Hellcard is a roguelike RPG that takes place in the same universe as Book of Demons and utilizes the same graphic style, with an isometric view and distinct paper-like characters. The main difference with the latter is that this one is not a hack and slash, but a roguelike deckbuilder very similar to Slay the Spire. The game is currently in early access on Steam and the 1.0 version will officially launch on 1st February 2024, delivering a more refined version with new content such as a new class, new monsters, cards and much more. Each time you start the game you will be redirected to the game launcher, which is a hub where you can see different books (each one is a game), but many books are closed because, guess what, those games have not been released yet. The only two games available right now are Book of Demons and this one, so a launcher really feels pointless at this stage, in my opinion. Fortunately, there is an option to disable the launcher so you can jump immediately into the game.
Hellcard includes two game modes: Standard - which requires you to go through 12 floors filled with enemies, and Endless - in which you must survive as long as possible. You can play alone or with up to 2 more players. When starting a new game, you must create your character through a very basic editor which only allows you to choose between 3 classes, each one using a different starting deck (for example, the warrior has many shield block and sword slash cards), but everyone has the same number of HP and gemstones. Next, you must choose your destination. There are 12 floors to complete in total, with the last one being the final boss fight. On each floor you can choose between two directions, each one guarded by a different monster, and there are also unavoidable mid bosses on certain floors. Once the battle starts, you will be able to see your character and enemies’ placement through an isometric view of the area. After each turn, enemies will move closer to you in order to attack, or if they have any ranged weapon, like a bow or magic, they will attack from a distance. Gameplay is entirely based on the cards you have in your hand and the cards that you can draw from your deck, so updating your deck and changing it depending on the type of monsters is a required strategy. Some monsters even have special abilities that can affect the fight. Each time a card is used you consume mana, which is replenished after each turn. The rewards for winning the battle are gemstones, new cards (but you can only choose 1 of 3) and new companions (again, you can choose only 1 of 3). Companions are basically allies that fight on your side. Just like you, they have HP, mana, and can draw and use their own cards. You can only have two of them, each one with its own class and type of cards. If you play alone, you will be able to directly command companions, but if you are playing online these companions will be controlled by other players from the start. Anyway, when the battle is over, you can spend gemstones to perform certain actions in the locations you chose. For example, you can use medicine in a camp to restore HP, exercise to increase the HP limit or explore ruins to unlock a new card. This is essentially the gameplay loop and the strategy relies on characters’ classes, deck building and spending gemstones to progress and improve your team. Once you beat the final boss located at the 12th floor, you will complete a single run and then you can start again, but locations, enemies and bosses will be different. You also receive cosmetics for your characters as a reward.
Now I’m sure the game can be fun co-op with two more players, because each one plays simultaneously and depending on the cards in their hands, they can focus on attacking or supporting the team. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to find online players at this moment. I tried the “quickplay” matchmaking option but I waited around 30 minutes before giving up and continuing the game solo. Don’t get me wrong, the game is perfectly playable alone, but it benefits a lot more with other players. After a couple of single player runs, it becomes quite repetitive, mainly because the gameplay mechanics are a bit too simple.
Hellcard offers a roguelike deckbuilder experience that feels a bit too rough and simple. Despite the 1.0 version being almost ready to launch, I don’t think that the new content will drastically improve the core gameplay loop. More importantly, there are currently not enough players to enjoy online co-op and playing alone is something that I wouldn’t recommend unless you really love the Book of Demons universe and are used to playing card games alone.
Review written by Sonic Punk for Zeepond.com
Positives+ Great deckbuilding with many different cards to choose from
+ 3-player online co-op can be fun, when it works
+ Beautiful paper-like graphic style
Negatives- Finding online players takes too long
- Single player gets repetitive after a few runs
Hellcard mixes roguelike with deckbuilding through beautiful paper-like graphics, but it’s still too rough for now and without enough players for online co-op matches.
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Zeepond Rating: 6/10
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