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Codex Review RPG Codex Review: Trials of Fire

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by Infinitron, Aug 22, 2021.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    RPG Wokedex Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Tags: Trials of Fire; Whatboy Games

    Due to the popularity of Slay the Spire, there's been a flood of deckbuilding roguelikes over the past few years. It's a genre that isn't really in this site's wheelhouse, with many a Codexer having spotted a game that seemed interesting to them only to learn to their disappointment that it features "card-based combat". We do have some users who are into these games though. Among them is the esteemed Lacrymas, who has contributed a review of a game called Trials of Fire. It's a tactical deckbuilding roguelike set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world that was released back in April after two years in Early Access. He's a big fan of the game, praising it for its intricate mechanics and a lesser emphasis on RNG compared to other titles in the genre. Here's an excerpt from the review:

    The game part consists of two connected strategic and tactical layers. As mentioned previously, you move your party on the strategic map and explore areas with a hovering question mark on top. The most important aspect to keep track of here is your food. The more your party wanders about, the more the members get exhausted and need to rest, for which you use food. There are five levels of exhaustion, each of them putting an ever-increasing number of Exhausted cards into your deck, which clog up your precious card space and are only good for recycling (more on that later). On top of that, there is a morale system which governs bonuses and maluses to armor and redraws (ditto). Your morale is dependent on how far you are straying from the main quest and whether you are traveling while tired. You cannot die of overexertion, but you can give in to despair and lose the game that way.

    On your journeys, you will come across various events that give you food, currency, mystic herbs, items, and crafting materials (some events might also hurt you). I've already covered food; obsidian coins can be spent in settlements across the map to acquire anything you can think of, to hire companions, or in narrative events for specific outcomes. Mystic herbs are used for upgrading cards and healing persistent wounds (represented by harmful cards in your deck). The items give you armor (bonus health) and cards. This is a particularly genius move. It raises the value of equipment tremendously and pulls them up from the mire of being only stat sticks. There are no randomly-generated items. They are all unique and each item will give you the exact same card in every playthrough. Which items you get however is random, and not every class can equip every type. This is where the most impactful RNG lies. You can not pre-plan your builds because you don't know which items you will get.

    I'd argue this is a right way to provoke "item fever". Hear that, Swen? There's a place and time for everything. You may take notes. Getting certain items can dramatically change your playstyle in unexpected ways, and this is the norm, not the exception. Items are technically classified in five tiers and are MMO color-coded for your convenience. Grey, green, blue, purple, and orange. Guess which color corresponds to which tier. Grey items are only the starting armor of the classes. You will never find them while adventuring. The higher the tier, the more cards (up to three at purple) and armor an item gives. Orange items, being legendaries, also grant you unique passive traits that are triggered in battle under certain circumstances. The most straightforward example is +2 damage on the first magical attack each turn. It gets wild after that. But wait! There's a twist. An item of a more prestigious color doesn't automatically mean it's better than the one below it, even if they give the same cards + the extra one(s). I'll explain why momentarily. Which brings me to the last strategic resource - crafting materials.

    They are used to upgrade and "hone" equipment, or to permanently add a card granted by an item to a character's deck (i.e. you don't need to have it equipped anymore). Upgrading an item only improves the card(s) it gives, not armor or any traits (if legendary). Cards can only be upgraded once and each one has a unique way it improves. Sometimes it's very plain, like +1 damage or -1 willpower cost, but other times it even acquires additional effects. Honing is where it gets interesting. Remember how I said higher tier items aren't automatically better? The reason is you don't always want to fill your deck with junk cards which waste space in your hand and don't contribute to a build or tactic you are conceptualizing. The deadliest killer in this game in my opinion is having too many cards in your deck. This is where honing comes into play. Honing uses the crafting materials to remove a single card from an item. This allows you to keep cards you want and discard cards that uselessly take up space. This is not to say some cards are always garbage and unusable. I've found all cards have utility in some situations. It depends on your build and what other cards you have. There is one more thing in the strategic portion - followers. These are characters which you hire or get from quests that come along with you and provide you with passive non-combat buffs, like more health while resting or reducing the amount of crafting materials you need. There isn't much to say about these. They are a nice bonus, but nothing game-changing.

