Adventure Corner: Ancient Enemy
Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.
In this edition of the column we take a look at Ancient Enemy, available now on Steam.
While I am normally not much of a PC gamer, a friend recommended a game to me in 2015 called Regency Solitaire; as a card game aficionado, I immediately fell in love with the game, which melded together visual novel and light RPG mechanics into one of the most delightful games I’d ever played. Fast forward to 2020, when the same developer launches Ancient Enemy, which infuses even more RPG elements into a robust Solitaire experience that will no doubt intrigue fans of both genres.
Awoken from the slumber of the dead, the main character, known only as The Mage, sets off to discover why only he survives in a world which has been ravaged by The Ancient Evil — which is where Solitaire replaces the more traditional combat experience. In each level, players must play a hand of progressive Solitaire, matching cards that are one higher or lower than the current face card on their pile in order to deal damage to an opponent. As The Mage plays these cards, mana from three different card colours is used to power up abilities: yellow for a default physical attack, orange for a magic attack, and blue for defensive abilities.
While The Mage’s default attack never changes much, the magic and defensive abilities that players can unlock as the game progresses can drastically change how each hand is played; for example, numerous magic skills and some defence spells become buffed up if the player can combine together ten or more moves before drawing a card to refresh their play options. Later enemies will often resist or outright rebuff certain kinds of damage, so players will need to be flexible in their choices of defence and magic to compensate for these. Also shuffled into each randomized level are cards which add to the player’s defence, act as wild cards to match any number, recharge abilities, or do direct damage to the enemy.
While most levels focus on defeating an enemy, a handful of challenges instead focus on clearing all cards from the level. This is where abilities and passives shine the most; while abilities can only be used once per match, each provides a powerful boon that can turn the tables both literally and figuratively. Similarly, passives can be very powerful, though many are situational, and provide everything from bonus wild cards to additional undo moves. How each player crafts their attacks, spells, and abilities to tweak The Mage’s tools can make all the difference in these solo levels. Ancient Enemy also has a skill tree, which players can progress through at the end of each chapter.
Though the story of Ancient Enemy is fairly thin, it’s enough to progress things forward, and has a cute plot twist towards the end. For those interested in RPGs crossed with an unusual partner like card games, there’s few titles that go as far meshing the two as this one.