The Roguelite Deckbuilder: it’s a trendy genre of games that has exploded in popularity since the release of Slay the Spire in 2017. While Slay the Spire wasn’t the first game of it’s type, it’s certainly been the most popular and has spawned a lot of new games following the same formula. I am a huge fan of this type of game; the combination of replayability, randomness, and finding that amazing synergy to finish a run makes for short bursts of amazing gameplay.
Whenever a game is successful, other games will always try to piggy back off the success. Largely, these games will copy the majority of the mechanics and try to introduce something that makes them unique. The success of these “clone” games is highly dependent on walking that line between the new mechanics and keeping the formula close enough to what works.
Breach Wanderers is in development from Baronnerie Games and is available as a free download on Android and iOS, currently listed at $14.99 on Steam early access. I stumbled across the game as an iOS app store recommendation, and I was immediately drawn to it from the screenshots, especially because it was a free download to try. Upon opening the game for the first time, I was welcomed with a status screen that discusses the early access notes and what the latest patch notes were. They also have a development roadmap which leads up to the game’s expected release in Fall, 2022. As of writing this article, they have completed two phases, and the current “Aether Storm” phase (listed as a Spring 2022 update) is well underway. Each phase looks to add some combination of character classes, items, or new areas. As of posting this article, there have been two parts of the Aether Storm update posted, so the game now has it’s weather system and a new area added.
Only one of the eight characters will be selectable from the beginning, while the other seven characters can be purchased using in-game currency that can be earned either from playing, or purchased with real money. Fans of the genre will immediately feel at home when the game starts. The map view is set up the same way as Slay the Spire, with the option to pick your starting node, and the rest of the level is spread out in a branching, tree-like pattern. Each stage has an icon on the map to identify the type of encounter. One unique feature is that you can see the exact enemies you will face, so once you learn what they are, you have the ability to plan your route. One feature that makes Breach Wanderers feel truly unique is the ability to edit your starting deck with whatever unlocked cards you have. This is handled a lot like Hearthstone’s deck construction, and you need to find a balance between attack, defense, and support. I do enjoy this mechanic a lot, so the beginning of each game can be more interesting, allowing you to quickly have a themed focus for your deck.
In combat there are A LOT of mechanics to consider. There’s only so much that can be done with cards that have attack, defense, buffs, and debuffs, but Breach Wanderers does add a few unique elements. There’s a variety of status effects (frost, shock, arcane, etc.) that build up, and when you reach a certain threshold, it will apply a strong debuff or do damage. When the frost bar is filled up, the target will become frozen and unable to act during their next turn. What’s nice about these status effects is that the bar takes longer to fill each time, so you cannot just spam certain elements over and over. These elemental bars affect both the player and the enemies as well, and, as expected, there are ways to reduce the bars, preventing the effects from happening. Blocking is slightly different in this game as well. Your character has a blocking threshold, and, at the end of the enemy turn, your block is reset to this threshold if it’s higher. If it’s lower, however, it will carry over to the next turn. Mana is handled in a similar fashion, with a cap that you can exceed, but unused excess will be lost. During the game you can play cards that change both your mana per turn and the max threshold you have.
At the end of each battle, you will choose from a group of rewards. Again, this will feel very familiar to fans of the genre, but there are a few tweaks here as well. Card rewards will contain 2 cards for your chosen character, along with 1 card that’s unique to the monsters that were just defeated. This mechanic makes it possible to expand your deck in order to get away from a singular damage type or to create new synergies. Also slightly different is the collection of relics – after each fight you will earn energy, and collecting 100 energy will allow you to pick a relic that provides a passive effect.
This game should definitely be on your radar if you’re a fan of Slay the Spire or other roguelite deckbuilding games. It’s free to play on mobile, so there’s minimal cost to check it out. I will definitely be following this game throughout it’s early access stage, and I plan on doing a full review when version 1.0 is released. Though this game is in early access, I am highly recommending it as it has the potential to sit among the great games in a genre that is very trendy and inundated in new releases.