Early Hours: SpellRogue is a surprising roll of the dice for the deckbuilder genre

Early Hours: SpellRogue is a surprising roll of the dice for the deckbuilder genre
Images via Ghost Ship Publishing | Guidelight Games

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes

Published 

12th Feb 2024 17:00

If there's one thing I'm known for at GGRecon, it's a love of card games. I can't get enough of them, and whether that's enjoying Magic The Gathering with friends, collecting Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, or playing any of the other excellent card games out there in cardboard or digital form, nothing compares to drawing the card you need at the right time.

So much so, that Slay The Spire more or less created an entire genre off of that feeling, and while we've seen excellent alternatives since then, SpellRogue is a slick entry with plenty of its own fun ideas that make it well worth a look.

Roll the dice

The Overworld in Spellrogue
Click to enlarge

The main thing differentiating SpellRogue from something like Slay The Spire is an additional degree of chance and luck. That's because you're not just playing cards as you progress through SpellRogue's world, but you're rolling dice, too.

Those dice values are then slotted into your available cards, which pull from a smaller pool than genre contemporaries, feeling less randomised but still with the chance for some surprising combos (at least to begin with - things go off the rails in the best way after a handful of runs).

Combat in Spellrogue
Click to enlarge

The dice mechanic means you roll at the start of your turn, and then pick between cards to play. You can reroll a die up to three times, and I found managing both my rerolls, rolls, and cards made SpellRogue feel akin to Marvel's Midnight Suns (one of my favourite games in the last few years).

There's a satisfying feeling of slotting a dice into a card to trigger an attack, while some cards can have multiple dice added to build to the required total over time.

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Classes in Spellrogue
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As is usually the case with these Early Hours features, I've put in just a couple of hours so far, but keep finding myself finding something new that I like about SpellRogue.

My first run took one of the three classes, a water-type spellcaster, on a poison-based slant to deal damage over time where possible, but I'm equally excited to try new strategies facilitated by the cards earned through battle.

Those status effects are craftily handled, too. While poison deals damage each turn, your character can be 'Silenced', replacing your dice with ones that, when used, block you using the card they slot into for a number of turns.

SpellRogue card unlocks
Click to enlarge

Enemies can also inflict the 'Ignited' status effect which deals damage when you use them, prompting you to be flexible with your strategy, even when shifting between cards as you unlock them. Nothing ever feels permanent, in the best way.

If you've not fallen head over heels for the likes of Slay the Spire or Monster Train, there's every chance SpellRogue won't do it for you either. If you are used to slinging cards, however, you'll find a lot to like and keep revisiting.

SpellRogue launches in Early Access today

Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.

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