Estimated Release: July 2021
Platforms: PC & Switch | Price: Lowest KickStarter Tier $26
This era of accessible indie development and early access models that have allowed individuals to push game norms without waiting for large game companies to innovate is truly exciting. But it's not often a game emerges offering a uniquely new concept that hasn't been tried before. Indie titles that come to mind are Slay the Spire, Darkest Dungeon, and Moonlighter whom all have been hits with the gaming community. These titles have inspired copy cats with their gameplay mechanics and art, which is flattering for sure.
Introducing Dungeon Drafters, a game mixing in part tactics gameplay with part card battling. Two well defined genres finding a home in a colorful pixel adventure coming from indie developer Manalith Games. The game is currently wrapping up its kickstarter campaign (3 days left!) and it has already smashed it original goal by nearly 3x, unlocking many stretch goals. Manalith is targeting a PC and Switch release with their game for summer 2021.
I was able to get my hands onto a demo of Dungeon Drafters that only offered a single level of a dungeon, but this little bit of gameplay teemed with potential. As with any new concept it took a few dungeon rooms to get the hang of how the game plays, but once settled it became clear how the deck building and card battling could bring a lot more replayability to often repetitive tactics gameplay that is focused on stats and spells to win the battle.
On each turn you're only allowed to have a max amount of 5 cards in your hand that are drawn at random from your deck. The cards left in your hand after each encounter carry over to the next as you draw up to the max five at the start of each battle. The cards available in the demo can send your character swiftly across the field doing damage along the way, summon totems and allies, send enemies careening into other foes, and call on the power of the elements to inflict damage and shape the battlefield.
In the demo, you're only allowed three actions per turn and combat is turn based teetering from your turn to the enemy's on the field. Each card played and each tile moved counts as an action, but some cards allow you to further act within the same action point such as Thunder Smite that allows you to continue lighting striking enemies for damage if you kill your targeted enemy. Once all the enemies on the field are defeated, you are allowed to freely move around the battlefield to progress to the next room.
The kickstarter page details a home base in the form of a town where you will be shopping for cards and making changes to your deck, though these were not available in the demo I played.
What makes games such as Dungeon Drafters fun is the amount of possibilities and scenarios that could arise while playing. Enabling unique card combination and experimentation through a large card offering can give way to extremely satisfying executions on the battle field. By limiting to the amount of cards available at one time, DD tweaks the traditional tactics gameplay that focuses on item\magic\equipment management to provide a new and, hopefully, challenging experience.
Roguelike and deck building games thrive on challenging gameplay where player choices matter. The best deck building games punish the player by destroying the notion of a winning deck of cards, forcing players to reconsider their choices and continue experimentation. With the brief taste of what Dungeon Drafters has to offer, I am hooked on this initial smattering of gameplay, but Manalith now faces the difficult task of creating enemy combination that deliver a challenging experience which has been historically easier to achieve with straight card fighting experiences. It is doable and Slay The Spire is one of the best examples of doing it well.
The kickstarter page shares more information for what is planned in the full release of the game. Manalith plans to offer 5 cards archetypes distinguished by a card's border color. These of course being the four elemental colors, red, blue, green, brown, that correspond to their elemental affinity, but also black corresponding to the essence of chaos and trickery.
Cards are not all that Dungeon Drafters will offer, the kickstarter page also describes additional strategic layers to the game's mechanics by mentioning equipable runes and curios. Runes are described to be "...aligned to a specific archetype of your choice, you will be able to use cards of that archetype. While Curios are "...magical trinkets that confer the player with unique abilities that can synergize with your deck." Runes and curios where not previewed in the demo, though I expect them to be a welcome addition to the core gameplay.
I'm thrilled see teams pushing for new and innovative ways to build strategy games. Loot Saga thrives on reporting exciting and new gameplay from the wide world of gaming. Stay tuned for more news about Dungeon Drafters and other titles innovating what it is to game.