REVIEW / ACES and ADVENTURES (PC)
There are so many cool things you can do with the card genre. Not every game you play that involves a deck of cards has to fall into the CCG/TCG realm. We’ve been playing about with bits of paper with symbols on them since time immemorial and there are loads of great card games out there; all devs need to do is pick one and do something interesting and different with it. Today’s game, Aces and Adventures is trying to give the RPG a rather unusual spin. The question comes down to whether this is working or not.
I think I’m going to frame this review with the phrase nearly but not quite. This seems like a fairly good summary of my time with Aces and Adventures. You’ll see what I mean as we go but to put things in a nutshell I really feel like I should have loved this game and I’m not sure why it didn’t entirely float my boat. It was like all of the ingredients were there for something that I’d happily keep diving back into; they just weren’t melding into a finished article that ticked all the boxes. A little disclaimer here so you don’t read as far as this paragraph, put this down, and go and do something else; this is my experience. Just because everything didn’t play as nicely as I’d have liked doesn’t mean it won’t for you, hear me out before making any rash decisions.
In Aces and Adventures, you’ll be taking a character, and the deck of cards associated with them on a deck-building, poker fuelled adventure. This premise is the sole reason why I picked the game up in the first place. I like RPGs, I like poker and I wanted to see who the two combined. The deck-building portion of this idea works wonderfully, mechanically, it’s the rest I’m having a few problems with I’m afraid. So as I’ve mentioned you’ll take one of several unlockable characters out on an adventure with poker mechanics being used when settling battles. This is the initial problem. It’s not really poker.
So, in Aces and Adventures, you have your traditional deck of playing cards, plus some ability cards that are specific to their owner’s class. You must then attack your opponent using poker hands. If your opponent can’t match your hand they’ll take damage. This is where the initial problem comes in. If my opponent attacks me with a pair I should be able to beat it with two pairs, three of a kind, etc. ‘Cause, generally that’s how poker works. Not in this case, though. Here, if my opponent attacks me with two cards I have to defend with two cards regardless of whether I have a pair or not. If my pair is lower than my opponent’s I’ll take damage as I will if I’ve just dropped two random cards. If I play three of a kind the same applies and so on. This isn’t really poker. The ability cards are fuelled by matching suits and they’re useful but it doesn’t alter the base mechanics which feel a little bit strange. I actually tried to play two pairs at one point and was met with a message that It wasn’t allowed for the purposes of balance. If I can’t play a basic poker hand it leaves the poker mechanic a bit redundant.
For me, you should draw a new hand every battle, but you don’t. This is good because you might have ability cards that you want to keep and use later, but if the rest of your hand is horrible you aren’t getting off to a flying start. This is actually my major moan about Aces and Adventures, it’s all so luck based. Now you might wonder why this is a problem as that’s the entire point of playing cards. I agree with you to a point but in this title, you don’t save between battles. This means that you have to complete an entire adventure in one run. If your opponent gets lucky and kills you, you won’t just be jumping back to the start of that battle, you’ll be starting from scratch. The story, though very nicely written doesn’t change so you’re going to have to tread back through a lot of stuff you already know if you keep dying at a certain point. So, either I’d like to see the game save between battles, make the story skippable, or at the very least tune the RNG a little bit. The RNG in this game is brutal to the point of feeling a little bit broken. I replayed the same adventure multiple times and on quite a few of those occasions felt like my death had been a little bit cheap because I couldn’t do anything to defend myself with the cards I had.
As a little side note to my last little point, I’m fully aware that this is a game with rogue-lite qualities. Before any of you come for me I understand that this is where the need to complete everything in one run is coming from. The issue I have is that roguelikes and rogue lites have to be skill driven to keep you coming back for more. The only element of luck should really come down to the weapons and skills you find in other games. If you die it should be down to your own actions and not the game throwing a curve ball that you can do little or nothing about. For me, the moment you introduce any real element of luck to the game it starts moving away from what a rogue lite should be. This is just my ten cents as a massive fan of this genre, but I think it’s a fair observation.
The RNG problems with Aces and Adventures make all the really good parts of this title fall a bit flat. This is a very pretty game and I’ve got absolutely no grievances with the graphics; in fact, they’re so nice that I had to turn my settings down a little bit and turn motion blur off. The story you’re following has a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure feel to it and is voiced very nicely. The cards themselves are also very beautifully drawn and you really become invested in what’s going on and want to see what’s next. The problem is that unless you’re very patient, very lucky, or a bit of both you won’t see what’s next, you’ll just replay the same stuff over and over again and this is a shame because if you get frustrated and give up you’re not going to see what the devs have in store for you and that’s a hell of a lot of great work wasted.
As you play you’ll unlock more cards and characters. I’m assuming each of these characters will have their own playstyle and I’d really like to see how they all play and get a feel for their own unique adventures. This comes back to the point I’ve just made though. To get all of this great stuff you have to be able to progress and if you give up you’re not going to experience what in essence should be a really good game that has a great amount of replayability. Let me stress, by the way, that nobody has any issues with a game being hard, in fact, lots of us welcome the challenge. The problem comes when a game feels unfair. Most players will only put up with cheap shots for so long before they move on to something more accessible. I’m quite patient and was able to complete the first adventure, and I’ll keep going out of curiosity. This came after a large number of losses, though, many of which didn’t feel of my own doing. Not all gamers are going to be that patient.
All in all Aces and Adventures should be a really fun time. What prevents this game from being something that will really draw and keep new gamers is an RNG-based system that feels heavily skewed against the player. I think that this is something that’s fixable and there’s a really great game in there somewhere. As I stand at the moment, I wouldn’t really recommend Aces and Adventures to any but the most patient of players. If you’re a bit of a masochist, have at it. I’d advise other card fans to tread a little more carefully though.
Not quite a full deck
Nearly but not quite
Aces and Adventures is a very polished, pretty, and well-written RPG adventure. This a game that should, by all accounts, be a real winner for fans of the card genre. The issue this game has is that mechanically it’s suffering from very brutal, luck-based RNG, and some fairly loose handling with regard to the game of poker. I think if the Devs go back and do some rebalancing Aces and Adventures could absolutely be one to play. For the moment, though, you’ll need to be a pretty patient player to turn a blind eye to the faults and keep coming back for more.