Ancient Enemy (Review)
Where To Get It: Steam
I have not, perhaps, had the best of histories with solitaire RPG type experiences. I’ve always found them at least okay, within the limitations of the kind of solitaire they invariably use (go up and down the numbers, as far as you can, using abilities to help with this.) But they’ve never really grabbed me.
With Ancient Enemy, I was at area 7 before I really thought about whether I was enjoying myself. And, on reflection? In a calculating, analytical way, I was. The solitaire part was okay, as solitaire often is (although we’ll get back to that), and the story was… In a way, interesting in how it uses minimalism, but the combat… Ah, the combat is where I felt at home, and looking at the layout with an eagle eye.
You see, it’s not just the combos you have to think about. The combos are important, yes, and getting nice, long ones definitely has its benefits, like a lot of extra damage if you play your cards right (heh), but the suit of the card is quite important, and there are other things to think about. Because the suit of the card charges your abilities, in Basic Attack (A dagger), Magic (Your major damage output, since you are, after all, a mage), and Defense (Which, with only a few exceptions, is physical or magical. There is at least one magic and physics block, but it relies on long combos, because its basic form is weak.)
And also, when the layout’s low, you may have to waste an action refreshing. Which, if you time it wrong, lets the enemy get off a free hit on your sorry ass. Since items take a turn, and, similarly, you don’t want to waste a combo when it appears, it creates this interesting back and forth. It’s one I’ve mostly won, up to this point, and handily so on Normal (not a bad thing, I enjoy games that want me to see the content, then optionally let me challenge myself), but it’s also one where, if you don’t pay attention and equip accordingly for your enemy, you’re going to get damaged, and health only heals, with a few exceptions, after the chapter’s done.
…Oh gods, sometimes you don’t want to equip, because damn that layout refreshes after you equip, and this one is such a sweet start! Special cards that damage, sometimes big ones. Others that raise your defense without needing to block. Wyrm cards, the wild cards of the game that let you, in the right circumstances, stretch out some really nice combos… When I see a good layout, I’m really tempted to let it play out, sod the resistances and the fact I can’t block any of their attacks…
It helps that there are also passive and active abilities that you can switch in and out between fights and item collecting layouts that help with that, like card destroyers, upping the likelihood of Wyrm Cards or giving you extra undos, changing a card to fit the combo better, or shuffling the entire deck to the same goal… I liked using those abilities, even if they’re usable once per layout, with the exception of finding recharge totem cards.
So, mechanically, I quite enjoyed it. What about the rest? Well, aesthetically, it’s clear. It sort of has to be, and the tooltips are alright. You know what’s what, the characters and enemies look good (Although I wish there was a little more variation outside all monster types you’ve encountered getting beefier, and occasionally more powerful), the environments are lovely, and the music’s alright. The writing… Well, it’s effectively monologues. Why? Because The Mage pulled himself out of… Well, it’s unknown at the start, but he returned to life and the land… To find that the Evil Overlord had won. The land was sick, everyone was dead or corrupted, including spirits and animals. Killing the source probably won’t make things much better… But he’s determined not to fail this time.
I’ve… Enjoyed myself with this one. The difficulty curve is pretty reasonable, everywhere outside the item collecting, you start to feel powerful once you get going, and even in item collecting, you have recourse. Score chaser that I am (especially since that’s also currency), I still retried, but less times than I have with others, and… Yeah, if the idea of solitaire RPGs interests you, I would definitely say give this one a go.
The Mad Welshman is more a Minesweeper kinda guy these days. Shush, he’s not bad at either of them, shush, SHUSH.