by July 30, 2020 @ 8:17 am
Reviewed on Switch
Imagine you’re traveling across a ravaged wasteland. Behind you are dozens of followers who idolize you. You’ve met with different townspeople, dealt with marauders, lost some of your people, and survived tough battles. You’re tired, you’re injured, and up ahead is yet another group of hostile enemies. You have a choice to make: fight and get potentially great rewards, or try to lay low and run. You’re outnumbered and you’re probably going to die, but there’s still no guarantee you’ll be able to sneak past this group unscathed.
That’s a common scenario in Nowhere Prophet, the deck-building roguelike from developer Sharkbomb Studios. Perma-death isn’t just a strong possibility in this game — it’s almost a guarantee. This severe difficulty coupled with card-based mechanics that are genuinely pretty awesome makes for a game that’s as much a great deal of fun as it is a big source of frustration.
But, damn, it’s so exciting.
Slay the Spire Meets FTL Meets Mad Max
Set in the world of Soma, Nowhere Prophet sees you leading your group across a dusty land in search of a mysterious crypt. The setup is pretty straightforward, but the writing in between battles and during randomized situations is solid. The whole thing reads like a post-apocalyptic choose-your-own-adventure book, and it’s pretty interesting.
Thematically, Nowhere Prophet has a bit of a Mad Max vibe. Though if I’m being really specific, I’d say it bears more of a resemblance to the limited comic book series Breaklands. Either way, the world here is filled with hostility and death, and it’s an incredibly interesting world to visit.
If you’ve played card-based battle games in the past, you already know the fundamentals here. You build a deck as you move around a top-down map, and you use this deck in battles. The deck is made up of your followers — attack units, healers, and so on. In your deck you also have ability cards that grant your leader or followers buffs or heals, as well as special one-off attacks like damage across the entire battlefield or a single shot aimed at a specific enemy.
The main goal in each battle is to eliminate the other team’s leader. You do this by directly focusing your attacks on that character, though you can’t always attack the leader. Depending on your enemy’s cards, you may need to take out the smaller units before you can attack the big boss.
Just like you’ll be gunning for the enemy leader, rival units will attempt to take your leader character out, as well. The enemy AI in Nowhere Prophet is extremely aggressive and smart — so even early in the game, and even on the lowest difficulty setting, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Nowhere Prophet can actually get a bit too difficult at times. Think of a sadistic, punishing 2D platformer you may have played. You know, the types of games that love to kill you. Well, this is that, but in deck-building form. This means that whether or not you’ve been playing these types of games for a while, you’re bound to hit roadblocks and potential frustration the deeper into the adventure you get. On the flip-side, the smooth, addictive, and rewarding gameplay makes it really difficult to put the game down.
When you’re not battling or ambushing other groups, you’ll visit towns, trade posts, and other locations where you can buy new abilities, heal your team, or engage in randomized events. These events could have consequences that are beneficial or risky — sometimes they’re worth the risk, but other times you’ll find you may have wasted your time, resources, and team health for a bit of interesting dialogue.
Speaking of your group’s health, if you’re not healing your team, it’s only a matter of time until you get destroyed by a strong group. That said, you can only heal if you’re equipped for it and if you come upon the correct areas to do so. A lot of the time, you’ll be traveling with a group of injured followers. And because you can lose them permanently, you have to be careful which cards you send into battle if you’re already in dire straits.
A Comic Book Wasteland
Nowhere Prophet features a really cool art style that’s reminiscent of a comic book. (Seriously, those Breaklands vibes.) Characters are gritty yet stylized, colors are bold and really pop out, and even the map has a nice look to it. The visual design of the game is top-notch and fits the themes and action really well.
The music of Nowhere Prophet is also quite good. Themes are catchy and grand, with influences ranging from electronic to orchestral.
As tough as it is, and is hard as it may be for me to recommend Nowhere Prophet to everyone, the game is so solid and entertaining that it’ll appeal to a lot of folks. Longtime deck-building card game players will likely dig it and appreciate the challenge. Meanwhile anyone who’s into high-difficulty games will find a lot to love here. Not to mention the roguelike and procedurally-generated elements, which will entice players to revisit the game countless times.
Thanks to a card-based system that works well, solid writing, eye-catching art, and great music, Nowhere Prophet succeeds at delivering a stylish and action-packed deck-building roguelike. It won’t be for everyone, but players who give it a chance and fight through those moments of frustration are in store for an awesome experience.
Score: 8 out of 10
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