Do you love the idea of a deck-building card game but have an irrational aversion to getting into crippling debt over buying expansion packs, a severe phobia of your local newsagent due to his recent deeds™ and a deadly allergy to coniferous tree mulch? Is the cyberpunk genre your jam and you’re disappointed that there hasn’t been a single video game release in that genre in the last couple of years? Are you trying to be ethical in your consumption of video games, causing you to avoid a certain video game card game from a certain developer? If you answered ‘Yes’ to all of the questions given above – my calculations suggest that those scenarios apply to 90% of the population so I think I’m on to a winner here – you might want to try Shadowplay: Metropolis Foe, the most generically named video game in the world.
Shadowplay: Metropolis Foe is a deck-building rogue-like card game, AKA an absolutely fascinating combination of genres. You play as four generic cyberpunk characters, all of whom you would desperately want to punch in the face if you met them in real life, metal implants and all, due to their incredibly smug expressions and extra-ness of every fibre of their being. You work your way from a start point through a branching network map where you can choose between fights or other events on your path to the final boss of a stage. The map reminds me of the map from FTL: Faster than Light, which is no small thing to emulate one of the best rogue-likes in existence. The fights allow you to pit your team and deck against an AI enemy, which will reward you with a combination of currency, cards and equipment on a victory. Where the events give you the options to buy cards and equipment, upgrade your existing deck, heal up and gamble with dodgy cyberpunk characters. In true rogue-like fashion, if you drop to 0 HP you’ll reset to the beginning, losing some of your upgrades and maintaining others, but ostensibly returning to the starter deck.
The fights are relatively simple, as deck-building card games go, but they’re still good fun. I think it situates the game in a good middle ground between being easy to pick up and learn, not requiring a bachelors degree to ever win a fight, and having the complexity to allow you to focus your deck towards a particular play-style and set yourself up some clever and devastating plays. There are two things you need to think about in a fight: armour and attack. Armour is the amount of damage you can negate on the enemy’s next turn and attack is the amount of damage you do to the enemy. There are also status effects you can apply to yourself and the enemy, such as a chance to avoid attacks or increases to the attack damage listed on the card. Status effects disappear after a fight but your health is consistent over a whole level, meaning you’re always thinking about the threat of a rogue-like reset. On your turn, you get as many AP as you have characters in your team (4 to start with) and cards cost AP to play, with some card generating bonus AP. Any cards you don’t play on a turn go to a discard pile so you need to really focus on the order you play your cards and which cards you play, to avoid a powerful card going unplayed. There is also an equipment system that gives a passive effect whenever a certain action is undertaken, for example gaining a status effect whenever a card effect causes a card to be drawn from the deck into your hand.
Whilst somewhat simplistic, Shadowplay: Metropolis Foe scratches a lot of my gaming itches. The rogue-like elements are well executed and invite parallels to a lot of other well-loved rogue-likes. The deck-building is quite slow but when offered a choice between cards to add to your collection the gears start turning in your head, contemplating which other cards would make a good synergy and allow clever and sexy manoeuvrers. The fights are easy to follow but challenging, allowing you to pick up the game and know what’s going on almost immediately. I enjoyed Shadowplay: Metropolis Foe and it certainly offers a strong alternative to newsagent induced poverty and anaphylaxis.