Released in Early Access in March 2020, Gordian Quest felt like a game deck construction promising. Although its release is announced for June 23, it’s time to see what the final version of the game is worth.
Looking for fights
Things are not going so well in the Westmire area. Raiders are stealing everything they can, monsters are infesting the area, and a mysterious cult is trying to awaken an ancient evil. It is in these ideal circumstances for a mercenary that you arrive in the city, determined to fight everything that comes your way, with the help of anyone who is ready to lend a helping hand. Well, I won’t lie to you, the script is not the first thing I remember from Gordian Quest because the script of the game is, first of all, an excuse to introduce you to the various game characters. Indeed, in addition to this campaign mode, Gordian Quest offers a mode called “Kingdoms” for faster games with a very rogue-lite operation: one map, several possible paths, you move from node to node, not being able to go back. Finally, Gordian Quest includes a PvP mode called “Pass d’armes”.
Yes, yes, I just want to hit people!
bag of knots
In campaign mode, you start the game by choosing your hero from the ten available classes, other characters join you as you progress through the scenario to finally form a team of up to 3 characters. You then enter the village, which acts as a central hub. This hub is the only significant difference between campaign mode and kingdom mode. Whether it’s a city or a simple camp, this is where you return between each of your outward expeditions to rest or heal the wounded. Also in this hub we find merchants who sell you both equipment and provisions for the road. And that’s where you’ll finally find crafters who can give you the means to improve your material: enchanting in Wynne, adding a rune location in Barnaby, or refining your bulky one at the blacksmith. Here you will also find the guild hall, which allows you to change the composition of your team. On this occasion, we are pleased to note that all characters gain experience, regardless of whether they are in your team or not.
However, the time will soon come to leave this safe haven to confront the outside world. A world map is a collection of points (or nodes) connected to each other. Your group moves from node to node and you can’t get to one without resolving the previous one. Because each node contains an action: explorations (nodes where you can earn rewards by avoiding monsters), rest areas, dungeons (which are themselves sets of nodes that you need to complete, but with a feature that you need to complete in order to be able to leave) or even text events that will offer you choices, sometimes helpful, sometimes disabling. But, of course, a large number of nodes will be dedicated to combat.
The battles that are waiting for you are marked in red
In combat, Gordian Quest doesn’t break the basics of deck builders. Your team occupies the left side of the field, the opponent occupies the right side, and everyone stays at home. Each character (ally or enemy) attacks in turn, on an individual initiative basis, using cards in your hand and from your personal deck. Out of habit, enemy actions are announced to you at the start of your turn, and you can choose how you react to them. However, the terrain in which the fighting takes place has a tactical dimension, placing a lot of importance on the placement of your characters.
Indeed, far from the classic face-to-face on the same line, Gordian Quest battles take place on a grid divided into 3 lanes and 6 lines. Which changes a lot. First, your attacks have a limited range, both in terms of lanes (you can only attack in your own lane or adjacent lanes) and in terms of lanes. Interestingly, the same principle applies to enemy attacks as well, and we quickly learn that it’s more effective to avoid an attack by going out of range than to try to block it with defensive cards. To take advantage of this, we can use strategy points, a resource that we get during combat that gives us access to special cards, such as movement, whose cost is independent of your action points. Even better, the further you advance in the game, the more you encounter special terrain cluttered with obstacles that hinder both sides in their maneuvers. In short, the system is already good from the very beginning, and I haven’t told you anything about the evolution of the characters yet.
Fight for progress
Each battle you win earns you loot and experience that will help your character progress. This equipment that you receive as a reward can have various effects, ranging from a simple bonus to one of your stats to resistance to certain types of damage. But some may also add a new card to your deck, such as a heal card or a magic missile spell. However, don’t expect super-powerful legendary items to overwhelm you. There is legendary equipment, you will receive it on occasion, but rarely. Generally speaking, equipment is the first thing that makes your characters stronger by improving your stats. Each card in your deck has a color that determines which of your stats it uses.
New card for my deck
The other part of character evolution, of course, concerns experience and the leveling that goes with it. Each level gives you a skill point that you can spend on a tree that may seem strange to you. Presented as a square block, it appears very small at the start of the game. In fact, every few skill points you unlock a new block that you can select and link to an existing tree. An important choice because, another feature of Gordian Quest, your characters build their deck of cards from three different sets of cards, each with its own characteristics. A Ranger, for example, can draw cards from the Ranged Card Set, which is more focused on traps, from the Shooter Card Set, or even from the Guardian Card Set, which is designed to create weapons in the field. Each block you choose is associated with one of its sets and therefore allows you to unlock cards from that set to enrich your deck. Also in these blocks you will find skills to improve cards (by increasing their raw characteristics) or to master the card (which will give it a special effect).
(Slightly) advanced skill tree
Gordian Quest is a game that I’ve had a lot of fun playing, but it’s still not free from less than happy elements. Let’s start with the most obvious: difficulty balancing. Admittedly, the game is based on a cheat game and death is part of the journey, but that doesn’t stop me from being skeptical about some of the choices. Kingdom Mode, for example, ramps up the difficulty of encounters so quickly that it’s impossible to keep track of, and we quickly end up in 4-5-level gaps, even taking all the battle nodes to get the most experience. We also find this issue in the campaign, where I found myself in Act 2 with nodes offering +10 level fights compared to my group. It stings a little. Because leveling up isn’t the fastest, so we find ourselves multiplying passages in which we explore the map for the sole purpose of finding available fights to level up.
Kingdom Mode Map
This balance to consider brings me to another point where the game didn’t really convince me: its way of presenting its mechanics to the player. Remember I told you that there are 10 characters available for your party, each with 3 sets of cards and therefore 3 different play philosophies. However, the game does a very poor job of introducing you to character-specific mechanics, mostly for those whose gameplay is very focused on the statuses they apply to enemies. This makes leveling late-drop companions quite risky, and led me to a classic team RPG: I almost completely used the companions received at the beginning.
It took me 10 hours to open this menu 🙁
Finally, from a technical point of view, Gordian Quest shows a very clean performance. The game is available in French for its texts, and I didn’t notice much of a problem with translation. Visually, the game is quite successful, as you can see from the images that accompany this text. On the other hand, I would put the music in the background so that it doesn’t mark me. Finally, disk occupancy avoids inflation, which affects many recent games with a small 3 GB of hard disk space.
Gordian Quest is a very good game despite some shortcomings. Rich enough to get a little confusing, this is a game that only reveals its intricacies over time, but which a beginner can also find fun in.
Tested by Grim on PC using the version provided by the developer.