I like roguelikes, I like deckbuilding games, and I even like Poker. That’s why Poker Quest RPG, a deckbuilding roguelike Poker game, really caught my eye. It’s available on Playsaurus, and hopefully Steam, and I can see it becoming a truly great game.
Ooff, I nearly sprained my back with how loaded statement that statement was. Yes, PQ is a good game, and it certainly can be a great game one day, but it needs to figure a few things out.
Before I go on, let me just say the game is in early alpha. The art is… pretty ok for alpha art. The game is not necessarily optimized as well as it could be, and there isn’t much polish in general. I’m not talking about those things, I’m talking about the main game design elements.
First, let’s talk about the game, and what I like about it. PQ plays a lot like Slay the Spire, you are travelling across a map fighting enemies, encountering events, buying stuff, and trying to get as far as possible. The main thing that is different, and one of my favourite parts, is the combat.
Unlike Slay the Spire, where your pool of available abilities changes each turn, you always have access to all your abilities in PQ. You just need to “power” your equipment with standard poker cards. Some equipment can take any card, others require certain combinations like a pair or straight, and some require you to “charge” them before you can use them. I really like this aspect, because it means you always have access to your abilities, but their potency is variable.
Also, I really like how the enemies are handled. I enjoy any game where the enemies use similar mechanics to the player, and that applies in PQ as well. Enemies also draw some cards, and will require certain cards to use their moves. A monster might draw 7 cards, and if 4 of them are red cards, he will smack you. If he draws 4 black cards, he can’t, and you get another turn. However, some cards are hidden, and only revealed when you end your turn, which makes battles interesting. Do you try to block all the damage the enemy might do, or just hope that one hidden card isn’t a 7.
However, I feel this combat isn’t very flavourful. Very quickly you’ll notice a lot of equipment is virtually identical to others. There’s a sword that requires a 2 card straight to attack, another that requires a pair. None of these feel very different, just a variation.
I feel the suits should be treated like colours in Magic the Gathering, each has it’s own identity and flavour, as well as having different mechanics. Certain cards would require certain suits to use, or at least be enhanced when using a certain suit.
Let’s take a look at what I mean by using a set of example swords:
Sword of Clubs: Requires 2 cards. Effect: deals Σ damage, plus 50% for each Club used.
Sword of Diamonds: Requires 2 cards. Effect: deals Σ damage. Gain Σ x 0.5 block for each Diamond used.
Sword of Spades: Requires 2 cards. Effect: deals Σ damage. Lower the cooldown of another weapon by 1 for each Spade used.
Sword of Hearts: Requires 2 cards. Effect: deals Σ damage, and applies a Enflame, Poison, or Curse Σ x 0.5 for each Heart used.
This makes all the suits feel different. From these items, you can see that clubs tend to be offensive, while diamonds are defensive. Spades are about empowering yourself and your equipment, while hearts are about debuffing your opponent. Obviously the specific values, and flavour, are just suggestions, but it makes each suit feel less interchangeable.
I do want to stress that I still like PQ. It’s a fun game with an interesting combat engine, and I want to see it become a great game with an outstanding combat engine.