    I can't get through a strategic overview without mentioning the classes. There are nine, but you start out being able to select just three (the Warrior, the Hunter, and the Elementalist) and you have to unlock the others through play. This is something I've always been fond of in roguelikes harking back to Tales of Maj'Eyal. It gives you very significant rewards for playing the game without lowering the difficulty of subsequent runs. These classes are much easier to unlock than in something like ToME however, and you are given an option to just unlock everything from the start (which I advise against). I suspect this is for players who once unlocked everything, but have long lost the save files and have no way to get them back. ToF's optional online feature doesn't track this kind of progress like ToME's does (but I digress). Each class has its own starting set of cards and special ability. The Warrior, for example, gives +2 defense to all heroes after playing a card while adjacent to an enemy. Even though this may seem abysmal, there are ways to make these abilities very powerful and the cornerstone of your build. The starting set is always very basic and mostly consists of universal cards like a melee attack or movement, but every class has some unique cards in the starting arsenal and is always given unique cards when leveling up, up to four you can choose at each level. You can opt to either replace a card you already know (cards from items don't count) or upgrade an existing one. This keeps the decks from growing exponentially and wards off power creep.

    Outside of character levels in the current adventure, there's also a soul level that persists through runs. This is where the roguelite element (one element) appears. When you win or lose a run, each character individually gains soul experience which contributes to the soul level. Each soul level up to 10 grants you a unique class card which you can choose while leveling your characters in an adventure. I didn't get a card at soul level 11, so it either stops at 10 or granting cards gets more infrequent the higher level you are. As far as I can tell, this is something the developers implemented fairly recently. I was able to find forum threads in which people ask what the soul level does (during Early Access) and a developer responds with "nothing right now". Here's the kicker however. This can potentially make subsequent runs harder and not easier. I argued in the beginning that the roguelite element is a wolf in sheep's clothing and the reason is that it could oversaturate your class pool and make it harder to get the class card you want while leveling up. It's quite paradoxical and I'm not sure whether this is a con or simply neutral. For now, I'm going to say it's neutral because adapting to what RNGesus gives you is half the game. I haven't yet lost a run because I couldn't get the class card I want, but I also haven't played on a higher difficulty than hard (which is the third out of 13 difficulty levels). As a bouncing off point to talking about the battles, it's worth mentioning that some classes have mechanics and resources that others don't. Combined with the uniqueness of the classes themselves, this makes every party composition surprisingly diverse in terms of playstyle.​

    Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Trials of Fire
     
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  2. Lacrymas Arcane

    Lacrymas
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    Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    I lie recumbent on my chaise longue, ready to answer questions and receive the praise/hate.
     
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  3. LibertyRansom Augur

    LibertyRansom
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    TL;DR - Better or worse than Slay the Spire?
     
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  4. Lacrymas Arcane

    Lacrymas
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    One small thing that isn't very clear even though I reread the text 3 times during editing and somehow didn't catch: when you level up, you get to choose 1 card from a selection of 4 randomly taken from your class pool. Or you can choose to upgrade a card you already possess.
    A lot better. It's also not a very appropriate comparison. It's more akin to Gloomhaven than Slay the Spire.
     
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  5. LibertyRansom Augur

    LibertyRansom
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    Oh snap. Gonna check this out.
     
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  6. J1M Arcane

    J1M
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    Perhaps it would be helpful if the review linked to the thread we already have about this game.
     
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  7. Galdred Studio Draconis Patron Developer

    Galdred
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    I think it feels closer to Cardhunter(it has tactical positioning on a grid, and you use cards to move and attack), but without the meta-progression(each run is self contained), PvP, and discutable business model.
    I think it is a game really worth trying indeed.
    PC Gloomhaven also felt a lot "clunkier" to me (everything feels slow in PC GH: animations, menu, and the UI is mediocre).
    Another key difference with GH is that you don't throw away cards to simulate fatigue in a mission:
    That is one of the least convincing aspects of GH IMO, as you get less and less options as you go (which may be thematic, but is less interesting to play.
     
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  8. Lacrymas Arcane

    Lacrymas
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    I'm hoping the Gloomhaven devs are going to implement an animation speed slider because the animations feel maliciously slow. Good thing there are no animations in ToF and there's even a "fast enemy turns" option, which are fast to begin with. I actually like that you lose cards in GH the more you advance in a mission, it feels appropriately tense and it's a good counterbalance to the fact you get to choose which cards to use when. I didn't know about Cardhunter, I'll check out a let's play. As for the ToF thread - https://rpgcodex.net/forums/threads...s-in-a-post-apocalyptic-fantasy-world.127478/ I'm surprised this game gets so little attention. Gloomhaven also gets very little attention and it's a shame. Both ToF and GH are the best RPGs to have come out recently imo and shouldn't be missed just because they are card-based. I wasn't aware people don't like card-based games.
     
