Heretic’s Fork is a devilishly good fusion of merge, deck building and tower defence

Tower-defence deck-building has absolutely zero reason to be as good as Heretic’s Fork makes it, and if you can deal with the grungy red-and-black dominated colour scheme you’re almost certainly in for a treat.

Heretic’s Fork is doing a surprising amount of things at once. In its simplest version, you’re creating a tower of weapons that will autofire to defend a central area from waves of encroaching enemies. You can upgrade these towers, replace them, and merge them to tweak your style, you can do the same with your special abilities — which you can also automate.

However, the way you do this, any of this, is by drawing cards from a deck. After each wave, of which there are multiple during each level of hell, your hand is drawn, and you can merge equal-level cards to try and draw better cards (of the next level), you can also discard cards, expend cards and lock cards in your hand (with certain characters).

Not all of Heretic’s Fork‘s cards are towers or units or abilities though; A lot of them are buffs to certain weapon types or other modifiers that continue to stack throughout your run.

Deck control is the next layer because in any given run you can end up with an absolutely massive deck if — for whatever reason — you aren’t merging or using cards. If you do this then your reusable buffs are less likely to cycle around, so you’ll want to keep the deck slim so that you have more control over it. This is trickier than it might seem — while you have unlimited time between waves to deal with your hand, there are regular rewards of more cards, which is a blessing for tower development but a curse for deck development.

All of this happens alongside a developing metagame about you working a desk job in hell, hiring assistants for your run (that offer cool modifiers like rocks increasing power, or being able to lock cards in for free) and while cool industrial metal wails around in the background. It’s incredibly easy to view it as something you’ll just have running in the background,  but in reality, the rounds are succinct and hard to not watch.

Heretic’s Fork is one of those games that you’re winning right up until the moment you lose, and that creates a compelling gameplay loop that I’ve not seen done this well in other tower-defence games. In addition to that, the deck building and regular choices between cards add a welcome strategic layer that feels rewarding when it comes together. I wish that things were a bit easier to read and parse (the view of unlocked cards is, well, a bit boring), but, much like hell, once you’re in it is incredibly hard to get out.

Heretic’s Fork is available now for Windows on Steam.

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