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    Griftlands review

    Need to know

    What is it? A deck-building, roguelike RPG with chops built for talking.

    Expect to pay? £15.49

    Developer Klei Entertainment

    Publisher Klei Entertainment

    Reviewed on 64-Bit Windows 10, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, Intel i7 4790K, 16 GB RAM

    Multiplayer? No

    Out Now

    Link Official site (opens in new tab)

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    Games have always been looking for ways to make conversations as compelling as the combat. Why can’t a tense negotiation feel as gripping as a tough-as-nails boss fight? That’s the question Griftlands seeks to answer. It makes for a compelling roguelike, thanks to great writing and characters, but doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its chatty deck-building systems.

    The titular Griftlands are a chaotic place where corrupt law enforcement and criminal syndicates run things against a backdrop of sci-fi and fantasy. Brutal it may be, but it sure is pretty. I love the scratchy, hand-drawn touch to everything. There’s a smart economy to where the embellishments are made, which ensures the game can deliver on its scope without any rough edges. Character sprites have lovely gestures and expressions that compliment the writing, while the overworld map is simply littered with tidy icons.

    Negotiations are the game’s card battling at its best. (Image credit: Klei Entertainment)

    Griftlands does make good on far-reaching consequences. Recurring NPCs pop up in unexpected places, leading to tough spots where you might have to contemplate a double cross to achieve your goals. These are also randomised for subsequent runs, to an impressively varied degree—ensuring new runs feel reasonably fresh and that softens the blow when you do die.

    You can get a boost on your next run, too—but there’s only so much of the sting it can take away, and despite the convincing way side missions are generated, the main story remains the same. Failing close to the finish line is never not going to take the wind out of your sails. There is a Story Mode setting for those who want to focus purely on the writing, but it feels like a band-aid on some harsh difficulty spikes. I was coasting through the game for the first two days, and then out of nowhere comes a fight several orders of magnitude tougher than anything preceding it. It might make narrative sense, but it’s not very interesting to keep restarting and bumping into walls like these.

    Shortcomings aside, Griftlands is another slice of low-key brilliance from developers Klei. Is there a genre they can’t do? The balance of narrative and deck-building made for a much more engaging experience than I often have with card-based titles, even if it feels like more could be done to connect those systems and bolster the storytelling. Still, I’m going to remember my adventures with Sal and the little moments of friendship and betrayal throughout each run. I like playing as a grifter; it ain’t much but it’s a living.

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    As seen on PCgamer

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