Banners of Ruin is an upcoming party-based deck building game that combines elements of Rogue-likes and turn-based tactical games. Developed by Montebearo and published by Goblinz Studio, Maple Whispering Limited, and Mugen Creations, the title released in early access on the 31st of July.
As a card game buff, my interest was instantly piqued when I first read about Banners of Ruin. The premise is straightforward: set in a medieval world full of anthropomorphised animals, you control a party from the Blackfoot faction. Your faction’s goal is to try and take down the Enders, who control the city of Dawn’s Point. To succeed, your party will have to traverse the city successfully, confront the Enders’ leaders, and defeat them once and for all. A playthrough either ends when you successfully defeat your enemies and cross the city, or when all members of your party die.
Having clocked over five hundred hours on games like Slay the Spire, Gwent, and Darkest Dungeon, I was sceptical at first when reading about Banners of Ruin. In the wake of Darkest Dungeon and Slay the Spire’s success, there have been numerous rogue-like card games released onto the market. Aside from the recent Monster Train, most recent releases haven’t quite lived up to the addictiveness of Slay the Spire. Banners of Ruin, however, not only captures what makes a rogue-like card game tick, it brings an engaging and fresh new take to the table when it comes to the game mechanics, with beautifully hand-drawn art and an immersive story to boot.
Similarly to games like Slay the Spire, and in some respects titles like Armello and Iratus: Lord of the Dead, the story unfolds through a dungeon-crawler-style deckbuilding run where you can choose your own trajectory and build your deck in the process. Unlike the aforementioned titles, however, you don’t see your pathway depicted on a procedurally generated map. Instead, the game gives players the opportunity to choose one of three cards in each stage through a splash screen, with each card representing one choice and outcome. You’ll have to pick one option without knowing what the next option will be. Options can lead to combat, or to story events like rescuing allies, hiring party members, talking to merchants, stealing money from drunkards, and so on.
You can collect cards, weapons, armour, and gold through both combat and story events. The gold comes in handy, because once you come across an opportunity to hire more party members, chances are you won’t want to pass it up. Banner of Ruins features increasingly challenging enemies with endlessly varied behaviours in combat. To parry this, you’ll have to be strategic and build up the strongest party you possibly can.
In my opinion, the party mechanics add the most complexity to the game. Your party members can come from different classes: mice, beavers, bears, weasels, wolves, and hares. Each animal comes with their own kind of cards, perks, and abilities and can augment your deck in different ways. If a party member dies, their cards will disappear from your deck too, which I found a clever way to heighten the stakes for players throughout a run.
You can add up to six members to your party in total throughout a run. Each character has a set of stamina and will points, which can be used to play different kinds of cards. While stamina is replenished every turn and used for active moves like gaining block or dealing damage, will points can only be used once per combat. They’re more often used for passive buffs, like dealing poison damage or gaining vigour points, which in turn allow you to up a character’s stamina points during a turn. In addition to this, each character can also equip their own unique armour, talent, and weapon cards, which adds even more complexity to your deck, your party, and the battles you engage in.
“…[Banners of Ruin] brings an engaging and fresh new take to the table.”
When mixing all these factors together, Banners of Ruin makes for a layered and immersive gameplay experience that will keep you on your toes; because there are so many moving parts that change with every new game, no two playthroughs feel the same. This variety and replayability value are certainly areas where Banners of Ruin shines.
While I encountered a few bugs here and there, they were all relatively minor considering the game has only just launched in early access. The fact that Banners of Ruin has such a strong degree of polish in its early-access release is incredibly impressive in my eyes. If its early access release is to set the tone for what’s to come, I’ll certainly be waiting with bated breath for what’s next.