What do you get when you combine a rogue-like deck builder, a strategy game, and Space Invaders? You get StarVaders, a beautifully crafted game. StarVaders stood out at PAX West as it felt polished and presented a unique concept I hadn't seen before.
The game has a simple setup. It’s structured like a board. The aliens enter the board at the top of the screen and move down a row with each turn, similar to Space Invaders. You pilot a mech and play cards from the bottom of the board to attack and each round, you draw a set number of cards. If the enemies reach a certain area on the lower part of the board, they apply a doom point to your character at the end of that turn. Your run is over once you reach ten doom points.
As mentioned earlier, players use cards to inflict damage on enemies. The strategy aspect comes into play based on the placement of the attack on the board. For instance, if a bomb is strategically placed in the path of enemy fire, the player can utilize the enemy's attack to their advantage. As players progress through the levels, they can explore different worlds that provide new cards to be added to their arsenal. Additionally, taking damage adds scrap cards to the player's deck, which are unplayable cards and fill your hand.
Another aspect comes into play when determining the number of cards you play. Each card you play generates heat, and if you play more than three cards, you will overheat and burn the card you play while overheating, removing it from the deck during the current encounter. However, sometimes you may intentionally generate heat because certain cards provide a bonus when burnt during overheating.
There are boss battles, too. Obviously, these battles present more challenges and demand careful thinking in order to make successful moves, as there is little margin for error. However, winning these battles brings an exhilarating feeling, and I experienced a sense of accomplishment when I defeated the boss.
The artwork is well done, too. It has an anime/graphic novel look, and it’s bright and colorful and fits the theme of the game well.
This is one of the best rogue-like deck builders I’ve played, and I can’t wait for the full release.
There is a beefy, free demo available on Steam. Go play it, right now. And if you think this is something for you, add it to your wishlist.