Summoners Fate preview - "Hurling squirrels in a roguelike deck builder"
A detailed preview of Summoners Fate!
Familiar and yet ever-changing, Summoners Fate lets you play as the all-powerful Guide, shaping worlds and leaving “poof”-filled destruction in your wake. As you harness the primordial magic in your journey to the Beyond, you’ll battle Lich Kings, recruit wayward Treants, and sing a happy birthday to a bunch of goblins partying in the woods.
Such is the randomized magic of Summoners Fate, and it’s a world of endless possibilities set against a vibrant, grid-patterned backdrop.
With the game’s colourful artwork and adorable character designs, it’s easy to misconstrue Summoners Fate as a lighthearted game where everything is sunshine and butterflies all the time. Much like you can’t trust every Fairy who asks for a kiss in this game, you can’t let the kooky caricatures fool you - the gameplay is as challenging as it is engaging, and it’s definitely not for the fainthearted.
What’s the gameplay of Summoners Fate like?As mentioned, you play as the Guide in this roguelike-slash-deck building game, where you command Summoners and assign moves from your deck across a grid. It’s essentially a strategic dungeon crawler but with cards, as you’ll have to explore different chapters and various maps until you get to the Boss of each area. Every new screen will be randomized, so you never know if you’ll bump into rowdy Marauders in the next screen or stumble upon a hidden treasure trove of buffs.
The procedurally generated levels can offer you a Campsite where you can rest up and refill your card deck at the Cosmic Turtle, or a friendly shopkeep who will offer you their wares (as long as you don’t try to steal anything). You might also encounter mercenaries for hire or a room with nothing but a suspicious-looking bottle on a table.
Now, to help you win the favour of the RNG gods a little bit, you can roll your dice to increase your chances of getting either a bane or a boon when faced with magical encounters. For instance, if you stumble upon a caged bear in the middle of the woods, rolling your dice can either make it join your party or have it run away. Rolling a really low number can also anger the bear, forcing you to do battle with it.
Summoners Fate combat systemWhen you enter a battle, this is where your deck of cards comes in. Each Summoner you pick will have its own set of passive and active skills, as well as a pool of cards they can use. Each card will have its own stats too, whether it’s an armoured squirrel or a Meteor Shower spell that deals 3 fire damage in a 5x5 area. You’ll have to strategize the best course of action to defeat your opponents, or retreat before your very first turn and live to fight another day.
The thing is, while I loved the depth of the gameplay here, I feel like newcomers to the CCG genre won’t share the same sentiments. The stats alone are a tad complicated, and while the aesthetics might make it seem like the game is beginner-friendly, any newbie who tries their hand at it will likely feel differently after a short while.
The issue, I feel, is that the roguelike element of the game doesn’t exactly inspire confidence to try again, especially for casual gamers. It’s also worth noting that while there are three levels of difficulty, the “Casual” level still has a pretty huge barrier to entry, in my opinion. The visuals might pique their interest, but the difficulty of the game might not make them stay.
What’s the appeal?Personally, I do like the unique blend of genres here, and I appreciate the community-driven design. It’s a welcome and refreshing take on the typical deck builder/dungeon crawler. Given that it’s still a prerelease build and the official launch won’t be until some time next year, it’s understandable that I encountered quite a few bugs throughout my many playthroughs - I even lost all my progress twice right when I was battling the boss.
Still, the bright and cheery vibe of the game might actually help keep you from rage-quitting, just like the humor of the lore (if you do get your hands on this game, I urge you to search for “The Peculiarity of Poof” and the explanation as to why Summoners look up). There’s no shortage of replayability here, especially since you’ll keep trying until you survive the Heatwave or somehow keep all of your Guardians and Loyal units alive by the time you reach a portal.
Campaign and multiplayer of Summoners FateCurrently, the solo campaign lasts three hours with about an hour each chapter, while the multiplayer battles will set you back approximately five minutes against AI. You can also play against an actual human being across different platforms, which will last about twice as long for every battle. It’s a little odd to battle against others though, in my experience, since I feel like the Summoners you can choose aren’t too balanced - at least, not yet for this prerelease build.
Overall, Summoners Fate is a promising title that has a lot of unique things to offer for fans of CCGs and roguelike dungeon crawlers. I literally spent hours and hours and hours with this build and I still haven’t tried everything, but the deep gameplay mechanics also mean it’s not a casual title at all. Here’s hoping the difficulty tweaks and bug fixes will get better once it officially launches, and optimistically, all in good time too.
After all, the in-game Lore itself says that Guides shape the very fabric of the world through feedback for the creator, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the legend of the Report Bug Gear Button is true.