PC/Mac/Linux (First Access now), Tablets (down the road) •
An alien spacecraft streaked down from the sky and plowed into the desert. It spoke to you when you arrived, and now you’re considered a prophet. It’s on you to lead your newfound followers through a desert wasteland in search of a new home, a journey fueled by the promise of the unlimited powers and ancient knowledge of an alien race.
That’s the setting of a very intriguing roguelike deck builder called Nowhere Prophet, currently available on Itch.io first access and under development by Sharkbomb Studios. It’s a long journey and your meager supply of food and batteries (the currency of the land) must be conserved and replenished for each step will cost you. Even the hope of your people is a resource, and they need something to believe in to keep going. You’ll need to pick your path across the world map carefully with several factors–wider roads, for example–allowing you to move faster and consume fewer resources, but putting you in the crosshairs of gangs that prey on traveling bands such as yourselves.
It’s impossible to avoid conflict, however, for this is a land of scarcity and struggle. Combat is inevitable and fans of tactical card games will feel comfortable jumping right in.
There are two decks, Convoy and Leader, and both are fully editable which makes Nowhere Prophet much nearer the CCG genre than Dream Quest when it comes to deck building. The Convoy deck contains followers, or what most CCGs would call creatures. Followers have both “power” and “toughness” and come with a host of special abilities, just as you’d expect. The Leader deck contains your spells—buffs, card draw, direct damage, and so on. You start with 3 convoy cards and 2 leader cards and draw one of each on every turn which ensures a healthy mix of bodies to get onto the battlefield and leadership actions with which to guide them.
When you find trouble in your travels it is resolved in a tactical card game that feels a lot like a CCG. The goal is to reduce the enemy leader to zero health before your hit points plummet to such an unhealthy state. There is a major difference, however. Attrition plays a huge part in Nowhere Prophet and when your followers are killed in battle they become wounded, a condition that carries over into any subsequent battle until they are healed. Wounded cards enter battle with one less health and if they are destroyed again, that’s it, they are gone for good.
This dramatically changes your relationship with your deck as it isn’t just a deck. Emotionally, these are your followers and logically your cards represent yet another finite resource in the game. To further complicate matters attrition also affects your leader and damage you take in one battle sticks with you until you’re able to heal up. This all sets up some really interesting decisions. For example, do you sacrifice a wounded follower with taunt to set up a better board position and conserve your leader’s health for another day, or take more damage to protect a key card you may need in order to win a future, potentially much harder battle? Nowhere Prophet is full of these decisions, especially the longer you play.
If your leader dies in combat your convoy disbands and the game is over, so Nowhere Prophet is all about moving through the map milestones as safely as possible. Camps at which you can heal are few and far between, and there are limits to how much you can heal even when you find one, making health the most important resource of all. This creates a feeling of threat, uncertainty, and difficulty that fits right in with theme of a bleak and dangerous game world.
Nowhere Prophet is still in First Access but it is already quite compelling and packed with promise. The two decks drive a great deal of deck-building potential, and the cards are well designed and fun to play. The atmosphere of the game, this sense of a bleak desert closing in on all sides, is powerful and the best I’ve seen in a card game since Frost. The theme is supported by every facet of the game from the scarcity of food, to the threat of hopelessness among your people, to the use of attrition and potential death of the very followers (and cards) you count on to survive.
We’ve seen a lot of CCGs and an increasing number of roguelike deck builders of late, but Nowhere Prophet stands out as something different than the rest. If you enjoy this type of game, consider grabbing it on itch.io to support development or wishlist it on Steam. It’s worth noting that if you buy now, you’ll get a copy on Steam once it releases. Sharkbomb Studios also plans to bring the game to tablets and consoles down the road, so the mobile-only crowd should stay tuned as well.