The deck-building genre is hit-and-miss. Consequently, my experiences have been a bit of a mixed bag. However, I can say that they are amazing to play casually, and when they work, they are phenomenal. As such, when I was offered Nadir: A Grimdark Deckbuilder, I wasn’t so certain. Yet, its interesting aesthetics and sinister theme piqued my interest. Therefore, I jumped in with full enthusiasm as I took a journey through hell.
Developed by Team Nadir and Black Eye Games, and published by the latter, this is a roguelike deckbuilder. What’s more, it has a fascinating twist on the usual tropes and grim foes and is simple to play once the fundamentals are mastered. Accordingly, I was soon hooked on its interesting concept and amazing art style.
Nadir: A Grimdark Deckbuilder is available on Steam and Nintendo Switch, but isn’t verified for Steam Deck. However, I can assure you that it works perfectly on SD with only minor issues. Another point to note is that the amazing publishers at Crunching Koalas are the publishing team behind the Nintendo Switch version. However, Team Nadir are responsible for the transition from PC to Switch.
Welcome to the gates of hell.
Demons, sins, and sorrow all go hand-in-hand. Consequently, when you are asked to deep-dive a demonic portal to face off with a sin-loving demon, you know there will be problems. You may pick from 3 characters with unique traits. 2 of these individuals must be unlocked as the game progresses. Once you’ve chosen your hero, you must select which sin demon to tackle. Again, 1 is unlocked to start, and you must progress and improve your base to unlock more.
Once the rules of engagement are set, you start a journey on a layered path to the demon’s lair. Each circle is loaded with combat encounters, special unlockable nodes, shops, deck customisation points, and, potentially, a demi-demon. At the start of each layer, you open with a fight. Once you are successful, you may choose to progress inwards or activate the other nodes on that layer. If you manage to survive and reach the demon, you must kill them and choose to return to your base or continue onwards. If you proceed, the fights are harder, but the rewards are greater. Alternatively, if you return home, your treasure and resources are safe, and you live to fight another day.
Resources and card crafting.
The aforementioned resources are key to your success. Every battle you undertake awards you skulls, shards, and more. These items are used to buy new buildings or upgrade existing structures. Furthermore, they unlock each character and open the pathways for new demons. Alongside this, you’ll get an array of new and impressive cards to craft during each run.
Like the resources, each battle offers you the opportunity to craft new cards for your deck. These temporary items offer you a tactical advantage during each encounter. Moreover, if you’ve improved your base, the chances of creating game-changing cards are much higher. During the crafting session, you may pick from three blue cards and three red cards. Each item has certain traits that can enhance or hinder your performance. Subsequently, you must be wise and think thoroughly before committing.
Nadir: A Grimdark Deckbuilder has a steep (ish) learning curve.
When a game utilises a refined concept, you don’t expect a tough learning curve. Yet, Nadir: A Grimdark Deckbuilder has a steep (ish) curve that is challenging to overcome. Fortunately, though, once you climb the data dump mountain, you won’t look back. Instead, you’ll master the fundamentals and then spend your time polishing your strategies.
This is what makes this deckbuilder so moreish. With roguelike mechanics and wonderfully balanced tactics, you must think many steps ahead. Moreover, the game keeps no secrets, and you know what to expect throughout. As such, you must formulate a plan, hope for a little luck, and work your way past each heinous demon.
A deckbuilder like no other.
The core gameplay focuses on the hero and their evil foe. Your enemy holds 3 cards in their hand. These tools are coloured red or blue and the reverse side is the opposite colour. Moreover, each card highlights your opponent’s reaction if the card is activated. Consequently, you know what will happen and potentially how to overcome it. In your hand, you hold cards that are both red and blue. What’s more, each colour has a set action, and it tells you what you need to use for each card. Effectively, it’ll highlight how many red or blue cards your opponent needs in order to use it. (Clear as mud so far?).
Once the criteria are matched, you will unleash defensive or offensive tactics. You may increase your armour, protect yourself with a shield, enhance your rage, slash your sword, and much, much more. Whatever you decide, you must calculate the risk vs reward. Subsequently, if you go on the attack, you must expect to be injured or worse. Therefore, studying your opponent’s hand and formulating a plan is the only way to succeed.
Nadir: A Grimdark Deckbuilder is eerie and melancholy.
It was hard not to love the disgusting aesthetics of this title. With a simple but striking colour palette and basic animation, it is great to look at. What’s more, the character models and stripped-back UI enhance the eerie and melancholy nature of the gameplay. However, the best visual element is the comic strip-style attack animation. The in-your-face and OTT imagery is incredible to observe. The slick and stylish approach works wonderfully with the demonic plot and the oppressive setting.
This is then complemented by the awesome audio. The subtle but creepy music supports the action perfectly. Furthermore, the loud and crass sound effects add a dramatic layer. In short, the developers have done an amazing job of bringing this hellish world to life.
Nadir: A Grimdark Deckbuilder works perfectly on both PC and Steam Deck. What’s more, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Nintendo Switch port. Thanks to the minimalist UI and the excellent tutorial, you’ll enjoy the action immediately. However, mastering the finer points is no mean feat and takes a bit of effort. Yet, once you understand the fundamentals, you’ll love the clever layout and the intuitive controls.
As it’s a roguelike title, you know it is moreish and addictive. Accordingly, it’s hard to put down and has masses of replay value and longevity. With 3 characters to select from and an array of demons to study and defeat, each playthrough differs. On top of this, the opportunity to keep playing after you slay the demon makes it irresistible for hardcore gamers.
Nadir: A Grimdark Deckbuilder is a fresh take on a well-trodden genre.
Rarely do you experience a fresh take on a classic genre. However, Nadir: A Grimdark Deckbuilder was a pleasant surprise. With interesting mechanics and a grim and sinister atmosphere, it’s impressive to play. What’s more, its complex structure is deceptively simple once you get to grips with it. Consequently, I loved it and I recommend that you buy it here! Can you enter the gates of hell and survive? Study the cards, plan your approach, and defeat every demonic being.