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I am not typically a fan of rogue-like titles. You need to have this tactical mind to overcome challenges, and I am simply not that smart. I lack the intellect needed to win at board games like Scythe and Risk, but I do have the wisdom to know exactly when to flip the table over. This is where Big Blue Bubble’s Power Chord comes in, a game that helps me feel smart while also ensuring the table is secured to the concrete floor.
Power Chord is a deck building rogue-like game that pits your band against a bunch of demons that were supposed to be banished back to where they came from, but they weren’t. Now it is up to you to fix that issue. Big Blue Bubble managed to mix elements of what makes heavy metal great with a gameplay style that hits all the right notes.
If you have never played a deck-building game before, allow me to tell exactly how fun they are. You draw cards and add a bunch of effects together to burn enemies faster than Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osborne in their tour bus. Power Chord does it all, allowing you to stack cards and create devastating combos as long as you can pay the energy cost since every card you play has a value.
The cards are split into different colors and types, which adds a technical and tactical element to the game. You have four band members split up into different archetypes: the drummer adds defense, singer is a support character, the bass player throws status effects at your foes, and the guitarist is your main damage dealer. Each band member can be swapped out once you have played the game for a while and unlocked other characters. Each run starts with you forming your band and going about the traditional world map that every rogue-like game happens to employ.
Similar to those games, you’ll have regular battles, epic battles, shops, treasure, recovery points, and random encounters. You have different paths that you can take with varying results. Depending on your routing, you could have a really easy time or an incredibly difficult one. There is no way to really tell which one is right, but it does give you plenty of options depending on how you feel while you play. I can’t really say much about this design as it falls into the “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it” category, which is fine for titles like this. Adding the random encounter and tying it into this unique universe is what makes this element special and unique. If it was boring and lacking the fantastic artwork or hilarious inspiration, then it would be a different story. Alas, Power Chord is able to properly apply this heavy metal aesthetic with genuine poise.
While the main characters look great, I have to also make mention of the enemy design which is equally important. Every foe has a resemblance to the same party consistency as your band, but different. At a mere glance, you can tell exactly what you are up against by their design. You see two drummers, and you know that this enemy band is a bit overzealous in their percussion skills, but you also know that this is going to be a defense-heavy battle right at the start.
Power Chord is filled with variety, from top to bottom. From the very cards you pick up, to the venues, to the enemies you fight. Circumstances change as you play the perfect hand. In one instance, the beauty of the game’s mechanics shined when I was at a boss and down three out of four band members. If it wasn’t for one powerful move, my support singer would have bested the enemy. This type of synergy between cards and items you pick up during your adventure will produce results that make every single run different. As stated before, the more you play and complete challenges, the more cards you will unlock in the world map.
This is what keeps Power Chord compelling enough to play repeatedly. You are always finding something new, whether it be a special item, card, or even band member. Perhaps the only downside to the game is the steep learning curve and some enemy compositions being difficult to overcome if you didn’t plan ahead, but the more you play, the more you learn. You’ll figure out how to properly counter enemy attacks with strong defensive buffs, and you’ll learn when to do the side-quest or when to leave it. You begin to view the world map pathing and gauge what you need to defeat the next boss. Much like playing an instrument, Power Chord is all about learning, adapting, and creating beautiful music to the beat of slaying demons.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Fun Factor: 9
Technical Prowess: 8
Time Investment: 10 Hours+
Note: I played Power Chord entirely on the Valve Steam Deck and there were absolutely no issues when playing.