If you enjoy card-based games, there’s a good chance that Forward: Escape the Fold will get its hooks in you rather quickly.
Less meticulous than Slay the Spire and instead more fast-paced, akin to something like Ring of Pain, Forward: Escape the Fold asks only one thing of you: to keep moving forward. You’ll have up to three cards in front of you, either giving you an item, a benefit, a curse, or facing you with an enemy. Your goal is rather simple – reach the end of the level with enough health (or armour) to withstand the boss’ attack. But when everything in a level of Forward: Escape the Fold is out to get you, that may be easier said than done.
Like other card-based combat games you might have played, your player card has, primarily, a health and an armour stat. The enemy cards you’ll encounter also have a stat that represents how much damage they’ll deal to you. Combat happens instantaneously; there’s no back-and-forth here as you dole out attacks. Move onto an enemy card – or into the line of sight of one – and you’ll automatically be attacked, the damage being absorbed into your armour or HP rating.
Along the way you’ll also pick up useful items, like mana potions (ultimately allowing you to deal out a special attack or perk), coins which can be spent on useful items, health potions, shields and chests. Chests – and shops, when you reach one – contain a wealth of useful items that are automatically equipped. Perhaps you’ll get a perk that damages enemies in range when you pick up a mana potion. Or maybe you’ll start each level with X amount of shield.
Alongside perks, however, are curses that offer you debuffs or challenging statuses to overcome. Perhaps picking up a coin will cost you a health point, or maybe potions will stop appearing in levels altogether. Be careful what you pick up, because a bad hand of cursed cards can spell disaster.
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Our first run of Forward: Escape the Fold went without a hitch. The cards went, largely, in our favour, and we cleared every level with plenty of health to spare at the end. Because that’s the goal, you see: beating each boss simply means having enough health/armour to withstand their attack. And so plan to collect as much armour as possible, avoiding enemies with high attacks, and you should be successful.
But it’s not always so easy. We were lucky that first time around. As you play through Forward: Escape the Fold, you’ll unlock new character cards, each with their own quirks. Edward, the starting character, can only be attacked by a character directly in front of him. But the next character we unlocked, the Black Knight, comes with a curse that means enemies can attack from multiple directions. That’s up to three attacks at once, and a lot more damage that you need to absorb. Needless to say, we died rather quickly into our first Black Knight run.
But the fast-paced nature of Forward: Escape the Fold means that even if you do fail, you’ll be quick to dust yourself off and try again. And even if you don’t reach the end, it doesn’t matter, because you’re still working towards unlocking new cards and characters. The more cards you unlock, the more varied future games will become. And a range of game options – including a challenge mode with pre-defined perks/curses, and a harder difficulty mode – means that even if you do master the art of playing, there’s still something to test your mettle.
Accompanied by wonderful pixel art and an engaging soundtrack, Forward: Escape the Fold is a fast-paced card-based roguelike well worth jumping into. Defeating each boss is satisfying, even if combat is never more than a click of the mouse. It’s the sort of game you can plan to jump into for 10 minutes at a time – but two hours later find yourself still there, pushing through its addictive gaming loop. It’s described as the “perfect bitzesized dungeon crawler” in its Steam description, and we couldn’t agree more.
Forward Escape the Fold review – GameSpew’s score