Dark Power In Deckbuilding

HIGH Good combat mechanics and deck synergies

LOW The grind for the right cards.

WTF Trading an assassin and a dragon for… a leaf.

When messing with demonic powers, one must be prepared to face the consequences. In Cardaclysm, players take control of a sorcerer who bit off more than he could chew and unleashed the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Escaping through a portal, the dark sorcerer takes up a deck of monsters and spell cards to seal away the end of the world.

Cardaclysm is a deckbuilding collectible card game with action RPG elements. Players explore dungeons from an isometric perspective, and combat plays out with a deckbuilder’s turn-based format when encountering opponents. Each dungeon has a set number of enemy groups that must be defeated in order to move on to the next dungeon.

In combat, players will summon monsters and cast powerful spells. Each monster on the player’s side normally gets one action, and then all enemies get a turn to attack. This goes back and forth until only one team remains standing. Once all enemies are defeated in an area, players will have the choice to take on one of the Horsemen they’ve unleashed, or retreat to a hub world in order to shop for cards before taking on a new dungeon.

So far, so deckbuilder, but where Cardaclysm differs is in the action RPG elements.

While exploring, players may stumble across items that can be kept between dungeons and equipped to make the cards in the player’s deck even better. Some are generic boosts like a staff that gives all monsters an extra point of health. Others may be more specific, like a cloak that gives forest monsters a poison attack that deals extra damage over time.

The other spot Cardaclysm differs is the ability to modify a deck nearly at any time. In many deckbuilders, the deck is treated like a sword that is sharpened and dulled with the addition and removal of each card, usually at very specific points in the game. In Cardaclysm, players have the uncommon option of modifying or changing their deck at nearly any time except during combat . Whether that means slotting in a new card or completely rebuilding a deck from scratch for a specific fight, this freedom helps make it stand out. However, with that major change in how a game like this plays, new problems arise.

While combat falls into the category of “easy to learn, hard to master” which I normally enjoy, the balance here is off. For example, there are mechanics that allow players to merge cards and create stronger monsters, but the stronger monsters often cost almost triple the sources the player might have. It’s possible to skate by on lower-level cards for a while, but enemies increase in power much faster than players earn necessary resources.

Also, as stronger monsters appear, more and more effects that aren’t explained well start showing up and complicating things for the player. In one instance, I tried to attack a certain enemy with one of my monsters, only to have it die immediately without an obvious reason why. It wasn’t until I had earned that monster as a card for myself that I was able to understand the special ability that had defeated me. This lack of crucial info has been improving as the game has been getting updates, but this lack of tutorialization is a problem.

My last issue with Cardaclysm is the grind itself. Other than new enemies, players will have seen all the same three or four dungeons arranged differently and heard all of the music after just a few hours. There are quests to earn free cards that add some incentive to replay, but they amounts to finding MacGuffins that aren’t really hidden or guarded by anything challenging.

Having said all that, I enjoyed my time with this one. The flexibility in deckbuilding is a fresh angle for the genre, and Cardaclysm does scratch the itch for the collectible card games. That said, while the developers have been good about putting out patches and updates that smooth out some of the rough spots, I’m going to give it a bit of time to marinate before I return.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Elder Games and published by Headup.  It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated not rated. Many of the monsters sling fire to stab with weapons, but there is no blood to be found. One of the demons wears some scantily clad armor. No foul language in the game.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Text on the cards and hovering over them will increase the size slightly, but the text is not resizable overall. Playing with no sound doesn’t hinder gameplay. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: This game has no remappable controls, and there is no control diagram. Players can user WASD to move the character, or can click with the mouse to move the character. Clicking will also interact with NPCs like the merchant in the pub to buy cards, and is used to drag and drop cards to play them.

Eugene Sax
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