After around 8 months of being part of Steam's Early Access program, Cardaclysm: Shards of the Four finally released its definitive version. Since we first learned about it, we were curious about this curious combination of genres, and now that we've been playing it for quite some time, here's what we have to say about Cardaclysm!
The Four Horsemen of the Cardpocalypse
In Cardaclysm, you are some kind of wizard who apparently tried to summon and control the most powerful beasts but failed terribly and became their prey. In terms of the gameplay, that results in a dungeon-crawler where you must find a key, defeat all monsters in that map, and escape through a portal. Sometimes you can decide who to fight first, taking advantage of some power-ups and boosts that randomly appear in these procedurally generated dungeons. Some other times, however, these beasts are in the middle of the only possible path, so it's do-or-die.
Once you clear a map, one of the 4 bosses will come out of the entrance portal and chase you. At first, your only option will be to run away and escape, but as you get stronger, you'll reach a point where you'll be able to fearlessly stand your ground and fight them. If you die, you only lose what you have collected in that area, and it's time to try again in another instance of the same map... hopefully with easier enemies.
That was one of our issues with this game when we first started, honestly. Since it all depends on luck, some maps are impossible to clear with your current cards, so it's easy to get frustrated after a string of defeats. Fortunately, sooner than later you'll end up with a stronger deck and better knowledge of the game's mechanics and your team's capabilities, which is very rewarding.
There's More than Escaping Your Faith
Between adventures, you can hang out with other people at the pub, and that's where things get interesting as you make progress. Some NPC will offer you trade cards, and others will give you quests, like retrieving a lost item or killing specific monsters. That's only one of Cardaclysm's RPG sides, though, as you can also find and equip gear that will help you in battle. Some items give your card more attack or health points, others give you extra cards and effects, or make your monsters easier to summon.
Although it sounds rather strange at first, this combination of genres actually works, and there's always something new to do or try.
It's Repetitive (but in This Case, That's Okay)
Yes, this game is extremely repetitive. There are several biomes to explore, and some of them come with skill boosts to cards of a certain type, but given the nature of Cardaclysm, we'd recommend taking it as a casual game. You enter a map, you fight until your able to escape, and then you go back to the pub to talk to the NPC before leaving again... rinse and repeat. You can always look forward to better cards (you can fuse repeated cards to upgrade them and make them stronger) and new gear that modifies your playstyle, but still. Playing non-stop is not for everyone and can be really tiresome, but short sessions help a lot—even more so when luck and procedural generation are not on your side...
Cardaclysm: Shards of the Four is not about collecting cards. It's about making your character stronger and ultimately understanding your deck—assembling a team of several weak monsters could be better than summoning a single massive creature. Thanks to the dungeon-crawling and RPG elements, card fights are more meaningful and have an extra layer of strategy.
Sadly for our competitive readers, there's no online mode, so you can't fight against other players. It's still a very cool single-player game!