Thursday, November 5, 2020

A Quick Run - Griftlands

Though I don't purchase, or even necessarily like, all of their games, I always have my eye on Klei Entertainment. They have a unique affinity for looking at a genre, taking the core aspects of it, and refining it to something that is both extremely approachable and mechanically deep. From the excellent stealth game Mark of the Ninja to the survival-based Don't Starve (Together), and turn-based Invisible Inc, all of them are completely distinct from one another, but they all carved their niches out in their respective genres.

So when I heard they were making a deck-building roguelike... Well, I was intrigued.

What intrigues me most about Griftlands is that there appears to be two completely separate modes of combat, with their own separate resources and decks to wield in that aspect of the game. There is the obvious physical combat, and the negotiation game, trading barbs instead of blades. It's a good solution to the problem many RPGs that play like this have, where speech checks can completely negate player engagement by letting them completely bypass a section of the game. Players have to choose their approach, weighing the consequences both short and long-term.

That aside, I like seeing the dev team take from other genre contemporaries to further refine their own mechanics. Most obviously, there's a lot of DNA from Slay the Spire in Griftlands, from the intent system to the way each encounter gives players a card to add to their deck. Even the fact that it's a card-based deck-building game where cards can be upgraded lends some credit to that game. And yet, the differences are significant here. For one, all it takes to upgrade a card is frequent use, so any pet cards that we use religiously are bound to be upgraded once after enough time passes. Additionally, the choice in how they grow stronger gives us yet another layer of customization and decision making.

I'm also curious as to what impact the roguelike elements will have for Griftlands. Most runs I have in typical roguelikes last about an hour or less, so if I die I don't lose so much progress that it feels like I wasted my time. While I've not played more than what I did on stream as of the time of writing, the impression I have is that I was just getting started with Sal's campaign. In the event I get 5 or more hours in and die to some random bandit, having to start all over from the very beginning is going to be brutal, to the point where it would be very discouraging. I can only hope Klei took that into account when designed the overall flow of the game.

It feels like they're intention is to have an entire 8-10 hour campaign. If that's the case, then I don't know if this is a game I can stay with for the long haul, especially if the choices I make 3-4 hours ago are what do me in way later on. But I'm willing to give it a try, my curiosity demands that much.

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