For anyone who’s into card-based roguelikes, finding a worthy successor to Slay The Spire is a challenge but in Mixed Realms’ Gordian Quest, we might just have found the game that comes closest to it.
Your first journey into Gordian Quest is going to be a rough ride, even if you’re a fan of card-based roguelikes. There’s a multitude of in-game systems to learn that can become extremely overwhelming for a casual player, much less a beginner. But once you go past that, Gordian Quest offers a deeply rewarding experience and will have you returning for more.
Combining the best of Dungeons & Dragons character stats, strategic unit placement ala Final Fantasy Tactics, and Slay The Spire deckbuilding in one package, Gordian Quest adds 10 different classes, with each possessing a unique set of mechanics such that each run feels fresh, providing plenty of replay value.
If you want to build your Mage into a direct damage dealer, debuffer, or aoe specialist, it can be done. However, it’s clear that some classes are really much better than others in terms of achieving synergy, and the result presents a crazy amount of permutations for players to crush the enemy.
However, synergy is important as you’d want your team of three to be force multipliers instead of simply dealing direct damage to the enemy. Oftentimes, the game throws you multiple waves of enemies requiring you to be positioned well on the battlefield, distributing damage, and dispatching enemies as quickly as possible.
As your heroes level up, players are constantly faced with having to choose between multi-upgrade paths. This is where all the various systems come into play. With every upgrade, players might be given an option to improve base stats, increase health, upgrading cards or drawing new abilities to add to your deck. It does become overwhelming because of the number of menus and the random nature of Gordian Quest.
Even as the skill tree option expands, there’s really little reason to branch out from your core specialization. In doing so, players might find themselves with a deck of abilities that are suboptimal, plus there’s a risk of not drawing the exact card you’d want to put into the deck.
At the start of each run, you might already have an idea of the archetypes you’re planning to build your squad around but more often than not, the most effective way to beat the game is to simply kill enemies before they’re able to make their move. Having high enough damage and initiative allows players to mow through the game with little difficulty. Even on higher difficulty levels, the best way to stay alive would be to avoid damage altogether by moving out of harm’s way. As Gordian Quest is mostly positional in nature, observing an enemy’s attack arc becomes a dance to mitigate damage while keeping up the pressure on enemies as well.
If that’s not enough, Gordian Quest adds equipment into the mix as well. Ranging from common to legendary variants, this is where the game can become really broken. The most powerful items that can be found allow players to combo their abilities to the point where the AI has not much chance to react. Interestingly, it seems that the game is pretty generous when handing out such goodies so much so that you might want to build your entire character around a legendary item. Imagine being able to cast an entire hand of cards to demolish the enemy rank when typically, players would have to carefully pick between two to three cards during each character’s turn due to limited action points.
Up to this point with so many systems to comprehend, Gordian Quest really encourages experimentation as much as possible especially when playing Story Mode. In most squad-based games, characters which are not brought out on the field don’t gain levels but in this game all your characters will gain experience points at the same pace.
This matters as death in this game can be permanent depending on difficulty settings. The game is gracious enough to ease players into customizing the game they’d like to play. So it does help if halfway through a run if players find that their squad doesn’t quite have the cutting edge, all it takes is a quick dip into the roster to find who might be the lynchpin and be the gamechanger to battles moving forward.
Once players are done with the regular story mode, there’s a more traditional roguelike mode as well. This means that before starting a run, lock in your team of three characters and embark on the adventure similar to Slay The Spire. It’s a bit of a lighter fare here and veterans of the deckbuilding roguelike genre will want to up the difficulty more right from the start. The same systems and mechanics take place as well with each hero leveling up, finding imbalanced weapons and raining down destruction on their foes. However, this is the area where cracks start to show for Gordian Quest.
The game tends to favor throwing hordes of enemies at players as opposed to adding a good variety of attacks that requires some level of brain power to tackle and avoid. What could have been much better which many deck builder roguelikes have not been able to successfully replicate would be to imagine enemies and bosses with interesting movesets which are iconic to the game.
With Gordian Quest, enemies tend to just have a large health pool which makes it a grind to wear down when you’ve hit the higher levels. From the undead, to humans, and goblins most of the enemies tend to simply be reskins of each other and lack anything unique about their move sets. Thankfully, the game’s overall art style is amazing and it’s a treat to unlock new skills to see what the animation looks like. There’s some level of effort put into each move to which you don’t really see in such games that much.
Overall, Gordian Quest might be the next jump that anyone who’s loved Slay The Spire to sink their teeth into. With a deep roster of characters to test drive and even crazier items to imbue these said heroes with more imbalanced powers, this game has plenty of depth for everyone to explore. While we would imagine that most will eventually default to a few core characters, the fun in the game is really the experimentation to unlock new combinations and see if you’re able to achieve higher damage numbers to crush the enemy.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
If you’ve been looking for a deckbuilder roguelike to fulfil the Slay The Spire itch, Gordian Quest gets very close to succeeding. However, it can get bogged down by the number of systems which don’t quite add the much needed depth to the game overall making it an exercise of repetition all the way to the end.
Gameplay - 7.9/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8/10
Gerald currently straddles between his love of video games and board gaming. There’s nothing that interests him more than trying out the newest and fanciest gadget in town as well. He dreams of publishing a board game sometime in the future!