Summoners Fate is a roguelike deck builder inspired by tabletop RPGs and Magic: The Gathering. The game currently offers three biomes, eight summoners, and plenty of cards to build decks from. It has just released on Steam Early Access, with a full launch scheduled in nine to twelve months time.
Roguelikes tend to be light on story, with writers spending their effort on lore building over plot development. So far, Summoners Fate is no different. The bulk of the writing is dedicated to little lore snippets that will randomly drop throughout the level and a few sentences during events in game. None of it is memorable, but it is interesting to see gameplay hints being delivered in a lore-heavy way.
The gameplay loop in Summoners Fate involves exploring the map, collecting items, and getting into combat. Each level consists of map tiles with vendors, treasure, special events, rest areas, and battles. There will always be five elites and one boss in each level, both who are also summoners with their own decks. Defeating all five elites is optional, but each defeated elite will lower the mana and health pool of the final boss. There are three biomes available right now, each with its own special events. It’s enough content for a game just released to Early Access, but more will need to be added in the future to bring some more variety into each run. The current shuffling of the biome order will not be enough in the long term.
Combat is excellent as it challenges players to make smart long-term decisions all the time. Fights use a simple turn based tactical RPG mechanic except spells are cast and units are summoned by playing a card from the player’s deck. Combat is probably too simple to stand on its own as a full-blown tactical RPG as unit movement options are almost non-existent. But as a roguelike, things are at a good spot because the challenges of resource management and permanent death requires more precise decision making. The deck is not replenished when all cards have been discarded. To get their deck back, the player must rest at one of the limited use campfires or, in the case of lower difficulty levels, die and use a retry. So, players will have to play their cards as efficiently as possible, bail on unwinnable or costly fights, and find or purchase cards to hold them over until the next campfire.
There is a nice variety of cards right now, although balance is still a work in progress. The card system is styled after Magic: The Gathering, so each of the five non-neutral magic types have a clear theme and a few favoured playstyles. The cards are designed in a way where there are a few obvious synergies to build decks around, but there are also some unexpected surprises to discover when the stars align. I haven’t figured out any obvious game breaking combos that needed to be balanced yesterday, but there are several cards that are on a class of their own. The Barbarian and the Gargantuant both have abilities that allow them to blast through enemy lines with a bit too much ease compared to their counterparts.
As of publishing, there are eight summoners. Each summoner can find cards from two schools of elemental magic and the neutral Freewill card pool. They span the full range of standard fantasy tropes, like the animal summoning druid to the orc chieftain. There’s enough variety that everyone should be able to find at least one or two favourites. The balancing is a work in progress. I found ranged summoners to be far more powerful than their melee counterparts as they had the benefit of being able to poke at trash mobs from a safe distance without wasting precious cards.
The controls are usable but could be refined. The game is designed to be played with a mouse, emphasizing actions like drag and drop. The basic controls work well enough, but there is no good way to cancel moves in the middle of a drag and drop. Most of the time the game expects the player to either drop something back into original position or use the undo button. Adding a feature to automatically cancel the current drag with a right click would be a great addition. A button to fast forward enemy actions, not just skip the enemy turn completely, would also be helpful.
The audio/visual experience is decent. The art is well done. It’s professional and slick looking, but it is also painfully generic. The card design is a little bit better, but the characters and environment look like they could be slotted into any mobile fantasy game and fit right in. The sound effects work well enough, but they are clearly a step behind in quality behind the art, especially the amateurish voice acting used for a few units.
Summoners Fate is already a solid deck builder with a decent amount of polish and content. While there’s not enough for a full-blown launch, it’s an intriguing option for fans of deck builders who are looking for a shorter game with some good growth potential.
Recommended – While the audio is a little rough and the controls could use some improvement, Summoners Fate has just enough content and the right foundations to be worth a purchase for fans of the deck building genre willing to get in on the ground floor.