Summoners Fate Early Access Impression
Featuring fun combat and a lighthearted approach, Summoners Fate already offers a very pleasing journey.
Summoners Fate, which launched on Steam Early Access last month, presents itself as a deckbuilding RPG, but feels unique since it delivers a short experience that is akin to playing a tabletop game. Developer D20Studios has been making changes based on player feedback for several years, and the time in Early Access promises even more refinement. Featuring fun combat and a lighthearted approach, Summoners Fate already offers a very pleasing journey.
Summoners Fate has two main game modes, as well as a tutorial. Battle Mode is the game’s exhibition mode, testing unlocked summoners and their decks against other players or the CPU. This mode is certainly welcome when one wants a quick fight and is short of time. Adventure Mode is considerably longer, with a three-hour procedurally generated campaign, campaign consisting of three chapters, each with its own boss. After completing a campaign, another summoner is unlocked, giving players more procedurally generated adventures to go on. There isn’t an elaborate story as summoners simply head out to find their destiny. Despite this, the game is full of humor, including strange situations where players meet a fairy or crash a goblin’s birthday party. These situations make the game pleasing and the sum of the little events end up an enjoyable experience.
Exploring the realm of each boss is fun. Players need to go room by room to discover what surprises await them. An option to fast travel to previously visited locations makes going back and forth extremely fast. Scenarios are varied and are divided into small portions, each containing either treasure, campsites, enemies, merchants, fate encounters, or the boss. The goal in each chapter is to defeat the boss, but first players need to find the boss chambers and the key, which is usually carried by an enemy. However, there are several other things to do that ultimately help make that boss fight easier. Players can acquire objects to debilitate the boss, reducing the maximum health or attack power, or find cards and companions. Companions are units that fight on the player’s side but that don’t need to be summoned, joining as Guardians or Loyal Units. While Guardians stick with the player if they are persuaded and can even revive if killed, Loyal Units join the party until they are killed in battle. Players also come across fate encounters in their journey. Depending on their luck, players can get new cards, powerful companions, or increased stats, or they can be trapped in difficult situations. These events come in many ways, such as meeting an angel or a trapped warrior, and require rolling of a single-use twenty-side die — or several dice if players want to improve the odds — to decide the outcome, with high numbers leading to rewards. Dice can be found scattered around the scenario, but since they are not so easy to find, players need to decide when it’s wise to use them.
The game includes turn-based battles that feature the use of cards and a grid. At the start of every turn, players recover some mana points to use their cards, which vary in the amount of mana they require to be summoned. Players can also move the characters on the battlefield. These units are able to attack and counterattack, and some even have special abilities such as poisoning enemies, recovering health, or switching positions with another. While most cards transform into units in the grid, others are abilities that only last one turn. The creativity and variety of the cards is remarkable, featuring a wide set of possible strategies to win battles. For instance, players can hurl a weak squirrel and use a card to make that unit explode after it is killed. Then, they can attack an enemy unit that is close to others, and when the weak squirrel is counterattacked and dies, the explosion may take care of many enemies without other allies even moving. Battles either require players kill all enemy units or a particular leader to be victorious, but enemies need only to take out the player’s summoner to win. Each summoner has strengths and a set of cards that can make the best of their abilities, making each run feel a little different. For example, a card that empowers weak units may be vital for a summoner able to summon weak squirrels every turn, but not for others.
The Adventure Mode includes three levels of difficulty, which change the game considerably. While the easiest difficulty setting enables players to have several retries and features enemies with less health, the hardest one gives only one chance for reviving and increases the health of all enemies. Used cards are not returned after the battle, which forces players to restrain in easy fights and choose wisely the number of cards they will discard in each battle. There are campsites where players replenish their health, recover discarded cards, manage their twenty-card deck, and revive fallen guardians. Early in the game, players struggle to have a decent number of cards, but after finding several cards, the strategy becomes a lot more engaging and players will have to choose which ones work best when building their decks. The game manages to make building the deck a fun enterprise, with great diversity in the cards that can be found and bought from merchants.
The art of the game is simple but charming. Summoners and the other units resemble pieces of a board game and look peculiar gazing directly at the player as if they were waiting orders. While individual cards and units have cool designs, backgrounds and objects in each scenario are detailed yet simple. The soundtrack has few tracks, but they are pretty good and match the mood of the game. Sound effects are also welcome, with the voice saying “combo” being a highlight. When the graphics and soundscape are combined, the result is a pleasing and peculiar experience.
Summoners Fate’s short journeys are accompanied by comedy and a satisfying battle system, with the card variety inviting replayability. It’s one that should provide plenty of satisfaction to those who feel attracted to lighthearted adventures and tabletop games. This is one to keep an eye as it changes heading to a full release.
Disclosure: This article is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.