35 people found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 11.2 hrs on record
Posted: Jun 21, 2019 @ 5:04pm
Updated: Jun 21, 2019 @ 5:21pm
Product received for free

Early Access Review
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Deck Hunter is an Early Access card-battle roguelite adventure that currently shows a lot of promise, with an active solo developer. It has remarkable visual appearances, but the gameplay is rather unbalanced. So the short version is that you should probably wait for a bit more in terms of development before diving in. After all, the EA pricepoint is rather high and most people want a finished product at that price.

I am playing on Early Access build DH_EA_CU03 and while I am starting to have a better time with the game after the 8 hour mark, the continuous need for grind as I play really made me want to stop after the first hour or so. I am glad I pushed on, since I am finally starting to have some fun.

Currently there is 1 playable zone, out of the planned 8, according to the world map. In the first zone, The Forest, there are four "floors" and a boss at the end of each one. 15 steps separate you from the boss on each floor, in an always same sequence of Plant, Spider, Ent, and Wild Pig, with progressive increase in difficulty.

As you use the cards, most of them will level up. Using the cards in proper A + B sequential permutations also yield additional "Combo" effects, some good, some bad. You just have to play to find out what they are. There are issues currently with upgraded cards not having Combo effects with basic cards of the same type, making what should be a stronger set of mixed cards weaker. Some common three-or-more card Combos should also be considered for additional bonuses.

By the way, I really think the game should have a glossary/book of combinations available, maybe grayed-out until after you successfully perform each one. As it stands, I recommend a old-school pencil-notebook adjunct or a new-age spreadsheet to keep track. The ones you see often are fully etched upon the mind after a couple of runs, but some rare ones, and there are a lot, are difficult to remember at critical times.

That Grind
Let's talk a little about the game's grind. It's a roguelite, so there's meta progression. There is one playable character, Avery. She has a set of craftable equipment called the Forest Set, so I imagine (and hope) there will be more equipment for future zones as well. These items are permanent upgrades and can be toggled on and off as you wish. You get very little crafting materials from chests and mostly from beating bosses. So don't be surprised if you have to grind for a long time before being able to craft your first piece.

Another aspect of the grind is the experience collection and leveling up. You don't have more HP, and you don't hit harder with increasing levels. So why is it important? Leveling up unlocks cards that will be available to you in future runs. This is part of the meta progression in that the levels and exp are preserved after you complete a run or die. Everything you do will count toward gaining exp. The first couple of of levels do not take too long, but after that, it takes forever to level up again. I see in the screenshots on the store page that there's a level 10 character, so I know at at least you can get there. But the exponential experience requirement per level makes me shudder to think how long it will take to get there. I hope it will just end up being future zones/levels that will give higher exp to not make it a super annoying grind.

Those two thing mentioned above I can get behind, you can consider them beginning of game grinds. However, as this is a roguelite, the game sets you up with the exact same set of cards to start each run, and the variations happen after that. The problem is this starting set of cards, they are very basic and they take along time to level up. To be honest, in my most successful runs, I basically sat there for 15-20 minutes and repeatedly defended to level up my defense cards, waited until the enemies had shields and hit them with my attacks. Why? This game me the proper Combo bonuses in order to carry me into the "late" game. (Late is in quotation marks because it's just the latter half of this single zone available.) I have trouble buying into a necessary beginning of run grind that lasts so long to ensure success.

After the initial leveling up grind and crafting a couple of pieces of gear (which took me about 5-6 hours), and after a successful start-of-run grind, I can finally have some fun. So this is why I said at first that people looking right now should probably wait before getting into the game.

Controls
Mouse only works pretty well.

Graphics
Really nice overall graphics. A lot of cards are still missing artwork.

Music
Jovial, not outstanding. Game actually starts with both music and sound effect sliders all of the way down. You can turn them up if you wish.

Audience
Those of you who don't mind a heavy grind + lots of deaths. Do not try to compare this game to Slay the Spire as there are significant and fundamental mechanical differences.

Pricing
A little high for this early in Early Access. Only 1 zone available out of 8, lots of areas that need improvement. Starting price at 14.99 USD/12.49 Euro is a bit steep.

Areas I Wish To See Improved/Bugs Noticed
1. The grind that I find necessary for a successful run each time is too time-consuming.
2. Upgraded cards need to combo properly with basic cards. What is there doesn't always make sense.
3. Card deck needs sorting function when being viewed. It looks unruly when I am trying to count how many Wound cards but can't because they are all over the place.
4. Wells lets you remove 1-3 cards, needs skipping function.
5. Status effects placed on player by enemies do not last enough time on screen if they only last a single turn with one counter, because it goes away at the beginning of your turn.
6. Need log of events from the encounter to see what went on during the enemies' turns.
7. There is one enemy (maybe just the simple skeleton) whose Reevaluate function makes your cards all cost 5 energy. Can happen in the 2nd or 3rd room on the very first floor. Absurd!
8. AI is not too interesting, but when they do string together a combo, they hurt too much. Can completely ruin a run.
9. Question-Mark events is a wheel-of-fortune that seems to give more negative than positive outcomes (for me anyway).
10. Beast/Creature categories are strange. A spider is a creature in the first floor, but is a beast in the second (at least they are readily displayed, appreciated).
11. Third boss gives way too many wound cards, I usually end up with 9 per fight, and feel crippled through most of the fourth floor.
12. Only options accessible from in-run is the Music and Sound Effect sliders. Rest available in main menu. Why?
13. Alchemy (I have not done it very much) seems to remove the rest of the hand when two cards are combined into one. The rest of the cards should still be available. This leads to early end-of-turn.
14. Defense/Random Effect/AOE cards are played by dragging onto the screen, whereas targeted Attack/Effect cards are dragged onto the specific enemy. The hitbox for individual enemies vary, and some are really small, especially when depth effect is turned on. This could be adjusted for better QoL.
15. More enemy variety would be welcome.

Conclusion
Deck Hunter needs work, but is showing a lot of promise. I am having fun, but felt like the first few hours were wasted. I will be following it out of Early Access. Current price is a bit high, hopefully the final product will warrant it. For now, wait for sale or more development.

I received the product for free. I did not receive any compensation to write this review. The opinions represented here are entirely my own and were not influenced in any way.
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3 Comments
That Wun Wabbit Jul 4, 2019 @ 8:02pm 
😊👍
YQMaoski Jun 22, 2019 @ 6:56am 
Thank you very much. The store page does say that the price will go up with more development. I hope not too much though. It would be a lot of hours for sure if properly balanced, if the zones are all developed and unique, with similar amounts of challenge and additional time as the first zone.
janner66 Jun 22, 2019 @ 3:09am 
Good review. I wonder if the price will go up further as development continues? There will be a lot of hours in this game if there are 8 zones.