Indie Quickie: Solitairica

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What is it and who made it? A turn-based solitaire battle RPG by Righteous Hammer Games.

What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? It’s out now on Steam (PC/Mac) for $11.99 with a 20% off launch discount. A release for iOS devices is planned for later in the year.

How much did we play? Completed the tutorial and attempted five runs in around three hours of total play time. My best run so far has been to the 11th of 18 battles.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? Yeah, the game has crashed on me a couple times already with a “fatal error” code but no other details about a possible cause. Fortunately, the game has an active auto-save that maintains progress even when resuming play after a crash. (You can also save and quit manually, FYI.)

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Why should you play it?

    Legends of Solitaire brought a grand fantasy role-playing sensibility to the classic game of solitaire, but mostly in an aesthetically way. Solitairica takes things a step further by utilizing the basic rules of matching playing cards–sequentially forward or backward–as the battle system for a roguelike RPG.

    The quest to defeat Emperor Stuck and save the land of Myriodd spans 18 hands of solitaire, each unfolding as a card battle against a Dirt Guppy, Bearded Gremlin, Man-Cat, Hug Bug, or some other oddball fiend of the emperor’s army. In battle, you are given a deck of playing cards, a health pool of hearts, and a selection of spells, while the enemy’s health is represented by the columns of cards on the playing field. Instead of traditional suits, the cards are categorized by four energy types (attack, defense, agility, and willpower), and for every match a point in the respective energy is added to your mana pool to accumulate towards the activation of spells, such as a shield bash that stuns the enemy for a couple turns, stab and cleave attacks that chop away selected cards, health restoration, and the ability to reveal face-down cards or the next card draw in the deck. After you match a card or complete an extended combo sequence and end your turn, the enemy draws a card to attack your health pool, drain an energy supply, or inflict some other type of status ailment on random cards like poison (damages you for one heart for every turn it is in play), thorns (deals a point of damage when matched), or dazzle (card randomly changes face value every turn). The game does a great job of capturing the essence of a turn-based RPG battle using playing cards.

    Progression through the game is handled like a traditional roguelike, with randomized enemies and upgrade options, as well as permadeath. Gold coins are earned as a bounty reward for defeating a creature in solitaire combat, and in between duels this currency can be spent at the shop on new and more powerful gear and spells. At any given time, your loadout can consist of four passive stat-boost items (increase heart pool, provide bonus starting energy supply, boosted defense, etc) and up to six spells. Naturally, the shop becomes stocked with more powerful items the farther you progress–more powerful items that also cost more gold and require more energy to activate. Upon dying a painful permadeath, all coins, upgrades, and overall battle progression are lost; however, a persistent form of currency called Wildstone is awarded at the end of each run based on the number of battles successfully completed. This Wildstone can then be used to purchase new class decks–there are decks with uniquely tailored class spells for Warrior, Wizard, Paladin, Rogue, Monk, and Bard–or upgrade existing decks to bolster your chances for the next attempted playthrough. In other words, Wildstone is the carrot on the end of the stick.

    Solitairica‘s battles are also infused with a cute sense of humor through its quirky creature designs, cartoonish artwork, and weird creature dialogue that I can best describe as Simlish-style gibberish spoken with a South Park accent. It may come as a shock to learn that the game is powered by Unreal Engine 4 tech (perhaps that’s overkill for a card game?), but the UI and card animations add some needed pizazz to the battles and overall presentation. The production values are definitely a cut above the usual solitaire casual game.

Parting Thoughts: In the context of a rougelike, the random nature of solitaire is perhaps a little more frustrating than normal. For example, on my longest run so far I only died due to a bad run of cards. I had the enemy down to only a few cards left on the board, but even after managing to stun the enemy with shield bashes to buy myself an extra six turns, I literally went 10 or so draws in a row without a single useful card before finally getting my foe down to its last card only to then perish. That type of RNG can be annoying, but is to be expected when you combine luck of the draw with the mechanics of an RPG. Yet and still, Solitairica has the addictive (some might say masochistic) roguelike hook that provides enough of a persistent reward loop to keep you playing just one more hand. And just one more hand. And just one more hand after that.

What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

Disclosure: A Steam code for Solitairica was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!