It’s been almost exactly a year since we previewed These Doomed Isles, a card-based city building game from Triplevision Games. And next week, it’s finally launching into Early Access via Steam. Despite its Early Access status, though, this is a fully-formed release – and one that’s an absolute joy to play. A tough bastard, sure, but an absolute joy all the same.
These Doomed Isles would be best described as a city-building strategy game, but that doesn’t paint the best picture of exactly what this simple but deceptively deep game actually is. Easy to play but hard to master, you’ll grow your settlement in These Doomed Isles by placing cards. You’ll have a limited selection of cards in your hand at any one time, and using one will cost a number of resources. Several resources are at your disposal: gold, iron, wood and stone, plus the happiness and faith of your followers.
It’s turn-based, sort-of, but you won’t have enemies coming at you after the end of every turn: only once in a while. Ending your turn represents the end of a season, and providing you’ve got enough resources (and cards), the amount of moves you can make is unlimited. During your turn, you can place a number of resources, such as lumber mills to top up your store of wood – along with planting trees to ensure you have somewhere to get wood from in the first place. You can build houses so your followers have somewhere to live, farms where they can source food, and gold mines to find gold. There’s also offensive outposts to be placed, and plenty of other cards that offer one-off events, like a boost to your gold reserves, or a meteor strike that can be used to damage enemies.
Like all card-based games, though, your success in These Doomed Isles feels largely luck-based. Sure, there’s plenty of strategy involved, but ultimately, it all depends on what cards you get offered. In one of our games we weren’t given enough houses, meaning we had a large homeless population. Without enough houses for everyone, the happiness of our followers plummeted, meaning many of them simply chose to leave. And without followers, you have nobody to work in your mills, farms or mines. You’re doomed, basically.
When it all goes well, though, a run of These Doomed Isles feels wonderful. If you’ve got enough offensive cards in your hand, dealing with enemy attacks is no problem. You’ll need to survive a number of years and complete some key goals before you face your ultimate challenge: a boss fight. These giant gods have much more HP than normal invaders, and can do a hell of a lot more damage. They’ll gain extra HP for every turn you fail to destroy them, and so if you struggle to do much damage immediately, the odds are unlikely to remain in your favour.
Your run can quickly come to an end, then, if your settlement is overrun by a powerful boss. Then, your only option is to start again, try to learn from your mistakes – and hope the RNG gods are a little kinder when it comes to putting cards in your hand. If you do succeed, however, you’ve got a number of options. You can end your run, calling it a win, or you can continue growing your settlement. You can continue as normal, with more invaders coming along periodically, or continue with a peaceful run: no more enemies, just a chance to grow exponentially. But where’s the thrill of that?
These Doomed Isles will be in early access for approximately 12 months, but it already feels feature-complete. Developer Triplevision Games says this period will allow the game to be better balanced, with extra features coming as a result of player feedback. Already there are hundreds of cards in the game, but we expect there’ll be more to come through the early access period. Already this is a tasty little treat for fans of card-based strategy games, and we’ve no doubt it’s only going to get better over the course of the next year.
These Doomed Isles lands on Steam Early Access on 25th September.