Cardaclysm — card-based deck building fun

If you like card-based action and the strategy of both the gameplay and deck building that comes with it; then you could do much worse than check out Cardaclysm as it hits Steam Early Access.

Cardaclysm starts when the local Sorcerer meddles with a summoning book and tries to enslave four magical beings to his will, he underestimates their power and releases them onto an unsuspecting world. The four are naturally a bit miffed and come out guns blazing and give chase.

As the sorcerer; you make a rapid exit but the threat of the four looms as you make your way through an endless set of procedurally generated levels. It’s not long however before you bump into the indigenous wildlife which coincidentally also bears a grudge to our magically inclined protagonist and a fight ensues.

Luckily for you, the sorcerer didn’t get his title from collecting vouchers on the back of cereal boxes. Instead he is fairly skilled in summoning; despite his previous faux pas; and depending on what he has in his back pocket can put up a decent fight. Not being an epic mage initially, most of your choices are limited by the amount of soul orbs and gold relics you have.

A barren Wasteland lies before you.

Each card has both a relic and orb value limiting the number of cards you can summon from per battle. Travelling through the levels you can easily find more but initially the few you have allow you to summon basic monsters and animals from your starting card stock.

Each adversary (or group of) you face also may have a particular boon or buff adding to the strategy of how you play and when you play your cards. Spiders favour paralysis making those they hit miss their next turn, alternatively small sprites or creatures have an ability to evade their first hit aimed at them in any battle. Using these to your advantage makes or breaks your chance of success.

As with most card based battlers, your starting hand per conflict is random but as you max out your deck you have the ability to swap cards in or out. Given every battle rewards a card or two there’s plenty of customisation allowed to get the desired effect.

Summon your Monsters to Defend You.

Cards can also be fused to create a stronger variety but it’s a double edged sword as even though attack and defence may rise, so does the cost to play the card and there’s also a chance that a fairly attractive buff will be changed to one not so advantageous. That said, there’s nothing stopping you playing another level and hunting down the same card you had before and putting it back in your deck.

Whilst on your journey through the realms, totems can be found randomly scattered which also offer additional benefits such as increased health for creatures summoned or reduced summon costs. In most instances you will be able to check a battle’s participants and difficulty before committing so saving these for more challenging encounters is advised. It can be difficult though since getting too close activates them.

Cardaclysm also allows some elements of inventory and equipment management as certain sets or pieces of armour or weapons can be found amongst the enemies. Each delivers a boost to your arsenal and comes flavoured in the elements that cards are split into. If you’re favouring woodland or plant based summons then the best cumulative boot will come from equipping the woodland based gear you find. Given it can be swapped out between battles you can dress for your particular situation.

Match your gear bonuses to your cards.

The worlds you visit are rendered in full 3D with a feeling not dissimilar to Diablo 3 or World of Warcraft. It’s fairly simple but effective. The creatures summoned are where Cardaclysm shines however. Each summon is well illustrated and detailed according to the card it’s based on. The cards don’t use screenshots from gameplay and instead have an illustrated view of the creature within with the user interface helpfully showing any advantage the card may also hold by hovering over it with your mouse cursor rather than making you read some of the smaller lettering.

At this point Cardaclysm is not going to win any awards for level design. It’s functional for the premise but it repeats fairly quickly and may be less “procedural” and more “random selection for a limited design bucket”. Depending how the main storyline is delivered it would be nice to see more unique story based locations mixed in with the realm jumping. 

Cardaclysm has lots to offer already even though it’s in early access and updates are coming through thick and fast from the developer. The full game boasts a full story mode and selection of side quests as well as battles against the four main boss enemies. There’s a good number of cards already available but with plans to double it, much more is coming for its eventual full release.

Cardaclysm is available now in Early Access through Steam exclusively on PC.

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