Brave the dangerous mist and discover the secrets behind the Arthurian legends
Genre: Rogue-lite, Deck builder
Developer: Awaken Realms Digital
Publisher: Awaken Realms Digital
Release date: 27 May 2021
After the success of games like Slay the Spire, which were able to create a new approach to card games where you control your character(s) directly using the cards you draw. Normally this kind of games have one thing in common: they start out very slowly and get progressively more exciting the more cards you gather, both inside runs and in between them, simply due to the fact that more powerful cards give you access to often crazy combos. In this regard, Tainted Grail: Conquest follows the games that came before it, adding a dark atmosphere and tons of content to the mix. Will it be able to succeed?
A Wyrd Setting
Tainted Grail follows the legends of Arthur, although re-imagined in a dark way: an incredibly powerful force called the Wyrdness has overcome the lands, killing and corrupting everything it touches. Weird and dangerous creatures started roaming these lands, while lost souls seek shelter from the darkness. Powerful ancient way stones could be able to keep this corruption at bay, but they are few, scattered and dying, as the druids that could have helped in restoring them were killed. The future is not looking good and the present is getting grimmer: heroes must rise against this dark force.
Luckily, Tainted Grail: Conquest provides a great diversity of classes: whereas in this kind of games you get three of four classes, this title provides you with 9, each one with completely different playstyles and cards. These classes are divided into three different factions: the Children Of Morrigan focuses on melee fighters with direct approaches, the Moonring faction can instead use magic and bend the Wyrdness to their favour by summoning a number of different creatures. Last but not least, the Watchers of Tuathan focus on ranged fighting, shooting arrows at their enemies and making thoughtful preparations to empower them. The best aspect of these classes is, again, how much they play differently even inside a faction: taking the Moonring classes (they are my favourites, hands down), they are all able to summon the same creatures, but while the Summoner uses its energy to improve them and make them as big as possible, the Blood Mage uses instead its HP and the Necromancer doesn’t really improve them, sacrificing them instead to gain energy for its lich form.
This doesn’t mean that all classes are made equal though, as balancing isn’t always perfect. Balancing 9 different classes in a card game can quickly become a very daunting task as more cards are added to the game and personally I found the game to be way easier with some classes: starting with the Wyrdhunter, the only available class in the beginning, I found the game to be very hard and was barely able to defeat the first boss, whereas in my first run with the Summoner I was able to steamroll through packs of enemies, losing my fight against the third boss only because of a misplay.
A Safe Place
Outside combat you will get a chance to explore the tainted land and to speak with the lost souls that inhabit it. At the start of each run, you will find yourself in the village, a place spared from the Wyrdness thanks to the presence of a grim statue overlooking the center of the place: here you will find a lot of empty buildings, that will eventually return to life when you will find and save different characters that you will find in the Wyrdness. These characters will help you during your runs and represent, along with the earning of new cards, the rogue-lite aspect of the game. Besides providing new items and cards, you will also be able to have interesting conversations with them from time to time.
When not in the village, you will venture into the Wyrdness to find and slay four different guardians: the Wyrdness is not a safe place and you will be provided with Wyrd candles to help you in your journey: these make for an interesting gameplay mechanic where you can light a candle (that will burn over time) and cast away the Wyrdness from around you. The utility in doing this is that the Wyrdness makes encounters more dangerous, so these effectively act as difficulty-lowering candles, lowering the dangerousness of the enemies the brighter the candle is burning. Speaking of exploration, into the Wyrdness you will not only find monsters to fight, but also different NPCs to interact with: they will sometimes sell interesting items, stats boost or cards… while sometimes they will just have an interesting story to tell.
Tainted Grail’s setting is truly fascinating, similarly to Darkest Dungeon’s: wandering a land filled with corrupting energy and horrible creatures ready to devour you certainly has its… charm we could say. Most of the creatures during combats resemble very well the corrupting power of the Wyrdness by showing monster of horror resembling tortured souls, tentacle-like creatures and totems to dark gods. Venturing in the Wyrdness feels dangerous, especially when you don’t have a Wyrdcandle lit, but the world outside combat does also feel a little bit dead, with you exploring what effectively are maps made out of corridors where enemies are sitting still waiting for you. Exploration is still enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but overall it would have been a better experience if the whole thing felt more alive.
Tainted Grail is a really well built deckbuilding roguelite game with a few unpolished edges. Overall, it offers a really great experience for players that appreciated games like Slay the Spire or Monster Train, featuring a lot of different classes and in general a lot of content. The dark setting is either love or hate, so follow your taste in this regard and, if you suits you, give Tainted Grail a go, you won’t be disappointed!