By Matt Welwood / March 23rd, 2015
|Title||A Druid’s Duel|
|Developer||Thoughtshelter Games, LLC|
|Publisher||Thoughtshelter Games, LLC|
|Release Date||February 25, 2015|
|Platform||PC, Mac, Linux|
|Age Rating||Not Rated|
A Druid’s Duel is a very simple concept. It’s an indie strategy game, funded through Kickstarter. It’s not a hard game to get a handle on. You play a group of Druids fighting against other Druids. Each team has access to a pool of four different classes — Guardian, Wind Rider, Snarlclaw and Waywalker. Each of these characters has its own attack style, its own movement speed and its own special abilities. On top of that, each character can transform into an animal once per turn; a wolf, eagle, bear and turtle, respectively. Each one has its own special skills that both compliment and enhance the skills of the Druid who uses that form. I won’t go into too much detail about it, but, as an example, the Wind Rider. In Druid form, it can attack anything two spaces away, and can move one space. As the eagle, it can move six spaces, and attack anything in that range. Once it attacks, it’s done for the turn, but, if you just use it to capture land, you can use it until you run out of mana.
Mana is the other system that the game uses to control the pacing, and the way matches are won or lost. The game is played on a tiled board. Each tile you control (that is, each tile you were the last to touch, basically) gives you more mana, with each tile having a different amount to give. The point of the game is to take all of the land, and deprive your opponent of mana. Simple enough. You use your different Druids, take all the land and win the game, right? Wrong. It’s not quite that simple, as it turns out.
See, this game… this game is hard. Properly hard. I had to restart nearly every level at least once, except for maybe the first. The way the turn system works, the AI (who has the advantage of already knowing the systems and being placed, usually, in the slightly better position at the start) is absolutely relentless, often getting the upper hand within two turns if you’re not careful. Due to the way mana is divided, once you start losing ground, it’s very challenging to come back. This is in no way a bad thing, though. The game is challenging as hell, but that’s where the strategy comes in. Once you know the tools you have on hand and the layout of the board, you can start really thinking and come up with fun, challenging ways to beat the AI. It’s even more satisfying when the game throws two or even three AI opponents at you.
Multiplayer is also available, either online through a sort of “play by e-mail” system, where turns don’t have to be taken immediately (the game e-mails you when it’s your turn) or through local and hot seat multiplayer. The game doesn’t change at all, and you can have up to four players at once. As far as I could tell, the online play works just fine, but finding a game is a bit of a hassle.
There are very few complaints I have with this game. The biggest issue I have with it would be on the technical side. While the game runs just fine, the resolution options are just… disappointing, honestly. The only resolution option available is 4:3. You can pick windowed or full screen, but full screen is just a waste. If you have, like a lot of gamers nowadays, a 16:9 monitor, the sides are just empty black bars. There’s no point playing in full screen mode at all.
There are really no other options to speak of, either, other than being able to pick which monitor the game displays on, and graphics settings that are just Fastest, Good and Fantastic. The game doesn’t need more than that, really. There’s not much for animation — the art style is a hand-drawn kind of look; very colourful and nice to look at, but simple and effective. There are no sliders or dials for the volume either, just a simple on or off switch. That’s a bit annoying, since it means you have to go in to the sound adjustment window on your PC and manually turn the game volume down, which is a bit clunky. Not that you’ll want to, the sound is actually very well done. Each attack has its own sound, each Druid makes its own noise and the music, while a bit repetitive, is a very pleasant string tavern music type of thing.
Is there a story in this game? Yes, there is one. I can’t remember anything about it. I know I was supposed to be visiting the six “seasons,” which is what the game calls its different worlds, but there was so much restarting levels over and over that I almost immediately forgot the latest story blurb. Story isn’t what I wanted out of this game anyway, I wanted challenging and fun strategy, and I got an absolute bucket load of that. It’s not a game that will be over in three hours, either. The game requires time and patience. It took me 25 hours of play time to get this review out. Most of that was spent repeating levels, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
All in all, A Druid’s Duel does what it does very well. A couple technical things are missing, but, other than that, this is a very well-made, very fun, very hard piece of indie strategy game. It costs $9.99 and is available from Steam or right from the developer website. The multiplayer community needs to grow, but, even as a single player experience, I can’t recommend this game enough. If you like strategy, you need to check this title out.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Reviewed on PC.
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