Slay the Spire. Slay the Spire clones. Hearthstone’s single player modes. And now Roguebook. These games are officially a thing. But what can Duelyst bring to the genre? (spoiler: tactical gameplay on a 5x9 board and awesome character design and pixel art).
Duelyst could bring everything we love about it to the genre: tactical gameplay on a 5x9 board and awesome character design and pixel art.
On the off chance you aren’t familiar with the genre, roguelike deckbuilders involve card based gameplay similar to CCGs. The main difference is you start with a deck of bad cards and get new cards for your deck as you go. Players generally are presented with a small selection of levels or locations to select at each stage. Locations mostly contain fights, with some shops or other ways to manage your deck. As you go farther, fights get harder to compensate for your more powerful deck. And if you lose, you start from scratch. New levels, different card choices, start from level 1. This video explains how Slay the Spire works if you want more info.
Many of these games have cards represent actions or items available to the player character, but otherwise have fairly traditional turn based RPG combat. Even Abrakam (the studio that makes Faeria) seems to be using this approach for Roguebook, their Faeria spinoff. But that is unnecessary. Duelyst already has boss fights, which could be used as a base to build this on. (I need a name. Calling the mode “this mode” or whatever every time is awkward. I’ll call the mode Bloodbound Quests for now). Adjust the cards in a boss’ deck (or even the stats on the cards) for how far along a player is, and we could have fights that get harder as we play and improve our decks. Use the starter decks that already exist as a base for this mode’s starter decks. (Unrelated, but I would use the pixel art characters for on the board and have traditional hand drawn art on the cards. As much as I love Duelyst’s pixel art, some people aren’t into pixel art at all. And there’s already been promo art for each expansion, and that deserves to be seen by more players.)
So what would this do for Duelyst? Mainly, it simplifies the business model and adds value. A big part of this plan is moving away from the random pack business model. Instead, each expansion could be purchased to gain access to all the new bosses, as well as new cards for multiplayer. Those who only care about multiplayer can continue to buy packs with gold, but the only way to access new stuff in Bloodbound Quests is to buy the expansion. Essentially it’s the model used for Rise of the Bloodbound and Ancient Bonds before they were combined. I imagine releasing 40-60 cards every 6 months for $15-20. Investing in a CCG is risky when you aren’t sure if the player base will be around long term, but this means anyone spending money can get into a game whenever they want, with multiplayer as a bonus. Ironically, de-emphasizing multiplayer could increase the player base by making spending money a safer investment. It’s probably unlikely, but it makes some sense.
There are two main difficulties I can see. One is that the deckbuilding roguelike genre is getting crowded, which is the same problem Duelyst has as a CCG. The second is how to incorporate all the cards that already exist into single player mode. Longtime players probably don’t want to drop $15- or even $5- per set to unlock Core, Shimzar, etc in single player mode, which means putting in the work to balance Bloodbound Quests for those cards won’t lead to much immediate revenue. But overall, I see this as a way to keep people playing Duelyst, as well as fund new cards being added regularly, if not as often as I’d like. And who knows, maybe it will make enough money to go back to 90 new cards every 4 months. What it would do is give me a reason to spend $30-$40 on Duelyst every year, and that is something I look forward to.