Impressions: Gordian Quest

Ever wonder what would happen if designers just added all the things to a game? Wonder no more.

Gordian Quest is a sorta-roguelike tactical turn-based deck-building card game, with a full story campaign along with the more “traditional” roguelike modes. You control up to three characters with their own individual themed decks and battle enemies on a grid. Characters can also equip items that boost their stats or even add special cards into their decks. Those stats are important for the scaling of cards and also because there are D&D-esque skill checks occasionally. Also also, characters gain XP and level up, allowing them to place talent points on a customizable, randomized grid and expand in multiple directions. Have I mentioned there are 10 characters to choose from and each character has three distinct themes of cards that can be mixed and matched? And that items have rarity levels and randomized stats, with Legendary versions possibly opening new synergies? Oh, and items have rune slots too, which can be slotted with additional stats or special effects?

Like I said, the designers really went nuts with this one.

In reality, the game is mostly more coherent than I am implying. If you played Banners of Ruin, this game is basically that with some D&D and Card Hunter and FFX Sphere-Grid sprinkled in. Nothing stands out as being completely unnecessary while you’re playing, but just thinking about it now… goddamn is there a lot.

Is it fun? Yes. For a while.

Unfortunately, I basically broke the game before I finished Act 1 (of 4). Two of my characters are an archer and a rogue, with either one of them being capable of solo-murdering the entire enemy team on the first turn. If for some reason there is a straggler, the other one mops up. My third dude never actually gets to play cards at all, but if he did, he also is fairly stacked in the murder department. I had hoped that perhaps things would change once I hit Act 2 – maybe enemies would have a bunch more HP or have more Initiative to go first – but thus far that has not been the case. The only time enemies even get a turn is when they are bosses with literally 10-20x as many HP as normal, and even then they only ever get that one turn before getting melted.

The double-unfortunate thing is that breaking the game in this way was not particularly difficult. Part of that is undoubtedly due to my overall experience with deck-building games wherein winning strategies are roughly the same: prioritize increasing your per-turn draw, and keeping as few cards in your deck as possible. The other part though largely stems from what I imagine was a designer attempt at keeping things “balanced.” For example, the available talents are… boring. Even the ones all the way at the bottom of the tree. So I basically ignore all the Tier 3 talents and just pick the ones that grant +1 draw per turn and similar.

This “balance” extends to the three themes per character as well. My archer has Sharpshooter, Trapper, and Sentry schools of cards. Sharpshooter is all about damage. Trapper is about setting traps on enemy cells and cards that move enemies around (thereby forcing traps to trigger). Sentry is about setting up turrets on your side of the battlefield, boosting said turrets, and then letting them damage the enemy. You would be forgiven for assuming that Trapper and Sentry cards deal more overall damage, considering that that would make sense given the fact that they require setup. But… that’s not the case. Sharpshooter cards deal the same or more damage with no setup. And since 99% of the Trapper and Sentry cards are useless by themselves, you engineer your way to only choosing Sharpshooter cards when offered a choice, thereby increasing the average power level of your damage cards in a runaway feedback loop.

There is a bard character that is all about building up melody combos and essentially buffing the entire party so that they don’t need to worry about defense on their own turns. There is a warlock character that focuses on Bleed effects and debuffs. There is a golemancer that presumably mances golems. I haven’t even bothered trying those characters out because what’s the point? They would never get a turn. There are so many buffs, debuffs, tactical decisions, etc, that are entirely irrelevant in ways it seems impossible to make relevant without massive nerfs and a complete overhaul.

Sigh. Could this be solved by just avoiding the Archer and Rogue? Sorta. Although the Warrior and Cleric characters also have some gnarly damage cards/combos too. Could all this be addressed in a future patch? Maybe. If this was still Early Access, I would not be as concerned. Given that this is a full 1.0 release though, something tells me that they aren’t going to radically alter the way the card schools are entirely set up. And it is not as though higher difficulties can “solve” the issue either – cranking enemy HP higher and player damage lower is only going to make the currently non-viable (in comparison) strategies even more non-viable.

I suppose I will see if anything changes between now and the final boss. Assuming that I bring myself to slog through the rest of the game, like a Conquest victory in Civilization that was a forgone conclusion fifty turns ago.

Up until this point? Pretty fun though.

Posted on July 8, 2022, in Impressions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Impressions: Gordian Quest.

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