On the road to nowhere.
As the Nowhere Prophet, you are in charge of a group of followers who are simply trying to survive. The world is full of bandits, gangs, and beasts but you must try and guide your people to safety through all of it. As you go, you will need to use each of your followers and their skills in order to come out on top in the fights that await you.
The world of Soma is harsh, especially as it almost entirely lacks technology due to a cataclysmic event known as the Crash. The world is in ruins, and as you make your way through long-dead cities and broken down vehicles, you have just one place in mind: the Crypt. It’s here that there is said to still contain technology, it’s here that you and your people should be safe.
The story doesn’t sound like anything too out of the ordinary; after all, we are gifted with a new post-apocalypse to survive in on a near-weekly basis. However, the setting and the characters in Nowhere Prophet are very much unique. With genuinely interesting character designs and some intriguing mechanics, it stands out from the competition.
The world is brought to life by a beautifully detailed art style, one that adds so much character to the, uh, characters, with so little effort. I say little effort – I’m sure a tremendous amount of effort went into it. The result is that kind of effortlessly cool look that actually takes hours and hours to perfect. It’s beautiful, and the music is just as good, thanks to being intriguing Indian-infused electronica which you’re not going to find anywhere else.
“But what about the gameplay?” I hear you bellowing, which is weird, because I’m at home, and I shouldn’t be able to hear you.
Well, Nowhere Prophet is a roguelike deck-builder with just a hint of strategy. The world is procedurally generated, and full of random events and places, not to mention enemies. Each battle takes place on a grid, which varies from battle to battle, where you can place your units and have them face off against each other, or the enemy leader.
There are two decks in Nowhere Prophet. Your convoy deck is made up of your followers – these are your units, basically. Your leader deck is your own abilities, and these do things like deal direct damage, or change the layout of the battlefield. Balancing the two is paramount if you want to succeed and make it through a run.
To win a battle, you need to reduce the enemy leader’s health to nothing. You can do this through a mixture of your own abilities, as well as deploying your followers on the grid and having them strike your foes. Your opponent can do the same, so you need to be crafty to come out on top, or alive at all.
Only your first unit in any row can attack, and they can only attack the first unit in the opposing rows. You don’t have to attack the units though; you can go straight for the kill against the enemy leader.
Well, unless they have a unit with Taunt, in which case you have to kill that unit first. There are a wealth of different abilities that your units can have, and that’s what makes things so interesting. Some units can attack from anywhere instead of just the front line, other units can refresh if you use one of your own abilities instead of another convoy card.
It gets more intriguing when you realise that each card you play is a follower in your happy little cult. That’s cool, right? Yeah, for sure, until they die in battle. You see, when a unit falls in battle, they become wounded. If they get wounded twice before you heal them, then they die. Dead followers become destroyed cards, and they are no good to you whatsoever. This means that losing even a single card can be detrimental to your entire gameplan, so you need to protect your units as though they were your own family. After all, in Nowhere Prophet, they kind of are.
You can pick up new followers, of course. You can recruit more followers at certain places on the map, as well as rescuing slaves, defeating gangs and showing them mercy, or even just finding them stranded in the deserts. These events go both ways though; sometimes, a follower will try and steal from the convoy, then it’s up to you to decide how to deal with them. Do you show mercy, make an example out of them, or just banish them entirely?
The whole system is a lot more dynamic than you would expect from a card game, and the fact that you have to protect your cards makes each battle so much more tense. It’s brilliant, quite frankly, and the more you play, the more variables you unlock.
You start to unlock new groups of followers and new classes to play as. Every different choice makes for a different game, and it’s rarely as well executed as here.
Now, the combat doesn’t always feel very challenging – with the right hand you can trash your opponent before they even get a turn – but the further you go, the harder things get. Succeeding against a boss or a late-game enemy is immensely rewarding, both literally and figuratively. Plus, the further you get in any given run, the more you have to use strategy instead of brute force. It makes each battle a learning experience, and each run worth doing.
Overall, Nowhere Prophet manages to feel like a completely new experience, despite the fact that you can see a lot of the game’s influences in the way it plays. The mesh of different ideas and genres makes for a game that will hook you and keep you coming back for more. Even losses aren’t as infuriating as they could be thanks to the regular unlocks you get as you go through each run. It’s just really good, and if you like card games, then you should add this to your shuffle pile.
[Reviewed on PC]