to progress the story and move through the dungeons — they make life easier, but are not required for any particular challenge. Only want to use the sword? You can do that! It's hard, but doable.
Players do need to balance what they want to do and when, as your fox character has a stamina meter which is depleted as you swing weapons, use tools, and dodge roll around the map. This meter does replenish, although if it becomes drained completely there is a couple of seconds pause before it refills, so strategically using only a portion of your energy is a better strategy than depleting it completely.
Overall the thing I enjoyed about Secret Legend is that even with only a small area to explore, it felt very enjoyable and relaxing to do so… even when an enemy killed me. Boo.