It appears that mixing other genres into TCGs/CCGs is all the rage with developers at the moment! Free Range Games, a game design studio with a successful history, are the latest developers to have a go at this. Their latest project Labyrinth is a game that combines the strategic depth seen in Collectible Card Games (CCGs) with the turn-based, tactical combat seen in Role Playing Games (RPGs). All of this is delivered in an immersive 3D world that brings the tactical battles to life.
Free Range Games asked for your help in bringing this project to life through Kickstarter, the crowd-funding website. The project managed to attract almost 1,400 backers, pledging over $150,000 between them. There are many people out there, myself included, who love turn-based RPGs. To mix this in with a CCG is just icing on the cake. Labyrinth is off to a flying start thanks to the campaign and now the developers have released a Pre-Alpha build for us to tinker with. I took a look at this early Pre-Alpha build of this exciting new game to find out well how it plays so far.
Will Labyrinth live up to the hype, or has it got lost in a labyrinthine mess of influences? Read on to find out…
In Labyrinth, you build a deck of Heroes, Bosses, and Minions (yes, really!). In your regular deck, you’ll take control of your selected Heroes. You will then use these Heroes to venture into single-player or PvP dungeons. If you manage to survive the onslaught of these dungeons you will be rewarded with loot that you can use in defending your own dungeons, such as the aforementioned Bosses and Minions!
For the PvP experience, you must fill your dungeons with huge Bosses and Minions in order to defend them from being looted by other players in an asynchronous online multiplayer experience. The Boss will be the primary defender of your dungeon and will summon Minions to its side during the course of the battle. You’ll have to ensure you fill your dungeon with your strongest offerings, or you’ll risk being looted continuously!
There are four disciplines of magic in the realm of Hylea that draws upon different influences from the Cosmos. The four schools are Warfare, Wizardry, Faith, and Skullduggery. Warriors prefer to practice the art of Warfare and use Fury to enhance their strength and abilities. Sorcerers and Wizards use arcane and elemental forces to unleash devastating magical attacks. Those that practice Faith, such as Priests, will often command the flow of battle and provide aide to their companions. Finally, the practitioners of Skullduggery consume Stardust in order to enhance their natural abilities and increase their reflexes – often waiting for the perfect moment to deliver a fatal strike.
All Heroes will fall into one of these disciplines which go hand in hand with your deckbuilding. Their individual abilities will encourage particular deck strategies that should work in synergy with the Bosses and Minions you choose to defend your dungeon. Crafting the perfect deck will take time and plenty of attempts at raiding other players’ dungeons, though. I love this aspect to the game. It’s what intrigues me the most, to be honest — the idea of setting up your own online dungeons for others to raid is a very rarely used mechanic, so I’m very excited about that one!
At the core of Labyrinth‘s gameplay is the strategic depth found in CCGs. The game has drawn upon the experience from one of the creators of Ascension and Solforge, the designer Justin Gary. So you can be assured that there will be plenty of focus on the CCG elements of the gameplay and that these card elements will be authentic to the genre’s roots.
I found the Pre-Alpha a little confusing at first as there were no instructions on how to play. I was left guessing what I needed to do and how to execute my moves. I am sure that there will be an adequate tutorial for the full release of the game, though. In any case, I was able to decipher that you can move and perform an action using one of your cards. Once your character is out of actions then play will automatically pass to the next Hero, Boss, or Minion in the turn order.
Gameplay is turn-based and uses ‘ticks’ for each of your attack, spell, and enchantment cards. When playing a card, you will then have to wait that many of card’s printed tick cost until your next move. It would be easier to think of it as a turn order, and the order changes dependent upon the actions taken. Powerful cards will almost always set you back more ticks than a weaker one, so play them with caution. Some cards, however, will also use an additional resource that is exclusive to the Hero using the card. The Warrior, for example, may use Fury to boost the power of some of his attack cards, which will result in the consumption of this resource and a much more powerful attack that deals massive damage.
You will want to be aware of the ticks you are committing to when you play a card. Long wait times will often result in that Hero falling to a Boss or Minion because they were unable to perform an action, such as moving, that would have saved their life. The right team composition is also very important when you consider the dungeon you’re attempting to raid for loot. Getting it wrong will result in certain failure!
The Bosses and Minions defending your dungeons work in a similar fashion and will have their own set of spells and abilities that will cause them to have to wait a set number of ticks until their next move. Bosses also come with their own uniquely-themed rooms that will pose even more danger for those unprepared adventurers.