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  9. Thac0 JRPG ambassador Patron

    Thac0
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    Trials of Fire being able to wrestle with Gloomhaven when it comes to mechanical quality, and arguably even come out on top, is all you need to know.
    If you have a heart for card games or grid tactics check this out. It is the cream of the crop.
     
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  10. Arthandas Arbiter

    Arthandas
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    Looks super interesting, I don't understand how I never heard of it anywhere. Definitely a buy.
     
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  11. Mortmal Arcane

    Mortmal
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    It's not woke nor controversial so codexers dont speak about it.
    Nice review, probably will buy it.
     
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  12. Lacrymas Arcane

    Lacrymas
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    It depends on your definition of woke and controversial. The two heavily-armored (mostly) front-line classes are women.
     
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  13. thesheeep Arcane Patron

    thesheeep
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    You aren't wrong, that alone would trigger some of the more insecure specimen here.
     
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  14. grimace Prophet

    grimace
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  15. Alpan Magister Patron

    Alpan
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Thanks Lacrymas for the well-written review and also reminding me this exists: I had wishlisted it some months ago but had forgotten about it. Haven't played anything for almost three months but I'll buy it when the mood for gaming strikes me again.
     
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  16. Lacrymas Arcane

    Lacrymas
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    Quite. Wet. Also, that song is surprisingly banging.
     
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  17. Tomas Literate Patron

    Tomas
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    This is better than Gloomhaven? Well am going to have to check it out :)
     
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  18. Naraya Prophet

    Naraya
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    Hmm it's pretty good but I'm still on the fence. One of the best features of StS is its beautiful simplicity. As of now I'm not a fan of all these additional mechanics like Willpower, Food, Combo Strikes etc. They add another layer of RNG and complexity and I'm not sure I like it.
     
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  19. Lacrymas Arcane

    Lacrymas
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    Willpower and combo strikes aren't based on RNG at all. Food kinda, but I've had only a single run in which food RNG was a problem out of many. Like I wrote, you are in control of the RNG and it's not there to screw you over. "Traditional" RPGs have much more ruthless randomness. Also, a person from the ToF discord tells me I've missed a mechanic - the quality of "a piece of gear" gives you "re-rolls". I don't know what he means by that, but I promised I'll write it here.
     
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  20. Thac0 JRPG ambassador Patron

    Thac0
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    Each hero has a certain amount of rerolls per turn. You can drag cards from the heroes hand to a certain place, and then draw new ones as long as you still have rerolls. So reroll is a bit of a bad way to phrase it, they are redraws, or often called cycling or mulligan in card games like MTG.
    Would be funny if you went that far without knowing the mechanic, as it adds quite a bit of power to you and keeps the rng low, as you can mulligan away bad cards.
     
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  21. Lacrymas Arcane

    Lacrymas
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    I know about the redraw -
    I just don't know what he means by "the quality of a piece of gear gives you more redraws". Which gear? I thought it's only dependent on your morale level.
     
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  22. Thac0 JRPG ambassador Patron

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    I would have to boot the game back up to confirm, but I think high level gear can bestow extra redraws.
     
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  23. Lacrymas Arcane

    Lacrymas
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    I found out what he means -
    So, it's not a piece of gear, it's your entire equipment. I have totally overlooked this, lol.

    EDIT: Actually no, some gear has a quality stat -
    The epic bracers the Witch has on gives no quality, soooo beats me.
     
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  24. lobsterfrogman Learned

    lobsterfrogman
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    quality != rarity

    What you wrote at the beginning of your post is true - your number of redraws depends on the quality of your equipment, but not every piece of equipment has a quality stat.
     
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  25. Lacrymas Arcane

    Lacrymas
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    Yeah, I somehow overlooked this. But given the fact I am somehow in third place for the Water Gem quest and second place for the short Trials of Fire run, I'd say it isn't really that important to know about the existence of this stat, lol. It's now mentioned anyway, so that oversight is corrected.
     
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