Review | Solitairica

“Solitairica takes RPG combat and challenging roguelike progression to a fresh new place – the world of solitaire! Using a variety of magical items and powerful spells, battle your way through a horde of ever-changing enemies and defeat the horrible Emperor Stuck.”

OK, let’s just state the obvious – the concept of this game sounds a little peculiar. I mean, who wants to play solitaire with some spells in it? Err – me, as it turns out… because this game is very, very good…

Solitairica
My first victim… mwahahahaha!

The basics

So how does a game like this work? Well, each card has a resource type, and as you pick that card up you acquire that resource. There are 5 different resource types – attack, defence, agility, willpower, and gold. The first 4 resources are used within the level to power up your spells. Once you cast a spell, the pool of the resource type you used is depleted. Pretty simple stuff so far.

Opposite you is your enemy. He doesn’t play solitaire to use his abilities, he simply waits for you to finish your card streak and then attacks. Each enemy has a different set of abilities to use, and they range from direct damage, poison, resource-draining and the like – to adding more cards to the table, stunning you, freezing cards, and lots more in-between… The aim of each level is to clear the cards before your enemy kills you.

Not so fast

I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking the same thing when I first saw this game… “Sounds a bit… boring”.

Solitairica
Hmmm… decisions, decisions…

I was wrong. It’s not. It’s really not. Trust me.

When you first play the game you are introduced to the mechanics by a creepy jester dude named Kismet. He tells you how to play solitaire, how to use your abilities, and that’s about it! It’s very easy to pick up and play, but much harder to master.

The main game sees you select a deck type from those you have unlocked (more on that later) and then displays the 18 levels as a path made out of cards, leading to the dark wizard tower on the horizon. As you complete the levels, the castle moves closer.

The difficulty curve is quite gradual, starting you off facing very easy bad guys with simple abilities and not many cards to clear, which is helpful as you also start with only the basic spells that the chosen deck contains and they’re not particularly powerful. Fortunately you can buy new spells and items from the shop between levels, using the aforementioned gold you collect in the level. One annoyance is that the shop changes its stock every time, so you can find that you have to make a tactical decision when presented with two things you want to buy if you can only afford one of them.

Solitairica
The bad guys get quite hard later on!

As you progress along the path the game gets subtly harder, introducing new enemy abilities and giving you more cards to clear on each level. Should you fail to defeat an enemy, then it’s game over. You’ll have to start again from scratch, right back at the beginning. However, you’re first rewarded with gems based on how far you managed to get.

These can be used to unlock new decks with new bespoke abilities, or to improve the deck you’re using by adding new item slots or power ups.

Play your cards right

Your success in any given level is dependant on how you play your cards and use your abilities. Sometimes you find that you can decimate an enemy before he’s had time to attack you, and other times you realise that you’ve cleared the cards in the wrong way and you’ve hit a dead-end… if only you’d used that stun at the right time, or reshuffled the face cards before he unleashed his attack…

Yes, luck plays a part in this game – you need to draw the right card at the right time – but mostly you blame yourself should you fail. And that pushes you to replay, to beat that Thrix, get past that Hug Bug, buy a different ability or item at the right time. It’s never the same and doesn’t feel repetitive because the cards you’re dealt are always different, the shop items are always different, and the enemies always attack you differently.

And if that wasn’t enough to tempt you back into the game, then there’s always Steam Cards and Achievements to unlock too!

SolitairicaWrapping up

Graphically, this game is very strong. It’s built on the Unreal Engine, and initially I wondered why considering the inherent 2D nature of solitaire and the cartoony presentation – but all the little visual effects that have been added creates a very polished experience, and the game engine no doubt helps this. I have to admit, that my PC struggled to run the game on maximum quality and resolution settings, but with a small amount of adjustment it was soon butter-smooth. The audio is good too, featuring ambient medieval-esque music on the menu screens (there’s no background music during the match) and suitable thwacks and dings.

All-in-all Solitairica is a solid and fun game. There’s more depth and tactics required to play than is immediately obvious, loads of abilities to unlock and use, and all of the enemies are different. It’s a very addictive game!

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