With the end of its Kickstarter campaign quickly approaching, we took the opportunity to take a look at a beta build of the soon-to-be released strategy game, Prismata. Developers Lunarch Studios have been commended for taking the crowdfunding route, which they’re quoted as saying they did to avoid mainstream publishers, who would force them to “monetize” their game. With such a lot of love put into a title, players are usually left with either something great or a flop that only a creator could love. What do the cards say for Prismata?
The interesting thing about the hybrid title is that it eliminates several elements of classic, turn-based strategy games. It has been compared to both Starcraft and Hearthstone in its presentation and play style, and that is not too far of a stretch.
The curse of the RNG putting the odds in favor of one player over another is no longer an option; each player begins with exactly the same resources and a clear view into what the other player has. While this may not appeal to those who prefer the rogue route of strategy, it does open up the floor for players to battle it out with only their wit and reflexes. We also hope that it will cut the amount of people calling cheating mid-tournament significantly.
What works well here is the plethora of options available: tournaments, observation mode, analysis mode, varying levels of reaction time, difficulty and connection to other players across the globe. A love child of a nerd-tastic team has never looked quite so good. Getting into Prismata, even for newcomers or non-fans of turn-based strategy, is actually quite simple. Lunarch Studios has several tutorial videos available for those who need them, but the game itself is quite good at leading a player in without insisting on holding their hand the whole way.
The objective is simple: collect resources, build defenses and be the last person standing against your opponent. Prismata presents a good balance of options for investing in technology and laying the board in your favor, and the transparency of the assets at hand make for some interesting match-ups.
Each player begins with a small handful of drones and a few engineers in play, while the player who goes second gets an extra drone. Drones provide resources when swiped, and are exceptionally useful when building up offense and defense. Players start out with eleven basic units that are always present in each game, as well as an additional tab of items that can be purchased with resources. Every move can make or break an opponent if they do consider all that is available to them, and the satisfaction of out-planning an opponent is gratifying.
A thought-provoking game is almost always a good thing, but one that has you digging into your brain for a good counter-strategy is a major plus. Prismata utilizes the formula of a simple idea executed into something bigger and malleable.
It’s also very easy to see the artistic detail put into the backgrounds and design aesthetic of the game. Each background may not take up much of the focus during a raging battle, but they are examples of yet more loving touches that add a very polished feel to Prismata. The colors are rich and saturated in a manner not unlike something out of Magic: The Gathering.
The attention to detail and sci-fi scenery on said backgrounds mixes well with the more cartoonish style of the cards themselves, though in a very odd manner. In short, the game looks stylish, sleek and appealing. Though players might not be looking at them directly, or even for very long, they add that extra touch that gives Prismata its own artistic identity to stand out from similar games.
If players are not competing against each other via a ranked match system or a more open tournament style, the AI is not a bad substitute. It is quite strong and reactive, but at the same time not cruel or unforgiving. AI is something that is often very finicky in games, even modern ones. Whether it be escort mission AI partners that insist on running into gunfire, or unresponsive, idiotic NPCs that walk off walls or try to punch dragons in the face (you know who you are), it is not something that a lot of people get down that well. Prismata has put a lot of time and effort into making certain every aspect of this game is covered and the AI is no exception. Playing against it felt both like a good starting point and a great method of both competitive or casual play.
Overall, Prismata is like an elaborate pie crafted by the most loving of grannies with intricate design that could make a professional baker weep. Except instead of delicious sugar and dough, there is delicious code and gameplay. Poor example aside, Prismata looks to be a great title in the indie field and an example of what a beloved pet project can culminate into.