What does a roguelike game have in common with building fictional cities and deckbuilding games? The feeling of things going hilariously wrong, that's what. But while city-builders usually give you every tool possible to clean up your mistakes, These Doomed Isles asks you to roll with it. You only have a limited selection of cards, pigeonholing you into suboptimal fixes. This made surviving a far more rewarding affair simply because of the constraints you had to overcome.
It's been exciting to see the roguelike genre ripple through video games. I used to be terribly afraid of games that asked me to lose (and learn) early. But with time, I've warmed up to the "one more round" loop, especially with upgrades and power-ups. These Doomed Isles starts off like a regular city-builder, with resource management and optimal building placement. This is quickly subverted by the game's card system. From Tetris-esque resource placement to expansion and defenses, there are a lot of responsibilities to keep in mind.
The game's objective is simple: clear three city win conditions, beat the final boss, then start over or keep going. Every four turns triggered a new year, letting you add new cards to your deck by forking over some coins. As an omnipresent deity, your cards are powered by both resources and faith. The latter is earned by placing homes near your Shrine, your settlement's focal point, and the spot that enemies will usually target.
Being able to pick from one of three gods, each with a few unique cards and unique enemies, is a neat way to freshen things up. Just don't expect them to radically change how you play. Early expansion quickly became my focus as connecting land tiles to unclaimed isles triggered events that could grant me bonus resources or perks. Adding resources to a Tetris-like grid and then dropping in gatherer buildings made me feel like I was in charge. That's when the raid hit. Fortunately, I had a tower card. On higher difficulties, you'll have to keep potential attack spots well-defended.
These Doomed Isles features an ascension system that lets you set its difficulty parameters. The bosses that greet you at the end can take several turns to vanquish, meaning that you should keep your resource chains rolling at all times. Lose a valuable building and you'll be forced to re-evaluate your cards to survive. This is where the game's randomized cards test your grit. There's a character who randomly appears to buy cards from you. Right before a major fight, I sold off nearly every card save for the offensive ones like meteor strikes, towers, and troops.
When the boss moved in, I fell into a rhythmic pattern of attacking, shuffling my deck, then attacking once more. While this worked on the easier difficulties, I'd expect things to be more harrowing against tougher waves of foes. It's a fun concept that promises replayability thanks to unique cards and new gods that will eventually join the fray.
If you're a fan of either genre on offer here, These Doomed Isles is worth a look when it comes to Steam Early Access on 25th September. Expect more updates and new gods to play throughout that time as Fireshine Games continues to tweak the game leading up to full release.
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