The Pre-Alpha build looks and sounds relatively polished in the graphical and sound effects departments, respectively. The developers, however, were keen to let us know that the visuals are nowhere near indicative of the final release, which will be far superior to what we see here. There are many placeholder graphics for the card art and the special effects will be far more detailed than what they are now. There is no reason to expect anything less than phenomenal graphics, sounds, and gameplay when the game gets its final release, if this is what we have to go on so far!
Labyrinth is a hybrid like no other. Although it has core elements from the CCG and RPG genres, it offers players a much more rewarding experience. Playing as dungeon master is often exclusive to tabletop RPGs and is rarely seen in the digital gaming world. Mixing in CCG components for deckbuilding and strategic gameplay allows for you to be as creative as you wish.
During the Pre-Alpha, I was able to take a look at the deckbuilder. You can swap cards in and out of your deck by clicking on the card. The layout looks similar to many other popular CCGs and clearly draws inspiration from them. Before going into the editor, you can see at a glance the cards in the deck and a preview of the Hero who controls the deck. They will do some attack animation movements that give them a little more personality.
The decks controlled by Heroes are known as Offensive decks. These are the decks that you take into Raids against the PvE and PvP modes. Clearing a dungeon rewards you with experience and loot that can then be used in your Defensive deck. The Offensive deck will need to contain cards from your Heroes’ schools of magic and can contain neutral cards to bolster up the numbers, as well as allowing for some flexibility in the deckbuilding process. Spells, Attacks, and Enchantments are among the cards you can have your Heroes use while engaging in their favorite pastime of looting other players’ dungeons!
In the Pre-Alpha, I was only able to test the Raid environment where you face off against a Boss and their Minions. This mode can be quite difficult and so tailoring your team of Heroes and their decks to suit each of the dungeons is key to success.
The Defensive deck is much more interesting to me from a competitive standpoint. With this deck, you play the dungeon keeper and line your dungeon with Minions, Traps, and an epic Boss. Each Boss comes with their own unique dungeon that has its own perils for unsuspecting victims. You have complete freedom when creating your dungeon, so don’t be afraid to experiment with every aspect of the dungeon editor.
We’re told that defending your dungeon couldn’t be easier. The PvP mode is an asynchronous system that will allow you to protect your dungeon even when you’re not online. You can choose the order in which your cards are activated, giving you even more control than most other asynchronous online games.
Your dungeons will be fully customizable and the loot you gain from successful raids can be placed in your dungeon. Minions and Traps will be the main populace of your Defensive deck, with the Bosses being the ultimate challenge for unwary adventurers. Being able to play as both an adventurer and dungeon master is something that is completely new. Newer RPGs are only just starting to implement this in their game designs, but for a CCG that uses an RPG element, Labyrinth shows some real innovation in this field.
There will be an in-game store where you can buy a large variety of different items. The main purchase will be booster packs that contain additional cards for your Offensive and Defensive decks. Some other in-game items and exclusivities may end up being purchasable through the shop, but there is no definitive information on this yet.
Labyrinth is a bit like a classic Dungeons & Dragons PC game mixed with the strategic depth seen in CCGs to bring a completely unique gaming experience. There is plenty of support already out there for this game, from your casual gamer right through to professional Magic: The Gathering players. Their endorsement of this project should be enough to encourage you to think about checking it out.
The Pre-Alpha shows off some promising gameplay with its mix of RPG and CCG elements. I didn’t feel like I was experiencing one genre more so than the other. The overall blend between the two felt natural and inviting, except for the initial launch when I had no clue what I was doing! The graphics are amazing for a Pre-Alpha and are likely to only ever get more refined and impressive. If visuals alone draw you to a strategy card game, then this will be one title you should be keeping your eye on.
Labyrinth also has Justin Gary and Stone Blade Entertainment on board with the project, the guys who are responsible for Ascension, one of the most praised deckbuilder games available today. They are lending their years of expertise to ensure that the final product is an RPG of epic proportions, while keeping core CCG values and gameplay intact.
I’ve had my first filler of Ghouls, Fiery Demons, and Beast-like behemoths in the Pre-Alpha. The full version, when released, will contain so much more. I cannot wait to see what additional features the developers will be adding as the game develops. I’m so glad I was able to back this incredibly ambitious project, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the full release ahead!
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