Video games centred around gambling always make for extremely tense and stressful experiences. Not only do you have to keep yourself in the game by resorting to outlandish tactics, but identifying the right moments opt in or out of a huge prize pool is a fine art. Poker, Texas Hold ’em, in particular, is one of those universally recognised forms of gambling and can be easy to pick up if you’re a beginner. It’s all about confidence, deceit, and a textbook Poker Face.
Prominence Poker, from Pipeworks Studio, has arrived at the perfect time and comes with an unexpected twist. Not only does this game contain a story and online multiplayer element but it also has role-playing aspects, too. Your character starts as a lowly novice with a flamboyant Hawaiian shirt and the nickname of ‘The Tourist’ to their name. A run-in with the Mayor of Prominence, the premier poker player in the city, leads to a challenge for a rematch. You must defeat the four poker leaders of Prominence and prove to the Mayor your are worthy of his time again. It’s predictable, but puts a different spin on the usual multiplayer-only formula expected of these types of games.
There’s a robust selection of sliders for your character’s appearance, from coloured hair to thin or pouty lips to forehead dimensions. A headwear, accessories and tattoos tab have been added to further customise the physical appearance of your poker avatar – to fit in or command attention.
You gain experience points through performing certain actions throughout a game, like successfully bluffing someone into folding their hand, or completing sets of Daily and Weekly Challenges – such winning 15 hands or paying for 20 blinds. Being aligned with one of the four factions through Prominence Poker’s Affiliation system also yields more experience boosts on top of tiered loyalty bonuses – which is a nice touch.
Furthermore, there’s the ingenious option of purchasing items and bringing them with you to a game. Whether it’s a glass of iced tea, a shot of vodka, or a cigar, they carry an experience boost for a set number of hands and is a smart way diverting the attention away from a players’ cards – where all the attention should be.
However, Prominence Poker currently has only two of the four Poker Leaders available – each named after a suit of cards. Unfortunately, this halts progress and interest on the single player component, shifting attention towards the game’s more robust online multiplayer.
This is when Prominence Poker is at its strongest: pitting a table of six players against one another for chips – lots of chips. To qualify, you have to meet the buy-in threshold and any chips over your buy-in will be added to your overall Bankroll. Where Ring Games follow more of an opt-in/opt-out formula, Head-to-Head and Group Tournaments require players to bluff, raise and do whatever it takes until their total reaches zero and a winner is announced. The only thing more satisfying than claiming a huge pot is winning one of these six-player games, with bragging rights and a nice bump in funds on the cards.
Graphically, Pipeworks Studio have done a nice job here. The venues on offer vary from humourous – like a laundromat – to classic high-roller – such as a wonderfully lit casino. It’s nothing out-of-this-world, but fits in with the overall casual nature of poker and the game itself. But the roster of locations is quite small and their ambience and atmosphere need quite a bit of work. This is due to a constant in-game soundtrack of one or two tunes and no background chatter, besides occasional clapping amongst the venues’ other patrons.
Despite being sold as a fully-released title on consoles, Prominence Poker could be considered in its beta stage. There portions of content that are still locked with “Coming Soon” plastered over several in-game menus, as well as no voice work for your poker character; Poker’s forgettable ‘Emote Wheel’ would get more use if more verbal sound effects were integrated into the game.
Not only that, but there’s also a limited gameplay element associated with Prominence Poker being, of course, that it’s all about Poker. I’d love to see more mainstream gambling games added onto this title in the future, like Blackjack and Roulette, to maximise the variation in gameplay and create that extra bit of versatility. Perhaps even a Jukebox fee could be added, which allowing a venue’s mood to be set by those playing the game, for a set amount of songs? There are lots of possibilities.
The immediate build of Prominence Poker is good, filled with moreish and straightforward, but repetitive, gameplay. But there’s still a lot of work to be done, particularly on the single player side of things, where the building blocks of a Poker role-playing game is a tantalising and unique prospect.
One of a Kind
Prominence Poker is a fun arcade game and is poised to have continued success in the future despite a bare-bones single player mode on release.