There are many people out there who absolutely adore card games and recently, it seems like this has been trending more and more in the video game space. Personally, I’ve never cared for card games such as Magic or Yu-gi-oh because traditional deck building has never been my thing. This is why A Long Way Down, a rogue-lite card game developed by Seenapsis Studio had me intrigued. They add the traditional card elements but include new mechanics that give a twist to the current genre.
A Long Way Down is all about waking up and realizing you are dead, stuck in a limbo like world and must travel farther down to escape an evil mastermind bent on obtaining your soul. The game comprises two main parts. The first is what you would associate with most card battlers, where you have a deck of cards you build before venturing through each level. This deck is used to attack, defend or provide utility so you can defeat a variety of enemies that spawn. Each monster has their own card types that you will learn and strategize against with each level you progress into. This will have you re-evaluating not only the cards you take, but the equipment you are wearing as they provide benefits to your character and have cards linked that are placed in your deck.
The second part of this game is more of a puzzle. Each level is randomly generated and will contain tiles that are laid out on a map. Each of these tiles could have a number of items, monsters, or workshops. But it’s not as easy as that. All of these tiles are floating out in this environment but many are not connected. It’s up to you to use your tile cards and place them down to connect pieces. You have three actions per turn phase where you can move your character or place down tiles. Once you are done, enemies will move around freely on the map and the evil mastermind will use one of your displayed tiles to sabotage you by placing it in random areas.
The mashup between these two elements works pretty well but I found the dungeon building element to be a bit slow or clunky at times. There seems to be quite a bit of bugginess around placing tiles and it can often feel like there is just too much space between tiles, resulting in many actions and turns required per level. This results in either a person taking quite a while to think of the path they have to build or just randomly placing tiles and possibly getting stuck, therefore requiring a restart of the level. I did, however, enjoy the mastermind stealing your tiles every turn. It required an extra level of strategy to come up with alternatives if he stole that perfect tile you needed.
The combat was something I enjoyed a bit more but I think there is room for improvement, especially in the way you use teammates. For most of the early access portion of the game you don’t have a partner and have to fight solo; but when you do get one, it honestly felt pointless. You get one additional action point with an extra character but I never felt like I needed to use that new character to play any of the cards because they were always weaker since they don’t come with higher level gear. This just results in another body to soak up damage, which is nice, but because upgrading items costs so much it never felt like I had much use for them. Instead I just stuck with the main protagonist playing all the cards. That being said, there were still other positives to combat such as being able to see what card the enemy would play and on which character so you could better strategize your next action.
One thing I did enjoy was the option to retry levels and improve your character if you didn’t feel powerful enough. With many roguelike games, you will have a character that, when they die, the run ends and you start from the beginning. However, this game will instead remove any items you obtained on that level, but still provide you with your upgrading currency to improve items or cards. I didn’t attempt to go back to previous levels but having the option to do this was refreshing, especially since each level has additional objectives that you might not have completed the first time around.
Since the game, as of it’s early access release, only has two worlds, it’s hard to truly judge the usefulness of some elements, such as upgrading cards. You can upgrade either your equipment or your cards themselves and the cost for these were generally the same. Having extra health or increased damage overall felt much more needed than anything. Perhaps as later worlds come up and gear gets maxed out, it will make more sense to upgrade cards but the equipment just felt much more relevant in the game. This also ties into whether or not the teammates will feel more relevant later on because once gear is maxed out, certain cards will most likely be better utilized by different characters.
For early access, the animation seemed pretty fleshed out. I was surprised that each enemy had their own separate animations and sometimes multiple animations per attack. The design for each card also felt very well designed. They obviously took quite some time with how they wanted the appearance of this game and it paid off. Some tweaking could be done to make the animation look a little more fluid but I think it is still in a great spot, even if it was fully released like this.
Even though there were a few negative points mentioned, I still enjoyed my time with the game and think that they have the structure for something that could be great. Some bugs and concerns with balancing can be flushed out with time so I think they have a good road ahead of them. If any of this sounds interesting and you want to give it a try, go check out their steam page for early access or add them to your wishlist. Let us know what you think in the comments below.