I love me a good card game and with the release of the combat prototype for The Great Whale Road I couldn’t help but check out this slice of the game. I was also lucky enough to spend an hour talking to Joachim Sammer about how this gameplay element affects the overall experience and we did get one match in so that I can get a good feel for what to expect when the game hits early access next year. And I have to say that despite a couple bugs and me not knowing really how to play the game I still found it a much enjoyable experience.
The Great Whale Road is more than just a tactical card game. There’s a lot of exploration, trade, and leveling up for your crew to do. But, the focus on the combat prototype is, obviously, on the combat aspect. And being only a month or so in development the options are pretty limited right now. You can choose from three historical cultures (Danes, Northumbrians, and Franks) and each has their own pre-built decks to play. I picked the Danes and Joachim chose the Northumbrians.
In addition to your deck you’ve also got your crew (currently eight in the demo) and you can equip each one with a set of armor, a weapon, and an ability (currently unavailable). The first two are self explanatory and the armor actually determines which of four roles said crewmember uses. The ability, from what I was told, is more of a special role-related ability that you can assign them to help push the match in your favor. And levels up with their renown. Of the roles, you have the Heavy (defense), Assault (berserkers that deal insane damage but can turn on you), Skirmishers (ranged), and Support (healers and buffers). And you need a good mix of each to be successful in your matches.
I went in on the match knowing very little about how the game plays out but I came out knowing a good deal about strategy and what they have planned for The Great Whale Road. Having a good strategy and a good mix of War Cries to supplement the abilities of your equipped weapons and armor is key as you want to pierce the enemies’ defenses and score as many hits as possible. The goal is to take down the opposing leader. The rest of the crew are secondary. Once he or she is down the match ends.
The combat prototype wasn’t without its issues, most notably that my hero was completely missing from the game board (you can’t see her in the screenshots, obviously). It also kind of crippled my ability to fight. That, and I had a poor equipment loadout but I didn’t know about how everything works together until after the match. In the end I would have lost if my missing leader wouldn’t have broken the game. Still, I did get a good feel for the way cards and abilities and status conditions worked and despite the issues I loved playing the game.
If this small slice of The Great Whale Road is any indication I’m going to find plenty to enjoy in the full release. I’d probably spend more time optimizing my crew than actually playing the game, though.