Amongst the sea of games showcased at Play NYC, Razbury Games From Rust is perhaps the biggest tone shift from a previous work. Razbury Games is known for the unique RPG Vidar, a dark tale about death coming to a small village struggling to survive.
"Vidar was somber, was dark, was a lot of gray and about death and how communities mourn, and I couldn’t live in that world anymore," said Dean Razavi, the founder of Razbury games. "I wrote I think 5-6,000 lines of dialogue about how people lose people who are close to them. And I was done, it took three years to get through it. I needed something more frivolous and fun so From Rust fits that.”
From Rust, the antithesis to Vidar, is a kinetic, stylized card game rich in personality. The game is a full co-op experience, designed specifically to be a card game where players are not in competition with each other, but instead against the boss of the deck. The art style invokes a lighter tone, and Razavi was quick to point out this as a strength for the game. "We’re going for a 'tongue-in-cheek' dark humor post-apocalypse. We've got a Borderlands vibe to it as well, with brighter colors." Character designs are just a part of that presentation, where plucky, stylized mercenaries fight robots who have taken over the planet.
Thankfully, From Rust will feel familiar to most fans of collectible card games. "If you ever played Munchkin or Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, where the deck kind of represents a dungeon, everyone is taking turns, flipping cards, working together to fight monsters and get through an area," said Razavi. "In the end, everyone comes together to fight a boss, and if you beat it, you unlock cards for your account in the next session going forward.”
The mechanics are well defined in the demo video Razavi showcased at Play NYC this weekend. Four characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, were working together to explore a desert landscape, fight off robots and Mad Max styled scavengers, and then take on a massive boss at the end, a behemoth bot that both does massive damage and heals itself in battle. In-between we saw randomized event cards come up, which helped in pushing the narrative of the game and the stories of the characters in a more organic way.
A lot of the game's own mechanics are tailored for a party of up to four players working together. There are two primary stats for characters: power and speed. Power is their attacking prowess; speed is how many cards they can flip over in a day. Flipping over cards is paramount for success in From Rust, as it provides players the ability to gather enough resources to level up their characters.
"The core way you level up is with scrap cards, which is a shared resource that the whole team must decide what you are going to build for which character," noted Razavi. Each character also has different functions and builds, such as a scout who can shuffle the deck to find items, or a sniper who can join with other characters combats from afar, doing massive damage.
"We are trying to inject that flavor into each character deck," said Razavi. "Things like 'How do we represent a scout through cards?’ We also have two skill trees for each character, where your skills are represented by the cards you can bring into a map.”
There are a certain number of days before you fight a boss, so a core mechanic is to team up with other people to fight any monsters drawn. This way, weaker characters can party up with strong characters, but the trade off is less speed, meaning less cards to cycle through. Another mechanic is the use of dice to determine attacking damage; a character's power is instead tied to the number of dice the player rolls to hit, although cards to manipulate dice rolls are also part of a deck build for the game.
From Rust can still be played solo, with a single player controlling a party of four heroes, but the main goal. of course, is the focus on 4 player co-op. “In tabletop we have seen a lot of co-op card games and living card games, stuff like Gloomhaven which has had tremendous success out there," said Razavi. "We haven’t really seen that on platforms like Steam though."
Razavi is hoping that From Rust will be able to fill that niche for players hungry for a co-op card game online, but he is also using From Rust in another way: to explore what an RPG can be. He ties this back to Vidar, hoping that the consistency with toying with role-playing game conventions will be a running theme with his work. "A lot of people gave me flack for Vidar because it was not a traditional RPG, things like there was no combat for example. From Rust has a lot of RPG elements baked into this card game, and I wanted to continue to explore outside the traditional ‘take three steps have a random encounter’ mechanic.”
Razavi was candid about the expectations on how From Rust will be seen by other players. "I don’t think people are going to look at From Rust and say ‘this is my favorite RPG’ but I think it will feel more like an Adventure Game or more like an Exploration Game," he said. "Mechanically though, it feels more like a dungeon crawler [like] Diablo, because if the dungeon is the deck, I have those random encounters baked in there.”
From Rust currently has over 1,000 cards planned for the game, including several boss characters and ten hero characters, along with plans for expansions further down the line. For now though, the game is still a year out from release, but Razavi is optimistic about the future of the game. “We wanted to be able to play Hearthstone but with our friends instead of against them," he said. "There is a huge market of people, like myself, that love the card game genre but hate competition, so what we really want to do is be able to reach those people and say ‘look, you don’t have to dedicate your life to this game. It’s a low-pressure card game, unlike everything else that is out there where you miss one expansion, too bad!’ Instead this game will be waiting for you."
*Note - This article was edited slightly to fix minor grammatical issues.
What are your thoughts on From Rust? Does it sound like a card game you would play? Please leave your comments below and check out what else we saw at Play NYC by going to our Play NYC Coverage Hub.