We don’t talk about Early Access games very often, and that’s largely by choice; there have been enough pre-release games that just never made it to a finished state that it’s usually best to avoid the risk. Still, sometimes there’s just enough polish and just enough gameplay on offer that if an Early Access game was never updated again, it’d make for a worthwhile purchase regardless.
That’s the situation we’re in with Quinterra, a card game/roguelite/strategy game hybrid that does a little bit of everything and manages to mostly do so without tripping over itself.
The gameplay is reminiscent of a cross between FTL: Faster Than Light, Heroes of Might and Magic and Slay the Spire. Something like that, anyway. Proceed from node to node, coming across shops, goodies and combat, then engage in some butt-kicking should the latter come up while hopefully avoiding permadeath and being forced to start over. Maybe one of every two games that shows up these days is a roguelite, so you’re probably familiar with the basics.
What’s less basic is how combat actually plays out. You’ll battle using a customizable deck consisting of Minions, Elites and Structures, placing them on a hex-based grid. You can pay for your cards by consuming elements obtained by drafting map tiles and a regenerating pool of command points and mana. There’s a ton of strategy going on here, ranging from establishing synergy between your own units to using that map-harvesting mechanic to shift things up to your advantage. What’s more, you can customize your deck by attaching crystals and equipment to cards and by digging around in a talent tree.
So much is going on, in fact, that the game can be a little confusing. Deck-building games already have a fair amount of complexity, but this game throws map awareness, positioning and a driving urge to get things done quickly (in order to save morale, essentially your health) into the mix as well. You need to control chunks of the map to gain victory points, pay attention to the elements you’re going to use so you don’t accidentally draft the wrong color and find yourself unable to summon your heavy hitters, place your structures in well-defended positions but not too far away so they can still have an effect on the battle…it’s a lot.
With four different species to mix together to build your ideal deck, there’s plenty to consider and a lot of ways to experiment and find your own preferred playstyle. There’s even unlockable starter decks to freshen up the early game. I found myself especially fond of the Imps and their well-rounded spellcasting abilities, though the game does make a smart move by offering the more simple Lycan deck as an initial choice for beginners. Units from other species show up in shops and rewards as you progress, so it’s possible to mix and match.
That said, Quinterra’s still in Early Access and suffers a bit for it. There’s a reasonably useful tutorial, and while it’s interactive and offers a more hands-on approach to learning the basics of mana, element drafting, equipping crystals and summoning Elites, there could definitely be a little more work put into making all of the game’s interlocking systems immediately understandable. Likewise, card art tends to vary wildly in quality, not to mention that the game feels a little on the easy side once you learn how to use the more effective card mechanics and get your deck to synergize.
The complexity featured here might seem overwhelming, but after a few hours things become a little more clear which cards and effects rule the roost, and clears are very possible once you’re able to prioritize in this way. We can hope all of this sees a pass as development continues.
Without being able to say whether or not this one’s going to be a heavy hitter when it’s fully released, it’s easy to see that Quinterra‘s reasonable asking price is more than worthwhile for what you’re getting. That’s not the kind of thing we’ll usually just throw out there when it comes to Early Access titles, but there you go. The combination of tactical RPG, card game and roguelite ends up making for an addictive experience, particularly when you’re striving to clear the game and unlock those starter decks. While we can certainly hope for more polish, Quinterra’s definitely off to a great start.