Tainted Grail: Conquest is an exciting take on the rogue-lite deckbuilding genre, bringing the world of Tainted Grailboard games to life. Players find themselves in a shattered reality ravaged by the Wyrdness, and to resolve this, a mysterious creature tells them to hunt down four powerful adversaries. All of this is set against an eerie Arthurian backdrop, leaving players guessing what’s going on. It mixes elements of town-building, rouge-lites, deck-building, and role-playing games to tell its own unique narrative.
Fans of Tainted Grail may already know what to expect, but those who haven’t played the board game may experience Tainted Grail: Conquest for the first time. Essentially, this is a deck-building rogue-lite, so players who don’t like these types of games may want to steer clear. That said, for die-hard fans of these games, the Tainted Grail: Conquest is a solid choice. Players may be familiar with this genre from 2017’s hugely popular Slay the Spire, which actually created a subgenre of its own.
There are currently nine classes to choose from in the Tainted Grail: Conquest, but there may be more classes at some point after release. Each of these courses offers a completely different experience from the others, which encourages replayability. Players may want to stick with classes they’re comfortable with, but trying new ones can be very rewarding. The nine classes currently in the game are Wyrdhunter, Pathfinder, Berserker, Summoner, Necromancer, Blood Mage, Apostate, Sentinel, and Zealot. Each of these classes has a unique ultimate ability, passive ability, and deck of cards.
For many of these classes, it’s easy to parse out what they do. Berserker is a high risk/high reward damage dealer, Summoner summons minions to help in battle, but others are less aware. For example, Wyrdhunters focus on dealing many hits to build up a powerful attack, while Pathfinders get stronger with each turn and avoid taking damage. If there’s any complaint about the classes, it’s that all three magic classes are very similar. Summoners, necromancers, and blood mages all focus on calling allies to help in battle, but they do it in different ways. Therefore, players must develop different strategies for each class.
Once a class is chosen, players find themselves in their village, which starts off more like a ghost town. During the player’s many different runs, NPCs will be discovered, rescued, or persuaded to stay in town, unlocking their services for future runs. The town is relatively small, but it does offer some bonuses that permanently level up players and make future runs more manageable. As expected from any rogue-lite game, Tainted Grail: Conquest isn’t easy.
Difficulty is a hot topic in the gaming community right now, with some arguing that an easy mode should be included to make the game more accessible, while others would prefer the game to use just one default setting. The Tainted Grail: Conquest is in line with the previous set, but does so in an interesting way. Players can go to the scene menu and play the game in easy mode instead of starting the game as usual. This automatically gives them a full town, unlocks all cards and passive abilities, and weakens the enemy slightly. It’s a great way to engage more casual players without taking anything away from those who like a challenge.
Speaking of the actual gameplay, it should feel familiar to anyone who has played a deck-building game of this type. Certain cards deal damage, while others provide blocks that counteract incoming hits. Players have armor and damage stats, can modify the amount of damage they deal and receive, and cards are filled with keywords that determine how they work. If this sounds intimidating, it probably is at first. Learning a new class requires a lot of card reading, especially for some of the more complex cards like spellcasters. Once players understand how their class works, it’s time to optimize that class by choosing good passives and cards.
Each time a player levels up by gaining enough experience, they are given a choice of three cards. What those cards are depends on the class, but this is where the real strategy comes into play. Players need to pick cards that synergize well while avoiding making their decks too large. Getting too many cards will prevent them from finding the cards they need, while not having enough will hinder a player’s ability to do enough damage and survive.
Every few levels, players also gain a new passive ability, and these can really elevate their characters to a whole new level of power. For example, Berserker’s initial passive grants him extra energy when he’s below half health, but a passive he gains as he levels up also repeats every attack when he’s below 25% health. This incentivizes players to take a riskier approach, but dramatically increases the amount of damage they can deal in a given combat round.
In terms of visuals, this game really digs deep into its terrifyingly dark roots. Enemies are often grotesque, and even some of the friendly NPCs players find can feel timid. The graphics are pretty impressive, but they’re certainly nothing groundbreaking. Sometimes the game feels so dark that it’s hard to see the mini-map in the corner of the screen, but that doesn’t detract from the experience.
Tainted Grail: Conquest’s story is shrouded in mystery, but it’s definitely intentional. The player travels to the continent of Avalon, but shortly after arriving, reality collapses. Now they’re in a unique version of reality, working for the aforementioned mysterious creature to try and fix things. During their journey, the player encounters a cast of strange characters, each with their own unique backstory. There always seems to be more hidden beneath the surface, and every interaction with a new NPC reveals something that lies beneath.
All in all, Tainted Grail: Conquest is a great experience, with its mysterious narrative, gripping grimly dark backgrounds, and delightful deck-building rogue-lite mechanics. Sometimes certain little bugs or lighting issues get in its way, but those are trivial compared to the enormous amount of fun players will have. With some future updates to fix these hiccups, Tainted Grail: Conquest is shaping up to be a great entry in this subgenre of games.
Tainted Grail: Conquestis is now available on PC. Game Rant obtained the code for this review.