Well, this is fascinating … I appear to have found a game that is actually capable of doing more than one thing well. Unless they’re really masterful, when a development team tries to throw too many concepts into one game, they’re likely to end up with a colossal bloody mess. And yet I’m currently having fun with an early release of Lunarch Studios ‘ Prismata, a resource management game, a CCG and a board game. It’s like the holy trinity of strategy; getting two of these concepts to balance together properly is an achievement, but three is a minor miracle.
In the main campaign of Prismata the fun isn’t in summoning and fighting with solitary but wickedly powerful creatures but rather commanding swarms of relatively little ones. The strategy here isn’t “build big, hit hard,” but rather, “think smart, spend wisely.” If you go spending all your resources on big stompy units, you’ll get overrun and out-gunned in no time flat. Actually, thinking about it, the amount of resources powerful units cost, you’d probably be dead before you accrued enough to get off the ground.
You play a Swarmwielder. You’ve basically been sidelined and left in charge of the security of a little planet where nothing interesting ever happens. The problem comes when the planet’s robots contract a virus called VILE and go completely nuts. It becomes apparent that someone elsewhere is controlling them and they start attacking. Even your own AI assistant gets sick; the character that’s taken you through all your tutorials suddenly needs dismantling before she kills you. I can’t actually give you any spoilers because I don’t know what’s coming yet, either. The next chapter of the campaign isn’t out yet so I’m waiting to pick up more story beats as well. All I can say is that it’s humorous and really well written so I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming next.
The campaign is expansive and offers a lot of fun for PVE fans.
Prismata can also be considered a CCG, even though you don’t play cards. Instead you have a deck of creatures and resource buildings and these form your build menu for the game. They also represent the units that you play to the field. This is an interesting concept. The collectable element is certainly going be there when it’s fleshed out some more, but this isn’t a card game in the traditional sense. It’s definitely got more of a board game feel, which is by no means a bad thing.
In Prismata you use certain units to give you basic resources, (gold and energy,) then use these to build your bigger units. More powerful units require other resources to build, (blood for instance,) and the buildings that allow you to generate these need building first. This is where the resource management angle the game takes comes into play. You really need to have a constant eye one what you have to spend and spend it wisely. An example of this is drones. These little guys give you gold and will let you build fast and obviously spend more. The thing is, if you’re spending what you have on maximizing the amount of drones on the field you aren’t buying units. If you don’t have any protection and they get destroyed you won’t be buying anything at all. This is where the strategic juggling act begins.
You have a bank of blueprints. These are effectively your pool of cards.
This isn’t just a game of attack and defense. You really have to work out how to bolster your defenses to avoid losing units. You have a front line and this is where you build walls, shields and other damage absorbing items. You need to make sure you’re buying enough of these to absorb the damage coming your way. This isn’t targeted damage, rather an accumulation of the amount of active and passive damage units are able to deal.
You then choose how you are going to absorb that damage. If you can absorb all of it and keep your units safe you’re all good, however, any damage that gets through becomes targeted and then you start having problems as it can be split across any units and buildings your have in play. Your line of defense is absolutely crucial and if you get it wrong you’re going to start running into serious problems.
It might look like there is a lot going on but this is actually a very intuitive game.
I mentioned the idea of active and passive damage. This is actually really simple and quite clever. Active damage comes from the units you activate to boost your damage rating. If you choose not to do this you won’t be throwing as much of a boom out but you’ll have more blockers which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Passive damage is a bit different.
You can build turrets and other units that don’t actively attack. Instead, they sit in the background and passively generate attack points each turn. Building a lot of these is a good idea if you can do it as they’re going to help you deal a great amount of damage quickly. This is coming back to the juggling act I’ve just mentioned but it’s still really important to factor not only what you have attacking but also in which way if you are to succeed.
Defense has to be considered and calculated properly if you are to win.
I have to say I’m really genuinely enjoying this game. I like the clever mechanics and what I’m seeing of the story line. The artwork is also nice both from the view of the cleverly drawn out cards to the colorful manga-esque characters you’ll find in the cut scenes. The control system is easy to pick up and the tutorials are so well written learning the game isn’t actually that hard. So we’re all good right? Well there had to be that ominous but in there somewhere didn’t there.
My one and only real peeve so far with Prismata is the jump from solo campaign play to competitive play. Regardless of whether you choose to face off against a real or AI opponent you’re likely to struggle. The reason for this is that you’re suddenly playing with a bunch of cards that haven’t appeared in the campaign mode thus far. I’m hearing the “so” ringing a mile away … let me make myself a bit clearer.
A lot of thought and work has gone into making the story art interesting and colourful.
Any card based game has cards that fall into different categories, whether this be a different color. different army or clan or just something as basic as an element each of these factions will have it’s own play style. The campaign allows you to play with cards from two of these (so far), yet there is at least another faction in game at present. There’s nothing worse than going up against a bot that knows all of the rules when you don’t and this is even more frustrating against another player.
In my opinion you either give the player all the tools from the very beginning or phase new things in over time. It’s like giving you the rule book but ripping out the last third of it because it’s not important immediately. There is a “combat training” mode which teaches you more advanced strategies but you probably won’t jump into it if you feel comfortable playing the game already. Rant over but this is important because I’m getting smashed by bots when I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing. Is this game breaking? Probably not. It’s annoying though, and this is enough to make it worth mentioning.
All in all, Prismata is looking like a game that could be one to watch. The story is great and the game style is different enough to make it stand out. The other point to make is that gameplay is competitive and interesting enough to lend itself very nicely to professional-level play. We might have a little e-sport contender here in the future. When the devs have the game finished and fully released, I think it might be giving games like Gwent a run for their money in the originality stakes. If you like your strategy, Prismata might well be worth your time.
This preview is based on an early release copy of the game provided by the publisher.