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Hellcard Review: A Dungeon-Crawling Deckbuilding Roguelike That's One Hell of a Challenge

Platform reviewed: Steam

Price: $19.99

Hellcard's innovative approach to deckbuilding roguelikes sets it apart from the rest. The game's humor is reminiscent of Borderlands, adding an extra layer of enjoyment. However, Hellcard is far from a walk in the park, as the difficulty spikes after the first few initial levels. Nevertheless, like most deckbuilders, there is a compelling reason to persevere. I found myself saying, "Just one more round" multiple times, even late into the night.

Hellcard stands out from other deckbuilders due to the fact that it feels like a dungeon crawler. The game adopts an isometric view, presenting each level as a room within a dungeon.

What sets Hellcard apart even further is its strategic combat system due to the fact that it uses the room for enemy placement. Some foes may be within close proximity, while others are scattered further away. This variation in enemy placement adds an intriguing layer to battles, as each playable character has strengths and weaknesses in different attack ranges.

Another intriguing feature that sets Hellcard apart is its incorporation of multiple heroes. At the start of each run, I had the opportunity to choose between three distinct characters: a warrior, a mage, and a rogue (archer). However, as I delved deeper into the dungeon, I discovered the ability to add more characters to my party, allowing for a maximum of three heroes. What made this even more intriguing was the fact that I encountered legendary heroes as well. Instead of a typical mage, I found a powerful Frostmancer, and in place of a warrior, I discovered a fearsome Berserker. The game allowed me the freedom to create a party consisting of solely one type of character, although I personally preferred a mix of different heroes due to their unique strengths and weaknesses. Despite this, I often found myself having two mages on my team, one a regular mage and the other a rare one.

At the start of each battle in a room, the three characters assumed their positions in the middle of the room, surrounded by enemies. The attacking foe would target the characters directly in front of them. This element heightened the strategic aspect, as I often had to play cards to relocate enemies to different sections of the room. By doing so, I could ensure that the attacking enemy would inflict damage on a character with more shields or greater health.

One aspect of the battle system I absolutely loved was the ability to control all three characters, each with their own deck of cards. What made it even more enjoyable was how the cards in the other characters' decks complemented my own. Just like in other deckbuilders, each card required mana to play, and typically, each character started with three mana points.

As I progressed through each layer of the dungeon, I was presented with two different rooms, each offering its unique benefits. Some rooms allowed me to upgrade the cards in my hand, while others provided artifacts or healing, and others offered new companions to join my team.

Artifacts granted my characters special abilities, such as increasing the amount of mana they received each turn. During battles, I had full control over each character's actions, but when it came to leveling up the cards, the supplementary characters acted like NPCs and upgraded their own cards.

If I fail to mention the art in this game, I would be doing it a disservice. The characters, monsters, and environments all exude a charming cutout cardboard aesthetic. Personally, I found this added nuance to be wonderful, as it perfectly sets the tone of the overall experience of playing a homemade dungeon crawler.

Although there are many aspects of Hellcard that I absolutely adore, the one element that consistently frustrated me was the rapidly increasing level of challenge. In one room, I would be confronted with around twelve adversaries, only to find that the number would double in the next room. To make matters worse, some enemies had the ability to summon reinforcements, making the situation even more daunting. Adding to the frustration was the fact that once one of my characters perished, my only hope of acquiring a replacement relied on the luck of the randomized rooms, hoping it would offer me another character to add to my party. Unfortunately, more often than not, I would be unable to find another character, leaving my already depleted party defenseless against the overwhelming horde of monsters.

After every run, I gained experience points that allowed me to acquire new cards to enhance my deck or unlock unique abilities for each character. Although this helped alleviate some of the earlier-mentioned frustrations, it still fell short of compensating for the ever-increasing number of enemies I encountered in subsequent runs.

Final Grade: B

There are many aspects of Hellcard that I absolutely adore. For starters, I am captivated by its dungeon-crawling ambiance, which adds an immersive touch to this deckbuilder. And the infusion of humor and the distinctive level design further enhance the appeal of Hellcard, solidifying its position as one of my favorites among roguelike deckbuilders. However, the difficulty curve escalates too swiftly, and while there are numerous commendable aspects to Hellcard, the punishing and unforgiving nature of the game can be quite frustrating. Nevertheless, if you are seeking a unique experience and are up for a challenge, Hellcard is certainly a game worth adding to your collection.

Review code provided by Skystone games.



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