by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
A Fair Comparison
Shattered Heaven is probably going to get compared to Slay the Spire by the majority of people that play it, and the comparison is certainly apt. I generally don't think it’s fair to measure a game in relationship to another, but the similarities are just too strong to ignore, though that's not necessarily a bad thing. I haven't played anywhere near the whole game, but I was able to run through two dungeons in Leonardo Production’s upcoming rogue-like, deck-building RPG, and there’s no denying that the game wears its influence on its sleeve. However, Shattered Heaven also attempts to leverage a few unique angles that separate it from its contemporaries, though it’s too early to fully understand how well those diversions will pay off.
Shattered Heaven opens with some lore that explains what's going on, and, to be honest, it's a lot. There are fallen gods, rival clans, curses that cause death at the start of middle age, and horrendous beasts that have overtaken certain areas of the land. I didn't expect so much exposition at the beginning, but I appreciate that the game is attempting to tell a story to contrast similar games that keep things largely unsaid. I don't recall many of the details because of how many names and places were dropped into the codex in the hour and a half or so that I played, but the long and short of it is that warriors from different clans in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world have to fight their way to remove the curse and restore some semblance of peace.
Your mileage is going to vary on how much it clicks with you, but I find myself zoning out a bit with some of the more jargon-heavy conversations. I'm not writing the narrative off yet, though, because the game does promise a branching story that reacts dynamically to reach a number of different endings. It's very possible (and I hope likely) that things settle down a bit after the opening and the writing finds its groove.
Deck Building and Combat
Once I got fighting, though, I enjoyed myself a lot more. I'll keep my Slay the Spire comparisons brief, but the general set-up is going to be incredibly familiar to people that have played it. In each encounter, players fight with a deck of cards that grant them attacks, blocks, and buffs/debuffs. Enemies preview what kind of action they'll be taking, and players manage their limited action points to survive. One big difference between Slay the Spire and Shattered Heaven is that the latter had me controlling three different characters instead of just one, which did add some interesting tactical possibilities. Two of the three are a standard tank and fighter, but the third is a much more interesting mystic that works with a monstrous spirit to balance self-debuffs and massive attacks.
The selection of cards seemed fun, but it’s hard to evaluate how diverse deckbuilding will be with a limited batch to work with. I did find myself coming across several repetitions of the same cards, which players add to each of the three decks after successful fights, and I'm excited to see how different deck builds, and options come out in the full release. While not fighting, players explore layers of dungeons in the form of different tiles that have either traps, combat encounters, rest points, loot, or shops. There is a bit of decision-making to be had in terms of how much to explore and when to just head straight for the end of the level, but objectives and complications were fairly limited in the content that I had.
The make-or-break feature, and unfortunately one that I wasn't able to play around with much, is the RPG-like skill tree for each combatant that unlocks permanent buffs and looks like it will allow some interesting long-term strategizing and synergies between characters and cards. I only got two points to unlock two (of many) possibilities, and I'm excited to see what kinds of things are opened up further along the tree. Rogue-like deck builders have certainly had permanent progress and unlocks before, but this seems much more in-depth than what I've seen before.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Shattered Heaven. It may take inspiration from elsewhere with a fairly heavy hand, but as long as the game is fun, that isn’t a bad thing. The triple-character gameplay was engaging, and I’m excited to see where it goes with more deckbuilding options. I hope that the story comes together a bit more and the cut-scenes become a bit less of a slog, but there's a lot of potential here, and I'll definitely be checking back when the game comes out on October 13th.
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