STAFF REVIEW of Nowhere Prophet (Xbox One)

Monday, August 31, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Nowhere Prophet Box art While I never really got into many card based games, even in real life, ever since the popularity of Gwent in Witcher 3 I’ve really started to gravitate towards them more. Now, when a new card or board game gets the videogame treatment, I’m inherently intrigued. Enter Nowhere Prophet, the latest deck building game, but with a roguelike twist. As a Prophet, you need to lead your followers to safety and salvation, but your journey won’t be that easy. Your followers are cards, as are your abilities, so the journey is a fitting backdrop that fits naturally with the gameplay.

As the last hope to your followers, you’re tasked with leading your caravan across randomly generated wastelands each time you play. Do you try and avoid as many encounters with enemies as possible to save lives, or take your chances to defeat them and find more supplies and food along the way? Sometimes surviving will be the biggest challenge, not even factoring succeeding in your mission. Civilization is broken on a planet called Soma, and after a catastrophic event called the Crash, nearly everything has collapsed. Because of this harsh new world, nearly everyone you come across has gone mad or will try and steal what you have.

As a leader, you have special abilities, other than leading the faithful, based on which cards you’ve unlocked and are in your deck currently. With turn based card combat, it’ll be a long journey to reach not only the end of your current map with many points in between, but to reach the mysterious and fabled Crypt that is said to provide safety and salvation. Lead your followers and try and survive the harsh wasteland.

With randomized maps every time to you play, you’ll quickly get used to the very high difficulty and steep learning curve as you slowly gain new cards and build your deck to suit your playstyle. As you travel from node to node towards your destination, there will be branching paths that tempt you in different ways. Do you forgo the path with more combat to try and keep your food supplies in check for the journey, or do you take a longer side path with more rest points and chances to purchase new equipment, resulting in a longer journey which means more food and resources used?

It’s a fine balance of surviving versus thriving, and each game will differ given the procedurally generated maps every time. You’ll be put into different situations during your journey as well, such as given the option to give starving people you pass by food, but food is a precious commodity, so do you sacrifice your own following’s survival to help others? That’s up to you, and the answer will probably differ each game. Keep in mind though, some rewards come to those that help and succeed.

As you journey across the wastelands, you’ll gain new cards, which happen to be followers, and these are the units you’ll place into battle from your hand. These can be from special events, helping others or defeating enemies in combat. With hundreds of cards to collect, you’ll be searching for quite a while to fill out that ‘perfect’ deck. And as you retread across the wastelands over and over, when you die you start back at the beginning.

Reach certain milestones or fulfill specific objectives, and you can even unlock new Prophets as well. As you level up you can gain new abilities and access to new cards in combat as well. Keep in mind though, you’ll need to spend resources to level up, so there’s a balance you’ll need to be aware of here as well, and the leveling up bonuses are only for that specific playthrough.

Combat is the other main half of the core gameplay. Here the goal is to simply defeat the opposing leader, but sometimes you can’t directly damage them as you might need to take out their followers first. Each leader, including yourself, has a set amount of health, and when that reaches zero, game over if it’s your leader, or success if it’s theirs.

There are two different types of cards: Convoy or Action. Convoy are the main cards in your deck that relates to your followers, each with their own specific use, damage and health. Some followers have high damage and low health, or high health and low damage, whereas other ones have specific bonuses like gaining stats when any other follower card is destroyed. There’s actually quite a variety of cards and types, allowing for really unique strategies and playstyles.

You start with a certain amount of energy, three, and can play any combination of cards or moves that equal that amount. Each turn you gain one more energy, eventually allowing you to play higher value cards, which are obviously more powerful in some form or another and can easily change the tide of battle. An interesting mechanic is that your followers can’t actually attack until the next turn, so there’s some strategy of when to play your cards as you plan your moves ahead of time.

There’s an icon that indicates which cards can attack on your turn, and choosing what cards or leader to attack plays an integral part of your strategy. There are even cards or special abilities that place a Taunt on a card, meaning you are unable to attack the leader until that card is destroyed or nullified. Even where you place your cards on the grid plays an integral role, as followers are unable to attack if they are behind an obstacle, though you can play special Action cards that allow you to push or pull followers on opposite sides of said obstacles, adding yet another layer of strategy.

The AI, even on the easier difficulty, can be quite unfair at times, as they like to play a lot of monsters or shield buffs for their leader, making for prolonged or near impossible battles. At the same time, this allowed me to see different types of strategies that I tweaked to suit my own deck and playstyle. It will take quite a few games to really get the hang of all of the mechanics, especially when you realize that followers can permanently die or follower cards can get a special buff if they get the killing blow on the enemy leader.

With numerous Prophets to unlock and an absolute ton of cards to collect, there’s a surprising amount of content within Nowhere Prophet. While there are a ton of card and board based games out there, Nowhere Prophet really does feel unique and balanced. While there’s not much graphically to look at given its card based mechanics and background, the audio on the other hand is fantastic with its electronic soundtrack, though having the text-heavy be narrated would have added some more immersion.

Not only does Nowhere Prophet reward you for playing strategically, it feels awesome when you start to unfold your intended plan a move or two ahead of time and finish off the enemy leader. There are some really unique ideas and gameplay elements that actually meld together quite well, making for a unique experience that actually surprised me more than I expected and easily stands out amongst other decks of cards.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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