Griftlands

Icon - Calendar Released: 1 Jun 2021
Icon - Edited Reviewed: 24 Jun 2021
Platform: PC

Griftlands

Klei! I love Klei. Klei games are the best. Here's another best game; this time a roguelike card battler set out in the backwater badlands of space. You'll meet lots of NPCs who want you to do things for them in exchange for money and favours. Take sides and follow a main quest as one of three playable characters, all with different card decks. Fight battles, but also negotiate; each character has both a battle deck and a negotiation deck, with each type using different mechanics. There's a great number of builds to experiment with, the writing is excellent and it's beautiful to look at. All round super polished and memorable.

Pros

  • Unlike most roguelike card battlers I've played, this actually has a story to follow for each character. It plays as a series of quests and relationships instead of a simple 'walk across the landscape killing things'
  • Once you've played the main campaign as each character, you can either play at higher prestige levels which make it more difficult (there are perks to unlock), or you can play a sort of "day in the life" where you play as that character just doing normal mercenary jobs.
  • Gorgeous artwork
  • It's not just shooty combat. Each character has a deck for combat, and a deck for negotiations. Both of these have different mechanics. In battle you have damage, health and armor. In negotiations you have manipulation, hostility and diplomacy. On top of that, each character not only has their own decks, but their own mechanics. The second character has a coin he flips sometimes, which gives some cards extra effects.
  • You get a preview of what the enemy is going to do (like Slay the Spire) so you can prepare for it. No randomness.
  • You can enlist and train pets to fight with you.
  • One of the first quests had me uncover a theft. I confronted the thief in a bar, but chose to buy them a drink first. Not only did this get them drunk, giving them a disadvantage in combat, but it also made them like me, which reduced their resolve in the following negotiation
  • Cards gain XP by being used, and you get a choice how to upgrade them. You get a choice between 2 upgrades for each card, with lots of potential different upgrades
  • In one encounter, I was able to negotiate with them first to demoralise them in the fight afterwards
  • You earn a permanent currency for every fight, which makes you stronger over time (There are character-specific buffs, character-wide buffs, and perks to unlock)
  • You have a relationship status with every NPC in the game. Based on that, there are random events. A thug who likes you might share a target for a robbery, or someone who hates you might track you down on the trail and try to murder you when you're in the middle of a job. Relationship statuses also give you passive bonuses or penalties
  • You can provoke someone who hates you, which causes a negotiation. If you win the negotiation, they'll attack you, which means you're acting in self defense, so you can kill them with no penalty and remove the debuff from having someone hate you
  • The battle segments are fairly similar to other games; play cards which deal damage to the enemy. The negotiation battles have unique mechanics, and revolve around deploying arguments, manipulating the enemy and protecting yourself with composure
  • If you play the same story twice but take different sides of the main quests, you can see both sides of each NPC's version of the story

Cons

  • The game says 'progress will be saved at the end of the last conversation', but it seems to be the conversation BEFORE that one because I sometimes had to re-do the latest encounter when loading a game
  • There's no combat log to see what happened if you didn't understand something or missed it
  • If you take too long to win a negotiation, the NPC starts getting passive buffs every round called "impatience" which basically makes them do more damage. It's annoying because it stops you from playing a slow build-up/control deck
  • I feel like I missed something important at the beginning about the story. I know I'm going after Kashio, but everyone keeps talking about an auction that isn't in the introduction video
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