September 13, 2023
Heretic’s Fork is a roguelike deckbuilding and tower defence game developed by 9FingerGames and published by Ravanage Games. The game’s demo was one of the top performing ones in Steam’s Next Fest earlier this year, and the game has now released in full.
One of the first things that immediately stands out about Heretic’s Fork, is its visuals. Consisting of a palette featuring muted shades of grey and bright shades of red, along with an intense but banging soundtrack by Occams Laser, the game’s atmosphere is dark, gothic, and gritty. This feels appropriate, however, since the game is set in a bureaucratic interpretation of hell. Playing as one of hell’s corporate managers responsible for ensuring sinners are adequately punished during their eternal stay, you’ll have to set up structures to punish sinners, hire extra employees, and make sure you and your direct reports make some decent money along the way.
To complete the corporate illusion, the game even has you log on to your work computer when you first boot it up: Heretic’s Fork’s main menu is laid out like the desktop on a Windows 95 computer, complete with different program icons and a dark version of Clippy, – spelled like ‘Klippy’ in-game – the old-school Microsoft Word mascot. As you play through different rounds in Heretic’s Fork, Klippy will pop up to dish out helpful advice, show you the ropes of your new job, and give you hints and tips in case you get stuck.
When you start your first playthrough, the very first thing you’ll have to do in Heretic’s Fork is pick an employee who will be responsible for the next upcoming shift. While you start with only one employee available – the intern with no special perks – you’ll soon unlock more senior employees who come with more powerful bonuses. Similar to titles like Slay the Spire and Griftlands, each employee will come with their own unique deck and the employee you pick will inform your gameplay strategy and overall playthrough. Perks can range from being able to redraw an entire hand instantly, to increasing the damage of certain cards dramatically.
“… no two runs will look the same.”
Once you start a playthrough, you’ll have to keep an eye on a specific patch of land in hell. In the centre, you’ll have to build up a tower that can attack sinners swarming in from the edges of your screen. Practically, Heretic’s Fork takes elements from games like Slay the Spire, Vampire Survivors, and Loop Hero, and merges them together to great effect. The result is an interesting one: in the middle of the screen, you’ll have your defence structures, which will periodically shoot projectiles at approaching sinners.
If a sinner isn’t destroyed before reaching your tower, it’ll deal damage to your tower’s overall health. If the tower is completely destroyed, you lose the game. The trick revolves around playing cards that will increase the speed of projectiles, the strength of your tower, and unlock new garrison structures that can attack sinners. To do this well, you’ll have to strike a balance when it comes to building an effective deck. Framing your screen are two bars: your health bar, which signifies the strength and durability of your tower, and your timer bar. This timer bar will count down short periods of time, nicknamed limbo periods. If your tower is still standing by the time the timer runs out for a period of limbo, you’ll draw a new hand of cards.
Playing cards can help you bolster existing defences, increase your structures’ health points, or build additional offensive structures that can deal damage to sinners. You’ll need to be strategic about building a strong base too, since enemies will get stronger as you progress through the different circles of hell, which all come with unique enemies and visuals. In this sense, the overall aim of a playthrough is reminiscent of a game like Vampire Survivors: survive as long as you possibly can.
Cards can fall into one of five categories: tower cards, which can increase the durability of your tower, garrison cards, which creates different units that do different types of damages, item cards, which can slightly increase different types of overall damage, active cards, that create active abilities for the entire run, or power cards, which generate an instant one-off bonus during a run. In between limbo periods, you’ll get the chance to add new cards to your deck. The fact that there are five card categories overall is a real boon to the overall gameplay experience and means that no two runs will look the same. On top of this, thanks to the sheer overall variety of different employee decks, you’ll also be able to tackle a run using a bunch of different strategies, resulting in a high replayability value.
After losing a run, you’ll earn credits, which allow you to buy extra cards that will appear in future runs and unlock additional employees. While the credits are a great incentive to keep coming back for future runs, the only drawback that stood out is that hiring new employees can be expensive compared to the cost of unlocking individual cards. Considering that an average run when you first start playing will only fetch you twenty to thirty dollars, you’ll have to do a bit of grinding before you can unlock additional employees for your team. This may be off-putting to some players, but if you don’t mind a bit of grinding when you first dive in, you’ll be sure to be rewarded.
- Great visuals and soundtrack
- Good amount of variety for cards
- High replayability value
- A lot of grinding at the start
Heretic’s Fork features devilishly good visuals and a banging soundtrack. Gameplay-wise, it blends deckbuilding mechanics and tower defence in an interesting way, and fans of titles like Ratrapolis, Slay the Spire and Loop Hero are sure to find something to their liking. While the game may need a little grinding when you first start playing, persistence pays off. With plenty of cards and employees to be unlocked, Heretic’s Fork is sure to keep hardcore players engaged as they progress through the 9 circles of hell.