When it comes to deck-building games, I have a long history. I have been playing deck-building games since 1993 when a man named Richard Garfield and Wizards of the Coast released a game called Magic the Gathering. I have dabbled in every deck-building game that has come out since from time to time and for the most part, I have enjoyed my experiences. When I heard that Awaken Realms Digital was releasing a different version of their deck-building game Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon, I was excited. I have spent time playing this deck-building board game and wanted to know what the difference would be.
Tainted Grail: Conquest is where the king sends your character, along with a group of others, away from England to a mysterious island. This new land is overrun with an evil that is called The Wyrdness. It swallows you and everyone else that has made its way to the island. Then from what I can tell, a Saytr or goat-like being rescues the player from the void and tells them that they’re essentially the “chosen one” that can save everyone. Immediately you are tossed into a battle to get your first taste of the combat, which is designed to make you lose. Then the real game begins.
You are given a town that you will then build a village out of. This village will be made up of people that you save from the Wyrdness. None of these people are in a happy place, but would you be if you were destroyed and wandering around in the void with monsters and such? While playing this, I got a deep feeling of Roanoke Island. This is where the villagers all disappeared and no one, even nowadays knows what happened to them and all that was left was the word CROATOAN carved into a tree.
Tainted Grail: Conquest has to be considered a horror-based RPG game with deck-building tossed in. The creatures that players will encounter would be out of the nightmares that would scare kids during the Autharian times. While some enemies are fairy-tale baddies, like a headless horseman or one-eyed ogre, others are grotesque abominations. Some enemies have multiple arms and hands wielding rusted swords, while others blend human anatomy with nightmarish creatures. These designs are genuinely fantastic and make every fight against enemies in the game interesting to watch. Out of the assortment of creatures to face, you can see a fair closeness to some games that have been around for a while, such as Diablo. One thing that is closely familiar with Tainted Grail: Conquest is that when you kill a giant maggot creature it will spawn 3-4 smaller ones to keep the fight going.
There are multiple characters you can play, but first, you must unlock them by getting so much experience. So you start out with the starter character. The first character you get is a Wrymhunter. Then you set off trying to defeat monsters and learn the skills. Your cards are your attacks, blocks, stuns, etc. It will take you a while to get the idea of the game, however, once you do the game becomes a blast. When you die, which you will die a lot, you will get experience and when you get enough experience it will unlock the next fighter you can play as, which for me was the summoner. Altogether, there are nine classes to choose from in Tainted Grail: Conquest, with each split into three groups. You have archers, melee, and magic users, and each class itself has its own unique passive ability and an ultimate ability. It makes the game a lot more entertaining since you feel a difference in each playstyle.
After you beat a monster or group of monsters you are rewarded with money, and items, and then when you get further along you will get runestones. Each runestone has 2 traits, one if you put it in your weapon slot and another if you put it in an armor slot. You will also get rewarded cards to increase your deck and passive abilities to help you along your adventure as well.
As you wander through the Wyrdness to achieve certain goals, such as helping people who find out there or recruiting NPC’s to your village. Each decision you make has a consequence further in the game, and your decisions will stay with the people you help or don’t. I came across a group of worshippers, and I could either eat with them, which they were eating people parts. Or I could run or fight. I chose to eat with them because I was low on health. They took me in as one of their crazed worshippers and then the next time I came across them they had a quest where I could find human livers. I could then trade those livers in for a legendary runestone. Another time, I tried to steal from a healing altar to see what would happen. So I took the 500 Gold, but then I lost 25 life and now I can not use any healing alters. I just love this aspect of the game.
The NPCs you can recruit offer some extra bonuses, upgrades, items, and other benefits from NPCs that have settled there. The game’s blacksmith can sell you runes to attach to your weapons and armor that give you passive buffs. The candlemaker for instance sells magical candles that fend off the Wyrdness. For example, players can upgrade the blacksmith’s tools with Rune Dust, which you get by merging runestones. For the longest time, I thought that meant merging runestones, which you can do at the blacksmith. Instead, to get Rune Dust you need to gather three of the same type of rune. Then you’ll be able to merge them to earn the currency. A better explanation of what merging was would have saved me some time and frustration in this case.
I’ve put around 23 hours into Tainted Grail: Conquest, and I’m about to beat the 4th boss then head into the final boss, I could have done it sooner but I was too busy trying out the other characters. I will still have to beat the final boss, and unlock the last few NPCs for my village and complete some of the side quests. I don’t know how much longer it will take me to complete the game with my Summoner, but I am having a blast owning my battles.
Tainted Grail: Conquest is very nearly a great roguelike deck-builder. It has all the right parts and all the right ideas, to consume hours of my playtime while pulling me away from other games. I would like to see more from this game, but I am not hating on anything since it is very entertaining and worthwhile for me. The music, the atmosphere, and the play style all are worth it. I do hope that later on they come out with more for this and I look forward to trying to master the characters that are available. Tainted Grail: Conquest is on sale for 10% off for PC on Steam for the price of $17.99 or the original price is $19.99.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Tainted Grail: Conquest for the PC provided by Awaken Realms Digital.