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I don’t know exactly at what point in life I got addicted to trading card games. I guess it mainly happened when I watched Yu Gi Oh! for the first time and was very excited to play with the cards shown in the anime. I tried out a few other card games like Hearthstone and Magic: the Gathering, and I was instantly hooked into the genre. I did experiment far and wide with many other genres which borrowed mechanics from traditional trading card games. Slay the Spire might as well be the best CCG-roguelike hybrid that I have played in recent times – the game’s too addictive and you keep coming back for more.

Despite collectible card games being a subcategory of board games, most game developers were apprehensive about the inclusion of actual board game mechanics within the CCGs that they were building. Faeria is one game that actually proved that digital board games can be a thing (and that online CCGs are nothing but digital board games!). Faeria’s development paved the way for future games to innovate in this field. I was particularly intrigued by one particular indie title which takes a lot from card games, RPGs, and roguelikes to create a hybrid like no other – Quinterra.

While name sounds awfully similar to Runeterra, the game has little to no similarities with Legends of Runeterra or the Runeterran universe. Published and developed by Sidereal Studio, Quinterra is a CCG-turn-based tactics hybrid set in a fictional universe. The game is currently available on Steam Early Access.

Expedition into the Void

Unlike other roguelikes, Quinterra only gives one the ability to play in single-player mode. While multiplayer was never on the table, coop might always be a consideration as a future addition for the game. Nevertheless, the game has only released in Early Access, and it is possible that a coop mode might be added sometime in the future to allow players to play with friends and family.

Quinterra has four races to play with.

The game makes the player step into the shoes of the leader of one of the four factions – Lycans, Imps, Crystalians, and Ethereals – and lead them onto victory. Each faction has its strengths and weaknesses to support varying playstyles. One of the more annoying features that the game borrows from other roguelikes is that one has to unlock three of the races – Imps, Crystalians and Ethereals – by playing the game. I disliked this feature immensely in Slay the Spire, and it’s needless to say that I am not a fan of locking stuff behind a progress wall in this game either.

Legends of Quinterra?

Quinterra is set in a fictional universe that uses popular ideas from other fictional works for world-building. Sadly, that makes the world more generic than it should be. Much effort isn’t made to flesh out the several races that inhabit the world and their relations. Considering the focus on “roleplaying” as the “leader” of a race, the lack of depth in the world does put a dampener.

Quinterra's world is beautifully crafted, but has a lot of repetition.

The generic tropes would not have felt like much, but the narratives delivered by certain members of some of the species living in the world do make you wonder why the effort wasn’t made to add to the immersion. The narration itself feels pretty half-arsed at times. While playing as Lycans, when you encounter Frogs, an elder tells you to contest the grounds, making you wonder why the Frogs ended up in a war against the Lycans in the first place. The annoying thing is that you’ll never know that because there isn’t any mention of it anywhere.

Dungeon Dice Monsters Galore

The game mainly revolves around materializing units on the game board and using them to attack the enemy till it dies. Different missions have different end objectives, but most revolve around wiping all enemies or a single boss monster out or even having a numerical superiority over your enemy. You start with a single army unit and five elite units (more on the hierarchy of your “army” later). The board game is structured as a hexagonal grid where each box is a place where you can place units. Summoning units is pretty simple – if you have the mana for summoning a unit, you drag it to the field and place it inside a box. Then both players take turns to use their units to move, attack or use abilities till the victory condition is satisfied.

Quinterra has some very repetitive models for missions.

Despite seeming similar to Faeria, the game adds a few concepts to make it stand out. For instance, when you place units, they can attack neighboring enemy units, but they cannot move or use abilities in the same turn. This kind of seems weird,  since units are supposed to be “tired” on the turn they come to the battlefield (maybe they have some sort of battle magic that makes them fight?) One of the factors that can really hinder your enjoyment is the numbers that pop up during battle. The health and attack numbers of your units are too weak – often leading to them dying within one or two hits from an enemy. Also, the “mana” cost required to summon normal units is way too high as compared to the “mana” cost required to summon Elite units. Considering the fact that Elites are army leaders (equivalent to generals in modern-day battalions), a battle with tons of leaders and negligible followers looks very weird. Being able to summon only one unit every turn (kind of like Yu Gi Oh!) makes the game unnecessarily slow. I do not know if it is an intended design tactic – if it is, it’s clearly a disappointment.

The balance between units and Elites in Quinterra is weird.

Another factor that ruins the experience is that there is little freedom in the approaches used for success. One can fling damaging spells from a distance or simply attack from an adjacent square to damage or kill enemy units. The game actively discourages all-out frontal attacks and prefers its players to be on the defensive, throwing spells and fortifying their position. This wouldn’t have been an issue if there weren’t any limitations imposed by the game. Sadly, the turn limit for completing a mission is a bit too small for control-based strategies to actually work.

Quinterra's "numbers" are very unbalanced.

Despite the game trying its best to diversify its missions, it fails miserably. The reason behind this is that more often than not you’re either defeating a big enemy or a bunch of small enemies or simply competing for control of a small plot of land. Even the enemies you face have little variations. If you’re not bored out of your guts yet, the game’s uneven difficulty curve is sure to make you Alt+F4 out of existence. I found certain missions where I, as the Lycans, was tasked with holding a plot of land from the Frogs much more difficult than a boss stage, where I had to defeat a living cannon with armor. The boss dies after a few hectic rounds of slashing through its thick armor with my Elites, whereas the Frogs decide to multiply like amoeba and kept shooting at me till my units were all but wiped from the game board (something which made me quit multiple times and restart all over).

Stock Portraits?

Quinterra’s graphics are weird, to say the least. The quality of the two-dimensional portraits used for the Elites and the normal units is super low. The unit animations aren’t anything special either. There’s also an annoying blur effect that makes the actual board looks ten times worse than it actually is. This is saying something – since the board on which battles take place is actually designed pretty well (even though it is a bit too small for my taste).

Quinterra has a weird blur that makes the game look bad.

While the game doesn’t really have framerate issues or other bugs or glitches, work really needs to be put into the two-dimensional portraits to ensure they don’t look like stock images. I understand the need for placeholders, but I hope work is done to improve them as soon as possible.

Rough Around The Edges……

Quinterra has a long, long way to go before it can be called the roguelike brother of Faeria. I understand that it’s in Early Access and there’s plenty of work remaining to be done – but the game in its current state can’t really be recommended to anyone except hardcore fans of CCGs and (perhaps) roguelikes.

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