Asmodee Games has been making its name porting board games to the digital format, and one of their more recent is an
adaptation of the RPG card game Pathfinder
You start by selecting a handful of characters and building decks for them given certain restrictions. Then, after a short
visual novel-style cutscene, you drop each of them into one of a choice of locations. Each of these locations has their
own deck of cards, featuring a mix of monsters to defeat, weapons to collect and allies to recruit- and one location's
will contain the Big Bad for this scenario.
Each turn you pick the top card from the location's deck, and then you react to it by rolling dice and picking cards from
your Hand to make your dice rolls more likely to succeed.
Hands tend to be in the region of five or six cards and represent both your toolset and your health. Weapons, by example,
allow you to add an extra die to your combat roll- if you roll a number higher than that on the card you drew from the
Location deck, you defeat the monster, and if it's lower, you take damage to the value of the difference between the dice
roll and the card. Or, in other words, discard that number of cards from your hand.
At the end of each turn you draw cards from your Deck to fill your hand and if you cannot hold a full hand you die, this
means you die with cards left which can feel unfair, especially if one of your characters has a larger hand, which can
make up about a third of the deck.
Play cycles through each of the characters in turn until the location they're in can be 'closed', either by working all
the way through the location deck or fulfilling some other criteria specific to that place.
If you encounter the Big Bad, it is fought in the same way as all the other monsters- although when defeated, it will
attempt to run away. If it is encountered prematurely, locations can also be temporarily closed if a character is already
there at the time- this means it they can only escape to open locations, giving you an idea of where it's hiding.
This, coupled with the 'Blessings' deck, which acts as a de facto time limit, adds elements of strategy to your character
and location choices- fewer characters mean that you can focus and use time more efficiently, but more means you're better
able to corner the Big Bad sooner.
There is a lot you can do with your deck to improve your chances, with more powerful cards having more powerful effects
and more tweaks that help to mitigate the fiddlier effects of the enemies you will face, although it's this stage where
the game starts to fall apart.
The PC version of Pathfinder Adventures
is, if you like, an adaptation of an adaptation- the game swapped cardboard
for pixels once already, being released on mobile before being ported to Windows. The mobile version is Free-To-Play,
while the PC version is a paid game, with paid DLC expansions.
While the microtransactions are happily left behind, there has been no meaningful change to the gameplay in transit-
outside of the campaign scenarios, Pathfinder Adventures
is very much a currency-based affair, which means grinding
and loot boxes.
Playing through a normal scenario will see your deck both gain and lose cards, and the end of each scenario will see you
having to rebalance your deck, removing cards of a type which you have too many of, and replacing cards lost of types that
you have too few of. You draw these from a 'stash' of cards, shared between your characters- although this itself comes
with limitations. The stash can only hold twenty cards, and all the rest must be thrown away and exchanged for currency-
as such it's difficult to build a decent selection of cards, limiting the scope for experimentation.
The game is decidedly stingy when it comes to handing out currency, and even though cards which fall out of the loot box
go into a seperate stash which doesn't need to be regularly emptied, once they're in your deck they're up to be lost,
something that can really start to grate when the dice decide that they're not on your side.
There are also other problems that have arisen from the conversion from one platform to the other, notably that we had
trouble getting the game to run at a decent frame rate on a few PCs unless the resolution and a lot of the graphical
effects were turned down, and some aspects of the touch-based UI translate badly to mouse control- something that is
pleasingly tactile on mobile becomes admin with a mouse.
There's a solid game at the base of this, but it's perhaps not entirely compatible with videogame business models, at least not without serious rebalancing. The
paper version might well be a better choice.