I’ve known about Prismata for quite some time, since their original Kickstarter campaign — so of course I was eager to get my hands on the Alpha when it was announced. Prismata is a fast-paced quick-fire, tactical turn-based combat game drawing upon influences from traditional RTS (Real-Time Strategy) computer games such as Starcraft and the Command & Conquer series as much as it does strategy card games — and that’s just what we see on the surface.
The developers wanted to make an innovative new game that was fun to play whilst cutting the strings on expensive booster packs and overpriced content. I was incredibly pleased to hear this objective, especially as the gaming world is getting far more money-conscious than ever, demanding more and more free content from a game in order for it to stay competitive in the crowded card game market.
Prismata is certainly one of the most original games on the horizon, so you’d do well to pay attention… Read on to find out why.
Prismata doesn’t follow many of the rules set by other TCGs/CCGs. Instead it borrows from multiple game influences, including tabletop and RTS (Real-Time Strategy) games. This new concept is one that you will either love or hate, as it can take a while to ‘get’ what Prismata is and how best to play it. I’ll admit that it even took me a while to understand Prismata — but once I did, I fell in love with it.
What separates Prismata from other games is that it doesn’t feel the need to conform to strategy or TCG/CCG stereotypes. Instead what we get is a unique blend of innovative and inspiring gameplay. Although most matches will only last minutes, you feel incredibly satisfied whether you win or lose — but first, I should walk you through the gameplay mechanics before I lose myself in praise for the game!
The board is split into two halves, with your units on the bottom and the opponent’s on top. Any unit you construct will be placed in a designated zone that’s not visible. At the back are your resource-gathering constructs and units that auto-generate attack points each turn. In front of these are units that need to be selected for their actions to take effect. Among these units are the Gold-generating Drones and some attacking/defending units, while your front line will consist of blocking and Engineer units.
Both players are given access to a standardized deck consisting of the same 8 units and then a further 4-8 randomized units. The second number is determined during the game set-up and the game tries to balance out the unit types so that no player has a distinctive advantage. The basic units will all be displayed on the first tab of units and the other 4-8 are displayed on the next. Having different units each game will keep the entire strategy feeling fresh and new, forcing you to think on your feet and adapt to your given units rather than come into the match with a pre-determined strategy, avoiding the staleness that sometimes comes with constructed deck-based games.
The only advantage that any player may get is by going second. The second-turn player will have one extra Drone to work with than the first player. However, the first player will usually be able to build the first attacking unit if they desire. Funding your initial construction will be your starting Drones and Engineers. These provide Gold and Energy in order to create more Drones for more Gold. When you’re happy with the amount of Drones you’ve built, it’s time to move on to the other resource types.
Animus, Blastforge, and Conduit respectively are the constructs on the field that provide Red, Blue, and Green resources. Most of the attacking and defending units are built using one or more of these resources, along with some Gold as well. Walls use Blue, whilst Gauss Cannons use Green, and Rhinos use Red. Each color has its own unique play-style that you’ll need to tune into early on in order to play effectively, both using them and playing against them.
Other than the resources there is another really important game mechanic that you need to be aware of: time. In Prismata, each player is given a set length of time to complete their turn. Everything from building new units to selecting which units to attack will all need to be done within a short time limit. The time allowed for each turn can be varied, decided by the player hosting the game beforehand and cannot be altered mid-game.
All too often people can take what seems like a lifetime to make a simple move in many online or competitive card games. Prismata eliminates this and ensures that you never have to wait too long for your next turn. This will obviously lead you to changing your planned moves on the fly because your opponent did something random that you never expected.
In order to win a game, you need to destroy every last unit or construct your opponent controls. I find that once you have momentum on this it is hard for your opponent to stop you. Striking a fine balance between offence and defense will be the best course of action. Sitting too deeply on defense will eat up your defensive units too quickly, whereas attacking too soon with no defense could leave you open to a swift counter-offensive.
As Prismata is currently in Alpha a lot of the planned features aren’t yet live. We currently get the major bulk of the tutorial missions along with a decent number of single and multiplayer game modes. You can practice against the A.I. in some tutorial-type missions, or as a full one-on-one game with timers. Changing the difficulty will obviously pose more of a challenge, while also opening your eyes to some stronger strategies that you could always adopt for yourself.
Multiplayer is what this game has been built for and it will include a number of different modes for this. Casual and ranked matches are among these, and will probably see the most play when launched. Once you’ve scored some friends, you can play matches against them as often as you’d like to by inviting them to a match.
The Arena is a survival-type mode that will increase in prize payout the longer you manage to survive. This is a great way to test your reflexes and decision making to the absolute limit.
If you ever get bored of playing, there are live matches you can watch, and you can even jump into the game’s official, dedicated Twitch stream for more. When you want to spectate, the game is chosen at random and, just like playing a hard A.I. opponent, this is a great way to learn some quick tips and strategies.
Prismata aims to be entertaining no matter what you do. So with that in mind, the team behind it has added in a lot of customization. From adding googly eyes to your units or changing your entire HUD skin, there appears to be very little that can’t be changed. I am a sucker for being able to customize my experience, so I love these additions! Especially the googly eyes, as our eagle-eyed regular readers will know are a particular favorite of mine. 😉
Prismata is a running contender to be an amazing and groundbreaking game release in the near future. However, that all depends on how many people ‘get’ Prismata. I recall a number of people being dubious about Hearthstone when it was first released — now look at how successful it is. The game is trying to blend a lot of different genres into one game and appeal to the more hardcore strategists/tacticians among us. They’ve managed to do surprisingly well so far, with the game proving to be a huge hit with other Alpha testers.
Games that make you think quickly and commit to moves under pressure will always help train you in your decision making process outside of games too, I think. So this, in my opinion, will never be a bad game design feature and I am looking forward to the continued revolution in “short turn timers” that we’re seeing lately. It may just even develop skills that you’ll use in real life. Sure, you feel completely stressed and anxious while playing, but let that feeling melt into the wave of exhilaration that comes with victory, or even an interesting defeat. Prismata gives you that feeling in spades, if you’re keen on experiencing it.
Prismata challenges the old concepts of card and strategy game design — the developers have clearly said, “let’s do things differently”. Sometimes it takes a new and innovative game to change the way we think about games and set new standards. Perhaps this is the game we need to do this — perhaps not. I guess only time will tell. In the meantime, I’m having a blast with it. You should join me, pronto!Please enter the url to a YouTube video.