The Last Hex — Trying to extend my hex life

The Last Hex is a deckbuilding game that takes place in a land riddled with evil creatures.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there are a metric ton of roguelikes and roguelites out there these days. Procedurally generated stages, permanent death and often tough gameplay are the order of the day  ー a lot of these games are really rather good. The Binding of Isaac took the world by storm, whilst FTL used a node based system to travel the stars. One that became very popular recently is Slay the Spire, in which your hero builds a deck of cards to climb a tower, defeating more and more challenging monsters along the way. The Last Hex is another entry into this genre and takes more than a little inspiration from Slay the Spire.

The Last Hex is a Rogue-like deck-building game in which your chosen hero battles across a land divided up into hexes, with the goal of defeating the evil Lost in, well, the last hex. Starting out with a basic set of cards unique to your heroes class, you’ll move freely to adjacent hexes to battle foes, participate in events or visit cities with the aim of strengthening your hero and deck before reaching the final battle. Taking your time to visit a lot of hexes is key to building a powerful deck, but the Lost gains strength the longer you delay, potentially leading to a near insurmountable final battle if you wait too long. With that said, if you rush forward, you’ll be under-powered and meet an untimely demise, sending you back to the menu to try again.

The Last Hex
Well I obviously shouldn’t have opened that chest.

Classes are split into the usual archetypes of Warrior, Thief and Wizard who each have their own starting deck and stats ー Arcana, Strength and Expertise. These aren’t really all that different to each other, focusing on damaging this much or blocking that much. The difference is that each card has a stat associated with it, and depending on how you build your stats, will determine which cards prove valuable to you. An Arcana focused card will have greater effect if your hero has a high Arcana stat. This is a nice way of having you specialise your character, but in reality you’ll be fairly railroaded by it. A Warrior is going to be focusing on Strength almost exclusively, as all their starting cards are based in this stat, and splitting your upgrades across different stats is going to leave you a jack-of-all-trades but a master of none when it really matters.

Battles are turn based and involve you drawing cards from your deck then playing some of them based on their energy cost. Initially you have three energy with cards costing between zero and three energy to use. Cards are generally attack or defense based. Damage cards, surprisingly, cause damage whilst block cards absorb it. Other cards cause different effects, such as poison causing damage per turn and expose which increases future damage. There are also potions, which are mostly one use per battle cards that tend to heal you or harm your enemies. Using good card combinations is crucial to success, as is learning the sort of attacks your enemies will use against you. Enemies normally use one card per turn, but can be sly and add cards to your hand that lead to future harm if you don’t spend energy to remove them.

So far, very reminiscent of Slay the Spire. There are some differences that make The Last Hex have a little of its own identity, though. You can travel freely to any adjacent hex on the map rather than being put on a set path with the occasional branch. This does allow a bit more freedom which is a nice addition, and means you can avoid certain areas if you want. Beyond that, it doesn’t add a huge amount. The map also has a greater number of fights and events ー although it didn’t take long for me to run into the same event. Towns are scattered about and allow you to make serious modifications to your character and deck through use of gold. You can rest to recover health as well as pay to remove cards from your deck, just like in other games of this ilk, but you can also spend gold on better equipment and stats. Stat increases can be very expensive, requiring a certain amount of grinding at the risk of the Lost becoming stronger, but equipment tends to be more affordable. These items can heal you between battles and increase stats at random. Good equipment can genuinely make a significant difference when it comes to battle.

The Last Hex
There’s a long way to go to get to The Last Hex

Whilst you can buy cards, it’s often better to acquire them from battle unless there’s a specific card that you want. Better cards and equipment are available from mini-bosses around the map too. These tend to be quite stiff challenges and require a certain amount of preparation. Whilst they can be bypassed entirely, the benefits of defeating them make the battles worthwhile in most cases.

In terms of presentation, The Last Hex is fine but not much more than that. The card art is nice, but there’s little-to-no animation whilst towns always seem to have the same backgrounds. Sound and music is equally acceptable, with standard fantasy music and sword slashes played throughout. This is in Steam Early Access as it stands, so there’s plenty of time for this to change, but a bit more variety couldn’t hurt.

The fact that The Last Hex is in early access is quite relevant as, whilst it feels fairly complete right now, there’s still a fair bit of work to be done. The presentation could use some polish and there are some serious bugs that require looking at including one that made the entire map turn black and another that crashed the game. Balancing is also an issue, as some monsters seem to have abilities that allow them to out-heal most of your attacks, whilst the Warrior appears to be much more effective a character than the others.

With that said, I had a good time playing The Last Hex. As it stands I don’t see it taking the place of Slay the Spire as my first choice for deck-builder Rogue-like (which is quite a niche genre). It’s a solid game and with enough time it could become something really rather excellent. If you’re burnt out on the other options within this sub genre, then this may well be a good option to pick up.

The Last Hex is available for PC on Steam Early Access now.

Purchase The Last Hex on Humble Bundle!

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