Deadpan Games and Chucklefish deliver an excellent card-based rouge-like.

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I'm not that good at virtual card games, as I might be the worst loser in this country. A game like Heartstone can really get me into the red zone, mostly when I'm playing against other people. I mostly try to avoid the genre. Therefore, it came as a bit of a surprise to get Wildfrost for review, but I pulled up my big boy pants and gave the game a shot, and here are my thoughts on the new card game from Deadpan Games, which will be released shortly. Surprise, by the way.

Wildfrost doesn't really have a story, as such. There are different factions with their own maps, each with a short introduction, but other than these little stories, there isn't much to tell about the narrative. Most of the game is experienced through gameplay, in its purest form, and that will probably please those who think mechanics matter more than... well, narrative context.

Wildfrost is a card game where you have to fight against an opponent who has their own unique cards with special abilities. At the bottom of the card there is counter for the rounds. When this counter reaches zero, your card attacks the opponent's card on the opposite side of the table. Yes, you don't necessarily decide what to attack and when, but surrendering that control means that the game gets an extra cool strategic dimension, as you constantly have to think several rounds ahead, and thereby always have a strategy ready, as things change with each and every round. Each card has a heart on the left side, which is the card's health, and a sword on the right side, which indicates its damage. The overall aim is to protect your hero, which you choose at the beginning of a game out of a few options. Therefore, you have to constantly protect and look after your hero, but they're the one who has the most effective abilities, so you have to balance defence and attack very carefully. This took me quite a while to catch on, but along the way, it all started to make more and more sense to me. Now I love it, because it requires you to take your time, form an overview, and plan your strategy based on the defense you have built around your hero. At the beginning I didn't know I had to think that far ahead, so when the rounds went by, my hero was often just run over by the opponent's cards. I got better and better though, and when I felt I had finally captured the point of Wildfrost, it became incredibly satisfying.

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Your hero is not alone on the field, as after the first match you gain access to new maps, where you find frozen heroes as you are moving on. These, like your main hero, have a lot of exciting abilities, and are there to protect your hero. So you have to put these other heroes into the field, which is split up the middle, so that there can be three cards horizontally both at the top and at the bottom of the field. Those who stand first are the ones who are attacked primarily, and in that way you can protect your main units by placing them at the back of the line. Thereby, only the leading heroes take the beating. It's cool that you constantly have to balance the abilities of these heroes, both offensively and defensively. In your hand you get seven cards, which can be played as you wish. These range from direct attack cards, to cards that reduce how many turns it takes before your hero attacks. The cool thing about this is that you can draw cards as often as you want, then if you are not satisfied, you just draw seven new cards. The only downside to this is that it takes one round, so you have to be careful how you use it.

Wildfrost is a so-called roguelike, so the game is random every time you play. However, the cards are the same, and come with the same abilities, but the way you play, your opponents, and the benefits you get to help you are random each time. The best way to describe it is that you see a map between matches that has one of two paths you can choose. Depending on your choice you get specific upgrades. There are treasure chests, necklaces that you can put on one of your heroes of your choice, which gives them a new ability. As I said, there are also frozen heroes that can be used in the next battle you encounter on the map. Moreover, there is a snail shell that gives gold that you can use in shops, which also have everything from upgrades to necklaces. It's all randomly generated, and so are the enemies you meet, so it's classic roguelike. This means both that it is a lot easier to see the missing story, but it also provides sublime replay value. The more you fight, the more you unlock, so even if things don't go so well, progress is constantly made, which makes you get better and better, and then you just get better at the mechanics in general by playing again and again.

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There are many hours of entertainment in Wildfrost, because there is an addictive progression that just makes you take one more run through. Every third battle you encounter on the map is a boss battle where an ultra-strong enemy must be defeated. These are challenging to defeat as they can take a lot of beating before going down. There are even some that after being defeated respawn with double health, but they don't do that much damage. If you succeed in defeating this mega-boss, you get the opportunity to choose one of three advantages that apply going forward, such as having more heroes than the three you must have on hand from the start, or you can draw a hero new card. You get the idea by now, the variations are pretty much endless.

It's a super cool progression system, and Wildfrost is hard to put down once you get started. I played Wildfrost on my Steam Deck and here it feels perfect. I also think it will be when played on the Nintendo Switch, and I could also imagine it would be cool on mobile devices, as the battles are fast and intense, so it's a game you can easily play on the go, while the time just disappear.

If I have to write something negative, it would be that the game is not that good at teaching the player its mechanics. Many hours after I first started the game, things still happened in the game that I didn't fully understand, which was annoying. The game is also very minimalistic, and it takes up only a few hundred megabytes, so the graphics and sound are quite primitive, there also aren't videos or dialogue that explain the mechanics of the game, unfortunately. It could have been better.

However, Wildfrost is refreshingly well made and innovative, and quite addictive, so if you like a card game that never gets monotonous, then Wildfrost is just the thing for you. I think it is excellent entertainment.

09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
Brilliant mechanics, loads of content to unlock, great replay value, easy to learn and hard to master.
A slightly weak tutorial gives a bad first impression.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Claus Larsen

Deadpan Games and Chucklefish deliver an excellent card-based rouge-like.

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