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Trials of Fire Review: More Deckbuilding Excellence

Trials of Fire is another excellent entry into the deckbuilding genre, combining roguelite tactics and deep card pools to great effect.

Trials of Fire is a deckbuilding roguelite developer and published by Whatboy Games. While it’s been in Steam Early Access for quite some time, it’s finally launching in full on April 9, 2021. Thanks to its iterations and player feedback, what’s being released is a content rich, deep deckbuilder that has a number of innovative spins on the form, resulting in yet another excellent entry into a genre that’s started to get a little crowded with compelling titles.

Trials of Fire is, at its core, a game that’s deeply inspired by Slay the Spire. Many of the well-established tropes of that game and the deckbuilding titles that have come since are present in Trials of Fire, too. Players build their deck, acquiring cards through leveling up and synergizing their deck with equipment that’s found over the course of a journey. The equipment system provides additional depth to the game, as items will also add cards to a hero’s deck. While these cards can be powerful, especially on higher rarity items, they might not necessarily work well with a party composition, particularly in a run that’s gone on for an hour or so already. The balancing here is key to Trials of Fire‘s identity, which is rooted in fiddling with as stats as possible to produce the best outcome in a given game session.

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Trials of Fire allows players to tackle randomly generated adventures, pre-made content, and other modes like boss rushes as they become more familiar with the game. The pre-made journeys are the best because of their mix of story-telling, world-building, and gameplay decisions, though every mode ranges from serviceable to exciting. With that said, however, the narratives at play are only just better in Trials of Fire than they are in similarly esoteric titles like Slay the Spire, and that’s a shame given the game’s more involved world. Players navigate a board full of locations to check out, roaming enemies, and more to tackle quests, side quests and leveling. It feels more like a tabletop RPG than a lot of other deckbuilder designs, and it would’ve been nice to see this embraced even further.

Trials of Fire Overworld Map

That being said, it’s pretty obvious why Whatboy Games didn’t dive too deeply into the RPG story – games of Trials of Fire already take a sizeable amount of time. While many deckbuilders err on the side of pretty quick gameplay unless a run is going extremely well, Trials of Fire is sluggish no matter what. That’s in part due to its tactical battles, which infuse positioning and range into the usual deckbuilder norms to create more dynamic combat. Battle takes longer, but so does exploration, and even botched runs can span quite a while before it’s become obvious it’s not working out. Trials of Fire is not pick-up-and-play by design, though it does have some shorter jaunts available for players on a tight schedule.

Still, Trials of Fire gets most of its innovations right, and its party system is lovely. There are a wide range of characters to unlock and each party consists of 3 of them, with users able to swap them out and customize their team as they see fit. It’s another layer of strategy, and each class does a good job of separating itself from the pack, offering something new to tinker on in conjunction with the party’s larger thematic scope. Each hero archetype levels up through sessions and unlocks more cards, though this takes a considerable amount of time. It would’ve been nice to see progression hastened at least a little, as the game really shines with the full gauntlet of its options available.

Ultimately, it’s not surprising to see Trials of Fire emerge out of Early Access as a strong deckbuilding contender. That time spent listening to player feedback was used wisely, and balancing, tone, and innovation have all been tweaked with a deft hand. While some of its elements shine more brightly than others, and the more involved nature of the game means it’s a tougher sell for players looking to rapid-fire their way through its learning curve and combinations, Trials of Fire leaves Early Access as yet another strong, captivating deckbuilding game that borrows from tabletop roleplaying games and roguelites to carve out a name for itself.

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Trials of Fire leaves Steam Early Access on April 9, 2021 and will be available on PC. Screen Rant was provided with a digital download code for the purpose of this review.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5 (Excellent)

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