There's plenty of card-based video games on the market right now, with stellar titles such as Slay the Spire and SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech. While one could argue that many of these card games are similar in play style and structure, the upcoming Nowhere Prophet looks different in the best way possible.
Nowhere Prophet is a card game with roguelike elements releasing on July 19. The game boasts a super stylized post-apocalyptic setting with inspirations from real-life Indian culture. Featuring mechanics such as perilous procedural generation, resource management, and the twist that cards are your loyal followers, it's shaping up to be an interesting and challenging adventure.
We talked with solo developer Martin Nerurkar about Nowhere Prophet. Read on to find out more about the game's origins, gameplay, and roguelike-card game fusion.
Prototyping Nowhere Prophet
As with any game, there's a prototype phase. Sometimes, developers start looking at inspirations for their game. For Nowhere Prophet, games such as FTL and The Banner Saga served as stimuli for its travel mechanics. For card mechanics, Nerurkar looks at games such as Dominion and, of course, Magic: The Gathering. Cards bring another challenge into the mix, but it also presents interesting opportunities to experiment and iterate.
"I started in May 2014," said Nerurkar, "looking at timing-based mechanics and ended up with something card-based instead. In fact, what I had was not too different from what Klei's Griftlands seems to be, though with more of a party-focus."
He also mentions a prototype for content-agnostic conflict systems, which in Nerurkar's words is "a battle system that can model physical fights and social interactions..."
Nerurkar cites his love for convincing party members to join your team and fight in games, but the aforementioned content-agnostic conflict systems just didn't make the cut. Nowhere Prophet was already becoming more and more complicated, with preexisting gameplay comprising three party members, each with their own decks of cards.
However, after some time developing that I found that there was just not enough variation and I was unhappy with how the combat system behaved. It turned out to be [too] monotonous to hold up with roguelike play, so I had a big crisis and took a break from the game at the end of 2016. April 2017, I then came back to it with the intention to prototype new systems, which is where the grid-based combat system was born.Combat is just one part of Nowhere Prophet's development process. Nerurkar said he worked on prototypes for the traveling mechanics, which lasted several months.
"There were a few promising ideas but everything was too complex and ended up competing with the core card game," said Nerurkar, "so I stripped it back down to a simple node-based map."
Perhaps the most unique spin of all for Nowhere Prophet is that most cards are not abilities, but rather they are your followers. Early in development, characters called "Operators" had their own deck of cards, but with the new combat system, things changed.
"... I knew I wanted 'stuff on the board,' because that would provide variety across fights, would enable interesting combos and just be more fun," said Nerurkar. "And with the convoy already in place thematically it just made a lot of sense for these to be your people."
This process also took a while to perfect, with Nerurkar tweaking the "wound limit," which essentially injures your follower, leaving it prone to death and, consequently, the permanent loss of a card.
Cards and Adventure in Nowhere Prophet
In Nowhere Prophet, there are two decks of cards: Convoy and Leader. Nerurkar compares the former to card games like Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone, while the latter is more akin to Dominion and Slay the Spire's decks. When it comes down to it, you'll be managing a lot of different cards and devising clever strategies for new situations.
The Convoy deck has a pool of cards comprising your followers. These followers can be switched in and out of the deck whenever you choose, as long as you're not in the middle of a battle.
"[The Leader] deck only changes one card at a time," said Nerurkar. "When your leader levels up, you can pick a card. When you dismantle an item you can add a card. And you can sometimes remove cards permanently."
And combat boils down to using these two decks to overcome the enemy. Followers have an attack and defense value as well as a special ability, in some instances. You can draw from your Leader deck to, for example, add plus one attack and defense to a follower on the field.
Combat is just one aspect of Nowhere Prophet; again, it also features roguelike elements, such as permanent death of your followers, randomization, and meta-progression. As you travel throughout the wasteland of Nowhere Prophet, your convoy changes over time.
"You can recruit new people (in events or in towns)," said Nerurkar, "you can find equipment for your leader, gain experience points, get healed or your followers, and you take more damage as you travel without food."
Food and hope are the two vital resources you need for your convoy to survive in Nowhere Prophet. Should you run out of either, members of your convoy begin to desert. Random encounters akin to FTL can affect your resource pool, so tough decisions will have to be made.
There is also a large amount of loot to obtain in Nowhere Prophet, including equipment to improve your leader. Valuables are items that are sold for currency. These "can be sold or shared with the convoy to increase hope and gain a bonus effect for the next fight," according to Nerurkar.
"Also there are luxury items you can share with your convoy to increase hope," said Nerurkar. "And these also grant a temporary effect for the following battle."
Approaching Nowhere Prophet's Launch
Nowhere Prophet is quite a few years in the making, and it's no small feat to create such a title by yourself. Yet, Nowhere Prophet's launch is upon us. Meanwhile, Nerurkar hopes it provides a lasting impression on the player. For example, Nowhere Prophet has a few unique spins on the card genre.
"I think the cards are people mechanic is very powerful," said Nerurkar, "and the lasting wounds generate interesting questions for the player. Especially combined with the blessing mechanic, which heals and buffs the follower that deals the killing blow to the enemy leader."
You can try out Nowhere Prophet for yourself on Steam when it launches this year on July 19.
If you want to know even more about Nowhere Prophet check back later and we'll have a video showing off gameplay.