In my preview of Nowhere Prophet, I referred to it as a "Spire-like." Although this is an actual thing now, with several clones of Slay the Spire already available on Steam, Nowhere Prophet is decidedly not a clone. It shares a common DNA as a digital deckbuilder, but that's where the resemblance ends. Both are great games, no doubt, and it's not a competition. However, I may have enjoyed the journey through the world of Nowhere Prophet more. Mostly because of its complex and multilayered worldbuilding, its compelling convoy management, and its more intricate combat mechanics.
Nowhere Prophet takes place on the planet of Soma, a world in ruins. The people of this planet are just clinging to life and barely getting by. The inspiration from Indian culture is very clear from the beginning, with an Indofuturistic strain. It's a little like a Bollywood version of Borderlands. There are slavers and raiders, skag-like beasts, robots, and so on. Above all, there's that atmosphere of a collapsed planet where civilization seems to have failed. You'll play as a prophet who witnesses an orb falling from the sky. It speaks to you, as machines do, and gives you a mission to find a place called the Crypt.
No Gods, No Masters in Nowhere Prophet
This is a world where technology replaced everything and then collapsed on itself. Machines and drones have gone awry, and you can either harness their power or destroy them at sight. You can also recruit Machinists who are able to use them in battles. In some settlements, you'll soon pick up on a sort of cult of a god-like figure that manifests itself as Planter, Tender, and Reaper. Otherwise, there isn't really a pantheon of gods such as India does to this day. The world of Nowhere Prophet seems to have a spiritual void that you must fill as a godless prophet at the behest of this mysterious machine from space.
Anarchy is rampant in Soma. As you make your way through various settlements, you realize that it's inevitable. There are some organizations and enclaves you'll interact with, and you might get some rewards for certain choices. As a prophet, you are just this voice in the wilderness, passing through and fighting your way toward the Crypt. And it's often a bleak and hopeless quest since you have no idea what the Crypt is. You only have a very vague idea of what it holds in store for you and your followers.
Trailblazing Through Soma in Nowhere Prophet
As I also noted in my preview, Nowhere Prophet has a robust convoy management system that reminds me of the eternal classic The Oregon Trail. Not just in how you blaze your trails through Soma to reach the Crypt, but in how scarce resources can be. The Oregon Trail is still perfect in its design because of the way it tortures the player with scarce resources and hardship. Even if you play Nowhere Prophet on Easy mode, you'll often get that feeling of anguish and despair. Resources like Food and Hope run dry and you have to make the best of what you find. There's also the fact that your followers can suffer injury and even die. This is also a conjunction of worldbuilding and gameplay, as you shouldn't let yourself form any attachments to your followers. They will die for you if necessary, and that's the reality of Soma.
The events that punctuate your journey to the Crypt can be fascinating. Some of it can be repetitive, but most of it feels unique on your first runs, and the amount of choices and interactions is engaging. Your stats and resources also play an important role, which makes your choices matter. And these choices will carry all the way to the final part, with the three main mindsets (Altruist, Believer, Scholar) impacting your final decisions when you reach the Crypt.
Moreover, the journey isn't straightforward. Paths fork and branch, and you can choose to follow or not. You can also make a detour or return the way you came to explore one of the locations you skipped. And some of the interactions just mentioned can even involve the discovery of secret locations, where you can find extra resources or have a couple of challenging battles. However, you should always watch your resources carefully, as you can't really explore everything without running out of Food and Hope.
Nowhere Prophet And Its Empathic Combat System
The most distinctive and innovative feature of Nowhere Prophet is the fact that your followers are both cards and creatures. They are living cards, in that they can suffer injuries and die, so you'll lose the cards when they do. This adds a lot of dimension to the deckbuilding process, but it also makes the combat feel high-stakes and gut-wrenching when you lose a card you really like. It also makes your attitude toward combat much more serious and careful since you know your followers' lives are at stake. They can suffer one injury strike, and then you can put them on the "bench" if you prefer, but if they suffer two strikes, they're dead. And when they die, your convoy will lose Hope.
Beyond this fascinating living card mechanic, the combat in Nowhere Prophet is highly intricate. It's not just the fact that you have the grids where you can play your units. That certainly contributes to it, but it's the fact that the cards have a lot of complex mechanics that allow the emergence of several archetypes of synergy. I mentioned in my preview the fact that some of the mechanics such as First Strike and Charge are identical to their Magic: The Gathering counterparts (First Strike and Haste, in this case). Yet there's much more to it, as you can also equip items and weapons that grant both a passive bonus and active skills. There is a lot of depth and many possibilities to explore in this combat system. It feels balanced enough already, even though it can be very difficult.
Nowhere Prophet Review | Rage Against The Dying Of The Light
There's a wealth of replay value in Nowhere Prophet. I feel like I've barely scratched the surface with over 30 hours of playtime. Beyond the roguelike challenge of trying a new run just for fun, there's a lot of content to unlock. You start with two different types of convoy and one class (or leader type), but you can unlock eight more convoy types and three more classes. You can mix and match all of these to make the kind of build and synergy you want. Of course, it all depends on the cards and items you'll unlock along the way. You can usually make do with a bit of everything, but I see a lot of potential for synergies.
As a gaming experience, Nowhere Prophet is a unique and thoughtful single-player adventure. The art style is often magnificent, like an old comic book with a lot of broad strokes and splashes of color. The soundtrack is also engaging, with notes of sitar and electronica. This is an impressive debut on PC by Sharkbomb Studios (previously a mobile developer), and I can see it thriving in the long term, with a lot of new content in future updates. Card game aficionados will definitely enjoy it, though some might find it difficult. Fans of roguelike deckbuilders will no doubt pour hundreds of hours into it.
TechRaptor reviewed Nowhere Prophet on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.
- Fascinating Indofuturistic World
- Compelling Convoy Management
- High-Stakes Combat Gameplay
- Innovative 'Living Card' Mechanic
- Magnificent Art Direction
- Often Torturously Difficult