I’ve always had a penchant for niche games, and Gordian Quest is a game that’s right up my alley. As a deck-building roguelite with grid-based combat, it’s about as niche as they come!
Coming from Mixed Realms, the developers of cyber ninja game Sairento VR, this is quite the change of pace.
The story is fairly basic. Many moons ago, naughty humans plundered the Earth for its resources, angering the gods in the process, who shattered the planet and cursing it to punish us. This gave rise to monsters that roam the land and being generally horrible. Years later, after the remaining humans conveniently forgot they caused the problem in the first place, heroes rise to try and find a cure the curses that ravage the Earth. This is where you come in.
You can select from one of six heroes – Lucius the Swordhand, Catherin the Cleric, Bertram the Ranger, Alphonse the Scoundrel, Pierre the Spellbinder and Ida the Druid – each with their own tailored battle deck to battle monsters with.
Each encounter takes place on a three lane battlefield divided into two halves (much like a football pitch), one side for you and your allies and the other for the enemies. From there, you draw from your battle deck which will determine what you can do each turn. Each character starts with three actions which are used to play cards and move about. If you want to attack an enemy, you would typically play a card like Swipe which deals 9 Damage, or if you feel like you’re going to take a big hit, you can reduce the damage you will take by playing a Dodge card which gives 5 Guard. Guard reduces the amount of damage you will receive on the next attack against you which can be a life saver. Each of these cards also has an Ability Point cost, ranging from nothing to an eye-watering 9AP!
Those are just the simple mechanics; Gordian Quest has a deep combat system. Even on easy, the game was challenging, but if you step up to normal or higher difficulties it can be quite unforgiving. During my first run, I was testing the waters on normal to see what I could get away with while playing on normal. Of course, just relentlessly attacking the enemy landed me in a world of pain and you really need to think about what you are doing.
Character placement is key depending on their abilities. Pierre has access to some fantastic damage spells, but doesn’t have a high health pool. Catherin the Cleric, however, has a raft of protection based cards and cure cards to keep the team going, as well dishing out some Holy pain when the right cards come along. Naturally, hiding Pierre behind Catherin makes a lot of sense.
You can further add to your battle deck by leveling up characters and unlocking abilities, giving you new cards to play with. Another way of adding cards is by equipping items like Swords and Shields which respectively add attack and defense cards with higher rarity of items offering better cards for your deck. As I said before, there’s a ton of depth, here.
With my initial normal difficulty run, I lasted a few good fights and levels before I lost all of my guys in one battle. That was it. Game over. Back to the beginning. Despite knowing this was a roguelite, I was stunned. Thankfully on Easy, you don’t permanently lose anyone if you die. Battles are still hard though, so you still need to bring your A-game in order to get through fights.
Losing a hero is not all that bad, as you can just recruit more from the local Guild Hall. In fact, there’s a lot of locations you can visit in The Garrison, the game’s hub area. Sister Ophelia is on hand to heal your party members when they are low on health as well as resurrect any fallen heroes you have grown attached to, while Jun the Blacksmith is about to spend that heard earned gold on new weapons and armour. There were still many more locations in The Garrison that I haven’t unlocked yet.
Upon leaving the Garrison you are presented with a lovely hand drawn map and can travel to various locations, engaging in more fights, talking to people and looting small treasures. Some encounters require a skill test which is rolled on a D20, giving the whole thing a nice tabletop role playing game feel.
All of this is presented with stunning visuals. Not only is the map hand drawn but the characters, enemies and everything else look like they are straight out of a cartoon or comic. The aesthetic is simple and beautiful.
My only gripe so far, which I’ll put down to this being a preview build, is my progress just disappeared on multiple occasions and I was having to start from scratch, despite it being possible save progress between sessions. I’d get quite far each time and having to retread the same steps multiple times got a little annoying. Hopefully this is a bug that’s fixed for the final release.
Otherwise, Gordian Quest is a perfectly enjoyable and challenging romp. The last time I felt this way about a game like this was Darkest Dungeon which took punishing roguelites to a new level. This feels like it has the same potential and with enough time in the oven, it could be great!