Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Tainted Grail: Conquest is a roguelike RPG with deck-building and turn-based combat. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that this was a legitimately peculiar concept, but we’ve been inundated with this particular genre mashup in the last few years.
However, while Tainted Grail certainly draws comparisons to others in this increasingly competitive subgenre, it actually adds in a few bits that make it stands out.
Combat is what you would expect. You have energy that you can use to play cards, and you have to balance playing offensive and defensive cards to try and come out of each fight unscathed. You’ll get the chance to add new cards to your deck as you go, and you’ll also get to add new passives that grant impressive buffs. However, you’ve also got equipment to manage too.
You’ll find runes you can slot into either your armour or weapons that grant even more special effects, and the decisions on where to put which rune really help add another level of depth to the whole experience. One rune might grant you a little bit of extra damage in your weapon, for example, but if applied to your armour, will let you hit everyone at the end of your turn. Both of those effects are good, but picking which one will fit your build best can be tricky.
That’s on top of all of the usual decisions you make about removing cards, buying items, and finding new cards, and that’s all just the stuff once you’ve picked your character. Tainted Grail actually has nine different classes to choose from, and you can then choose different starting passive abilities from among those. Basically, I’m saying that there’s a lot of customisation on offer here, and you’re probably going to end up with a build that’s very hard to replicate in each run.
The world itself is completely different as well. You’re not just aimlessly trying to beat the enemies in front of you for the hell of it, there’s an incredibly compelling, voice-acted story driving your forwards. You’ve somehow ended up as a soul – hence being able to play as multiple classes – and not only is your strange goat-like benefactor trying to get you to sort things out, but Death itself makes an appearance to explain just how messed up your world has become.
It all takes place in a beautiful dark fantasy setting where you have to walk around a corrupted world, rescue NPCs, complete quests and side quests, all while trying to stave off the Wyrdness that’s constantly threatening to engulf you. This all adds in a genuine sense of progression outside of your own abilities, and that level of story-telling and character interactions is something incredibly rare in a game like this.
Ultimately, the biggest compliment I can give to Tainted Grail: Conquest is that partway through writing this review, I jumped in to check something really quickly, and ended up doing another run instead.