Reviews - Updated on April 1, 2022

I already wrote about an early version of the great card roguelike Griftlands from Klei Entertainment, which gave us Don’t Starve, Mark of the Ninja and Invisible, Inc. And just recently the game was finally released. What has changed, improved and added here?

Story-driven RPG as a card roguelike and vice versa

First, let me remind you of the main features of Griftlands. The characteristic features of the genre are in place – different decks for different heroes, the ability to improve cards, buy new ones or delete old ones, upgrades using artifacts and relics (here they are called implants and are gradually pumped).

Battles, as it should be in such cases, are turn-based, where we spend energy on active actions, and in case of loss of health points, we start the game again. After losing a new run, some things randomly change: we may meet other characters and opponents, we will get different cards, we will encounter other random events, and so on. But the overall progress is taken into account – we gradually become stronger.

Griftlands Overview

The game is very beautiful.

But this is also a full-fledged RPG – there is a well-developed world with its own races, cults, religions, groups, a fascinating story, different for each of the three heroes, as well as a moral choice, whether to kill or not, whom to work for, and so on, which affects the attitude to us other characters. Killed the enemy, and his friend will now hate you – this will give some kind of permanent penalty. Conversely, those whom you have helped and who adore you will, for example, give you cool cards every morning.

Griftlands Overview

The Russian translation, as you can see, is not finished yet.

Plus, coolly written dialogues and the ability to convince / intimidate interlocutors. Moreover, the latter is also implemented as battles, only we hit them not by health, but by the opponent’s determination, resorting to various arguments, using self-control as a defense, and so on. Therefore, each hero, in addition to his unique combat deck, also has a no less unique negotiation deck.

Griftlands Overview

With difficulty, but our arguments outweighed.

Bounty hunter Sal, for example, puts in battles on sabers and bleeding, in negotiations – on eloquence, inspiration and arrogance. Spy Ruk during verbal battles tosses a coin and, depending on what fell out, gets different effects: an eagle, for example, gives maximum damage by determination from the “Courtesy” cards, and an osna (as tails is called here) adds 1 to the damage of the cards “ Gundezh”. In battles, Rook constantly accumulates charges that can be used both to increase damage dealt and to protect himself.

To finish off the enemy or not is always a difficult choice. But there are places where no one sees us and there will be no consequences.

Mr Smith goes to collect his inheritance

Both Sal and Rook have story campaigns with their own goals – the hunter, which is logical, hunts for the head of her former mentor, who betrayed her and sent her into slavery in the mines. And the spy again plays the role of a double agent, maneuvering between the interests, conditionally, of the proletariat, hard workers and near-criminal group of businessmen. In some playthroughs, heroes can overlap, and Sal, for example, will oppose Rook as an enemy.

In the final version, a third character finally appeared – Smith, a representative of kra’desh – upright amphibians that have long lived not in water, but on land, communicate, start families, fight and spend money in casinos and bars. These are very rich and influential creatures, in fact, local aristocrats.

Griftlands Overview

Some dialogues want to parse into quotes.

But here’s the problem – after the death of Smith’s parents, other relatives expelled him from the family and deprived him of the right to inherit – he is a well-known unprincipled drunkard, “life-burner” (this is the name of the character class), so he has a bad reputation. Naturally, now Smith wants to rectify the situation and return what was taken from him.

Griftlands Overview

It’s called “The family has its black sheep.”

At the same time, he is really ready to act unscrupulously. It can, for example, agree in advance with a socialite or even with a gigolo (you have to choose with whom) and actually put one of them in bed with your brother (and he does not know that this was the work of Smith) so that he would have a spouse or spouse, so Smith will return to the family to remove his brother and take his place. Yes, yes, there is an option to arrange a same-sex marriage, but in the ironic, almost humorous Griftlands, this does not look like the notorious “agenda”, but like outright banter.

Griftlands Overview

Our gigolo is called Heartthrob.

Given this, playing as Smith is not very pleasant at first, but it is fun. But then you get hooked. Moreover, it depends on us how unprincipled it will become. There is, for example, the choice to kill the aforementioned brother or still make peace with him.

Griftlands Overview

Reloading the “save” to try another option will not work.

In the negotiations, Smith is betting on the accumulation of renown, which at the end of each turn deals damage to a random enemy argument for every two units on the counter. And in battles, the “life-burner” and the drunkard, which is logical, drinks, throws bottles, and when receiving damage, accumulates the clarity parameter – at the end of his turn, Smith will restore health in an amount equal to his clarity. In general, the character is quite interesting both in terms of content and card mechanics.

Griftlands Overview

Smith not only drink and scratch his tongue much.

drunk technicians

In addition, each hero in battles and negotiations, when filling the vehicle scale, uses especially powerful tricks, which are also different for everyone. Smith, of course, begins to frantically thump, receives a unit of damage for this, but in return inflicts six bottles on the opponent, hangs a concussion effect on him, and adds clarity to himself. New techniques can be learned for prestige points, which we earn, including for defeating bosses at higher difficulty levels. Moreover, the prestige is the same for all three heroes, so you need to understand who and what to learn.

Griftlands Overview

Lots of options.

But everyone earns heroism points for himself personally during the passage of the story campaign. And at any time, for the same character who sells new techniques for prestige, we are free to spend heroism on passive bonuses: a constant increase in health or determination, the ability to restore them after each battle or negotiations, faster filling of the technique scale, and others.

Yes, a hungover Smith quickly makes enemies surrender.

Finally, it is possible to open global upgrades that allow you to apply to any hero – so that he immediately starts the game with bonuses to health or determination; so that every morning two random characters begin to adore him, and food restores health to his pet. There are a lot of options, they are divided into ranks and ability points are opened that we earn for completing tests (adventure) – defeat such and such a boss, inflict 2,500 damage, improve 100 cards, win 50 negotiations, and so on.

Griftlands Overview

The higher the rank of the ability, the more points you need to open it.

Not a single plot

The appearance of Smith is also important because now, after completing all three campaigns, it opens up the opportunity to use various modifiers to make the next run more interesting and unpredictable. Although there is an option not to wait, but to go through daily tasks – this can be a chain of battles with ordinary opponents, fights with bosses or a confrontation with them, but already as part of negotiations. And here the authors themselves use various modifiers and mutators – for example, “Hunger”, which does not allow you to receive rewards based on the results of battles and negotiations, or “Shine”, which reduces the maximum experience of all cards and implants by 50%.

Griftlands Overview

Defeating bosses is the best way to earn prestige points.

And after completing the story for the character, the arena is unlocked for him. We fight the same enemies, perform similar tasks and contracts, but the opponents are strengthened so that we earn more prestige, and we cannot travel around the map – this is a sequential chain of fights and contracts.

Griftlands Overview

During breaks, they are allowed to buy new cards, implants and additional cells for them.

Griftlands in the release version received even more content and acquired a more or less finished look. Why “more or less”? Because the game will obviously still be supplemented and developed, and this is also very cool – at least the authors will complete the Russian translation.

Pros: non-trivial and well-designed setting; exciting story campaigns for three completely different characters; the ability to make decisions, make both friends and enemies; ironic characters, texts and dialogues; in many ways unique card mechanics, where in addition to battles there are also verbal duels; an abundance of content, modes, upgrade options, difficulty levels, challenges, daily tasks, and so on – it will take a lot of playthroughs to discover and try everything; chic visual style; annoying soundtrack.

Cons: Russian translation is not finished yet.

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