Roguelike deck-builder Slay the Spire was one of 2019’s most surprising hits. Now developer Big Blue Bubble returns with Power Chord, a card game with similar mechanics and a heavy metal theme. Inverse got a sneak peek at PAX East 2022, and we’re convinced Power Chord could be the next hit deck-builder, thanks to its catchy, comic book art style, and “rock’n rogue-lite” gameplay.
Assembling the band
Right off the bat, the similarities between Power Chord and Slay the Spire are apparent, as both feature a series of cards to collect, various paths to take, and an element of randomness that makes each run different.
Much like Slay the Spire, the game really begins to hit its stride when you collect the right combination of cards, which can turn the tide of a particular battle. And you’ll need the best cards you can possibly find, as a deadly group of demons stand in your way (of course).
Before you even start the run, you have to select your bandmates, consisting of a drummer, guitarist, bassist, and vocalist, and each plays a different role on the team. For instance, the drummer is a tank, while the vocalist is more of a support character. As you play, you’ll unlock different drummers, vocalists, bassists, and guitarists—each with different skills. For instance, one vocalist may provide a better buff than another, but might be tricky to unlock.
We didn’t get a chance to try out different band members during our demo, but there will be plenty to choose from in the final build. Even during the short demo, it was clear that each role felt important, despite some band members being more passive than others.
After each battle, you get the chance to unlock a new card (or currency for the shop), and once your deck starts taking form, it’s easy to begin utilizing strateges that absolutely decimate the competition. For instance, we quickly unlocked a red card that buffs the bassist’s attack power.
Every time that particular card would come into rotation, we’d utilize it to dish out a tremendous amount of damage. Things start to get interesting when you combine multiple cards and buffs, which seemingly have no limit. More powerful cards require a higher number of power charges to utilize, so you’ll want to plan ahead to ensure an efficient battle. Even the less effective buffs that only require one power charge might still be worth using since card effects can be stacked. An example of this is the Berserk card, which rewards you with one power charge each time your guitarist takes damage. It only costs one power charge to use and can allow you to unleash powerful cards later on in the battle, making it worth using.
Which path will you take?
Each time your band wipes, you’ll start a new run, and the branching paths are randomized, with different enemies, rewards, and challenges. Depending on the path you choose to take, you’ll come across different areas that may or may not help you out. For instance, selecting a question mark could yield handsome rewards, or could do the exact opposite—taking away all of your valuable coin on hand. Other spots reward you with goodies, some serve as healing areas, while others contain powerful bosses to take out. There’s even a shop, which contains a plethora of cards for you to add to your deck, so long as you have the coin to spare.
Landing at a shop often feels precious, giving you the chance to configure your deck in a more specific way. Here, you can buy valuable cards like the Frenzy Rush, which allows you to deal two damage twice to a single random enemy while cleansing all nerfs. You’re even able to burn a card from your deck, which can be useful if you want to have a more refined set of attacks at your disposal.
Power Chord also includes a skill system that gives you permanent unlocks for each band member. These are skills such as a +5 armor buff or more complicated options that allow you to gain additional health at the start of each battle. The possibilities feel vast, and we’re excited to see what wild combinations of cards can be used when the game is out.
Power Chord launches for PC via Steam in summer 2022.