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Roguelikes come in many shapes and forms. More often than not, they put some tenets of an RPG and mix them well with some additions of their own, and then add some randomness in every playthrough for good measure. The formula has become slightly derivative and repetitive over the years, and it’s only the extra additions made by the developers themselves that manage to make a game come out on top. One game in the genre that left a lasting impression when it came out was probably Slay the Spire. Slay the Spire is a roguelike like any other, with a small twist – all combat that takes place inside its randomly generated dungeons happens with the help of cards. With the easygoing feature of leaving anytime one wanted to and later logging back in and picking up from the same spot, Slay the Spire became quite the talk of the gaming community (especially among those who hated roguelikes and early access games in general). Quite a few games have come up in the following years, trying to rebuild from the success of Slay the Spire, trying to add their own twist to the genre to make card-based combat in roguelikes interesting. That’s exactly where Power Chord comes in.

Power Chord is a roguelike card-based battler developed and published by Big Blue Bubble that was released for PC on January 26, 2023, via Steam. 

Sound the Drums!

Power Chord adds a musical twist to the roguelike genre. The game is based on the invasion of the surface world by demons, forcing a band of musicians to stand up in defense. It falls to the player to assemble a band of musicians and take on the demons. Each band needs a drummer, bass, guitarist, and singer to thwart the demon invasion. Each band member has a particular role in the band – the drummer protects the squad from attacks, the bassist tries to manipulate the field in favor of the band, the guitarist is the primary offensive front for the band and the singer heals the entire band from damage dealt by the demons. 

The game currently features only single-player mode and has no multiplayer functionality to it. Yes, that means you can’t compare how far your friends have made it with their luck on the randomized path generated by the game for them, or how many bosses they have beaten. You can view the list of cards still locked – cards are unlocked by performing particular feats in the game. With every playthrough, you add more powerful cards to your collection, which help make your future runs easier. With each update, newer band members have been added whose play style differs from their previous counterparts. Unlocking them requires you to put in some hours and perform some feats in the game (similar to unlocking cards).

The best part about the game probably is that there’s no barrier to entry to it like most other rogulelikes these days. Boot up Power Chord, put a couple of runs in, save, and then quit. Most unlocks happen automatically and doesn’t affect a player’s experience in the least.

Bring on the Heat!

The band starts from the beginning of a map – beating a monster encounter and then progressing along the path with several encounters. There might be treasure encounters, shop encounters where you can buy cards for your deck, super monster encounters where your band faces off against bigger bands of demons, or random encounters where your band gets to do something random (totally can’t be understood from the name, can it?).

Combat happens with the help of cards (hopefully the introduction has made that amply clear already). Playing a card makes a particular member of the band use a move on the enemy or reinforce the band’s defenses. The color code for the cards indicates which band member is going to act. Some cards deal damage, while others add buffs to teammates or apply debuffs to enemies. One good piece of advice would be to read what the card does properly before casting it. Some cards are single-use only for one encounter, so these cards should be used at the proper time to maximize their effects. Some cards are better played after others, as it helps increase the effect that cards played later would have. Sometimes the correct sequence of playing cards can mean the difference between the life and death of a bandmate. Buffs and debuffs are very useful for reducing damage taken, as well as amplifying the damage dealt in a turn. Most cards can be reused after a while – hands are drawn from the deck and sent to the discard pile at the end of the turn, and this discard pile is shuffled back into your deck after your deck runs out of cards.

Boss stages come at the end of every level and are exceptionally difficult in nature unless you are geared to combat them. With the right luck, some good draws, and some mad Yu Gi Oh skills, you can pull off a victory right when you need it.

Doom but Realistic

The game’s art style is one of the key selling points of the game, beside the high octane music, that is. The art style is so purposefully edgy, it stands out among the other “tamer” roguelikes of today’s world. Ragdoll, injury, and attack animations also look quite decent. The unique palette used might not go well with everyone who plays the game, but the edginess still makes it stand out from the crowd.

It’s useless to pretend that a game entirely about music would have a collection of bad soundtracks. The soundtracks used are high-octane – giving you a feeling that a lot is on the line when you are engaged in an encounter with a bunch of demons looking to take over Earth. The adrenaline rush is part of the unique experience that Power Chord curates for you as you move through the stages.

Real Talk

Power Chord feels like a well-made clone for Slay the Spire at best, and is definitely worth picking up if you have not played any card-based roguelike before. The general gameplay loop is the same for most of these card-based roguelikes, but the real place where Power Chord strikes the note is probably in its eye-popping visuals and its high-octane music that enhances the experience.


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