Developer: Awaken Realms Digital
Release Date: May 27, 2021
Deck-building roguelites are far from my favorite genre, but it feels like they’re very popular, at least if you’re going by how many get made. I usually am put off by the amount of constraints put on the deck-building part of the game, and annoyed by the randomness of the roguelike parts. Both of these irritants are present in Tainted Grail: Conquest, but there’s something about the atmosphere of the game that kept me playing longer than I needed to.
Set in the world of Arthurian legends, your character is part of a group of refugees who have settled in a land where the Wyrdness is all around. After a bit of introduction, accompanied by some beautiful artwork, you meet a creature who tells you that you’ve been saved from death (sort of) and put into a world between time in order to help save others and rebuild from some catastrophe that isn’t really explained at the outset. Initially only one class is available to play – the Wyrdhunter – and with very little preamble, you’re dropped into the world to try to conquer the monsters of the world and save others who are in the same state as you.
This will not happen quickly. In fact, I think it took until my third run to save my first villager, the Blacksmith. At this point, Runestones come into play. Runestones are slottable items that give benefit to your character through that run, but do not persist through death. The more villagers you rescue, the more options you have for preparing your character when starting out, but having to constantly restart with very little carrying over may frustrate some players.
Combat is pretty standard deckbuilder fare – you have limited energy per turn, and can choose your actions from cards that are randomly drawn from your deck. As you win fights, you gain experience and levels, which allow you to add more cards to your deck and choose more perks for your character. I did appreciate that mousing over your opponents allow you to see what types of things they do, and the icons that tell you what they plan to do on their next turn; I rarely felt like I was defeated by not understanding my opponent, only by not having the tools available (or the skill to use them) to be victorious.
I found I started enjoying the game significantly more once I’d done enough with the Wyrdhunter to unlock the second class – The Summoner. Although still not my preferred character archetype, I vastly preferred playing with minions and magic than with a big sword, and I feel like the game does itself a disservice by not allowing the player to select a starting class of their choice from among the three schools (melee, magic, or ranged damage). Although the Summoner starts with a lower base health, having minions to soak up some of the damage meant that I emerged healthier from most encounters, and was able to progress further, as healing availability mid-run is extremely limited.
I personally find it hard to engage with story in roguelites, because it trickles out oh-so-very slowly, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the gameplay of Tainted Grail: Conquest. I played for a little more than two hours, and only managed to rescue two villagers, and didn’t even come close to being able to beat the first boss. While this snail’s pace meta-progression is probably really great for people who like to get a lot of playtime from their games, for me it doesn’t take too long for it to feel tedious.
SteamDB estimates that Tainted Grail: Conquest has sold somewhere between 111,900 and 307,800 copies on Steam, which feels like really good sales numbers in an over-saturated genre. It is ranked 274 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.