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Impressions: Sigil of the Magi

Sigil of the Magi is a deck-building roguelike ala Slay the Spire with some Into the Breach vibes. It is currently in Early Access, and I was given an early peak by way of a review copy.

The Slay the Spire influences are front and center with the types of cards available, the pathways, and especially the shops. Basically, if you are at all familiar with Slay the Spire, chances are good that you will immediately recognize which cards are going to be good, which ones are noob traps, and what “relics” are going to pull their weight through a run.

That said, Sigil of the Magi does have a number of other interesting things going on.

First, you actually control a party of three separate characters, each with their own cards and card pools. Second, you literally control them in that you can move them around a very small map. While the UI needs some iteration to make things more clear, you can currently see what actions enemy units will take, and their attack preferences. That is where the Into the Breach vibes come in: if an enemy is set on attacking someone but you move all your characters out of range, the enemy will close the distance but then do nothing. Unfortunately, this sort of turn manipulation only goes so far, as enemies will settle for their 2nd or 3rd choice targets if they are within reach instead. Additionally, many of the enemies in the game have some sort of scaling mechanism that makes delay tactics unwise.

The third feature is what really sets Sigil of the Magi apart though: the Tray. This is a four-slot area under the map where you can pre-cast any card in hand for use in future turns. At first, this really just feels like a consolation prize for not being able to do much in the first turn of battle, before many of the enemies are within range. And since you only get 3 energy to play cards (at first), you typically don’t have anything left over to store for future turns once the melee is joined.

That said, the Tray becomes very interesting once you hit 4 energy and start getting cards that interact with it. For example, there is a card that give +4 Armor twice, but gets +1 Armor each time it is stored. Or maybe you get some discard synergies going, but don’t have a payoff card in hand, so you just bank the enabler. The cards in the Tray also are no longer in your deck when it is shuffled, so sometimes it might be worth keeping the generic damage cards in there to keep them out of your hand.

Is Sigil of the Magi good? Right now… kinda, sorta. The tough thing about Early Access for deck-building games is how so much hinges on card/enemy/relic balance, which can change at any time all the way past post-release. For example, right now, you have to choose a card after each combat encounter. This is literally the first deck-builder I have played that didn’t allow you to skip a card choice, and having to slot in whatever the least-bad, anti-synergy card you get offered feels like a punishment for winning battles. Is this an intentional design, like a sort of auto-difficulty balancing mechanism? I hope not. Conversely, abusing Taunt cards to force the end boss to skip all his mechanics and uselessly attack a very armored Knight was a lot of fun. Probably a bit imbalanced, but fun.

Overall, this is one game that I will keep an eye on as it makes its way through Early Access. The bones are good, and they definitely have things set up to allow for a lot of balancing methods. There are only two parties available at the moment, for example, but I can easily imagine varied combinations or even a sort of random mixing to add flavor to future runs. Plus, I really like the Tray conceptually.

We shall see how the balance goes though.