Magic: The Gathering is perhaps the granddaddy of all deckbuilders. It’s pretty high praise, then, when a video game that took inspiration from that card game actually got recognized by one of the creators. That’s exactly what happened with developer Abrakam Entertainment S.A. and their game Faeria. In fact, Magic: The Gathering co-creator Richard Garfield actually teamed up with developer Abrakam to create Roguebook, a game that comes in hot on the heels of several extremely popular deckbuilding games, but with a little of its own take on the burgeoning genre.
Roguebook is a deckbuilding roguelike that takes place in the same universe of Faeria. In Roguebook you’re literally trapped in a magical book that holds tales from Faeria. This means that some enemies and abilities might be familiar to those who played Faeria, but it’s a pretty different game, especially since it’s a single player only experience. Where Faeria centered a bit more around player versus player battles, Roguebook is all about challenging yourself against the computer opponents.
In Roguebook you take control of a two person team, with the cards you collect representing abilities, attacks, and even allies that those characters can use. Each character has their own set of cards that can’t be used by the other, but you can create some interesting dynamics and even some amazing synergy by mixing and matching the four available characters you can eventually unlock. But at first, you only have two: Sharra and Sorocco. Sharra is an acrobatic DPS powerhouse that has access to a bunch of minions and can potentially wield endless daggers, while Sorocco is a tank that can absorb damage, and dish out powerful attacks that can destroy single targets or spread to others.
As a roguelike, every run in Roguebook will be different. When you enter into the Roguebook, you assemble your team, and then you’re left with a choice of which way to travel on an hex-grid overworld map. Unlike most other roguelike deckbuilders, your path isn’t limited to one or two branching routes. Instead, you can reveal more of the map by using ink and paintbrushes to unlock more of the hex grid. Hidden unseen are potential treasures, shines which allow you to draft new cards, health pick-ups, events, and more. I really appreciate Roguebook’s overworld, especially since it encourages you to explore. Not only can you make your current team more powerful for the run you’re on, but you can find pages that serve as skill points that can unlock abilities to make future runs easier.
Roguebook isn’t perfect, however. Even after playing for a dozen hours or more, I’m surprised by some combat encounters. There are usually two types of non-boss encounters: normal, and elite. Sometimes the normal encounters can be just as dangerous, if not more so, as the elite encounters. Combat encounters seem to get more difficult the more you reveal of the map, and occasionally I’d just pick one fight too many and get worn down significantly before the boss fight. While it’s possible to beeline to the boss for each area, it’s best to stick around and explore to get better cards, and upgrade them with gems.
Another issue I have with Roguebook is deck size. Talents for whatever run you’re on are dependent on how many cards you have in your deck. The larger your deck, the more powerful you can potentially be. This makes having a smallish, tight deck with only the best abilities hard to manage. Another issue affecting this is the fact that removing cards from your deck is quite rare.
While you can’t remove cards from your deck easily in Roguebook, you have plenty of chances to upgrade them. Each card has the potential for gem slots, with gems adding sometimes extremely powerful abilities that can significantly change the behavior of your cards. Even if you have a similar deck to a previous run, having a different set of gems can make a huge difference in the way that deck feels.
It’s getting harder for me to get excited when I play a good roguelike deckbuilder, but Roguebook is definitely a good one that can keep you entertained—but it doesn’t seem like it has the longevity of other deckbuilders like Slay the Spire without continuing support from the developers. If you’re a fan of Faeria, you will find that there is just as much unfamiliar as familiar with Roguebook, but it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of the genre.
Roguebook is available June 17 on Steam.
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