Whilst at Gamescom, I managed to preview Shardbound, an upcoming multiplayer collectible tactics game from Immutable. In Shardbound, you control armies in turn-based battles against opponents in a beautiful fantasy setting. The collectible element comes in through gaining and using the in-game cards. These provide you with various allies and abilities you can use in battle.
Since Gamescom, I’ve also been able to take part in Shardbound‘s Alpha playtest and get hands on with all the game currently has to offer.
Shardbound will be available on Steam. There is currently no release date, but if you would like to pre-register to take part in the upcoming Beta, head on over to the Shardbound website.
Story – A Lot Richer Than You’d Think
At first glance, Shardbound‘s story is simply a case of two armies battling it out in a hexagon based landscape. However, the world of Shardbound has a rich lore, as does its characters who command the competing armies.
In Shardbound, a catastrophic event shattered the world into fractured, floating islands. Humanity survived but quickly began warring among themselves for space and resources. After years of warfare, the Imperium was formed and under its rule, a peace is established, lasting for generations. However, one day, the Queen of the Imperium mysteriously died and magical shards start began falling from the sky. Fractures emerged between noble houses of the Imperium as they scrambled to obtain these mysterious shards.
Championing these warring factions are the rangers. These rangers all have unique abilities and backstories, designs and playstyles.
Playing matches against opponents will give you a taste of their strong personalities through their dialogue. Baroness Sabine, for example, has various quips and taunts that show off her desire for power and growing her army of thralls. Meanwhile, Professor Mori can often be heard quoting scientific calculations and encouraging her enemies to ‘scooch’ if they get too close!
Their backstories are also expanded through Shardbound‘s social media. For example, every now and again, their X (formerly Twitter) page will change color to align with one of the rangers and release comics revealing impactful events in their lives. These really help enrich the characters and understand the world you’re fighting in.
Gameplay – Like Magical Fantasy Chess
Let’s get into the Shardbound battles themselves and the tactics you can employ. Each fight takes place on one of these floating shards with each fighters chosen ranger at opposite ends. The map is made up of hexagonal tiles to standardize movement along with areas of high ground, low ground and obstacles.
At the start of the game, and throughout, you acquire cards that offer valuable assets in battle. These include minions, spells and buffs to your armies. In order to play cards you need Mana, a rare resource found on these shards. Mana crystals appear in different places on the map throughout your fight. Attacking them will earn you more Mana per round, so it’s worth thinking whether you want to use your attacks on your enemies or on these crystals.
Each round has a satisfying structure to it much like other grid based games. On your turn, you can move, make an attack and play any number of cards you want, providing you have the Mana for it. To help you keep track, the ‘End Turn’ button will turn green once all of your units have moved and done an action.
Shardbound Tactics: Thinking Like a Ranger
In order to win a battle in Shardbound, you need to either defeat your opponent’s ranger or earn 10 victory points. You can get victory points by attacking victory crystals that appear throughout the map, much like Mana crystals. In order to do this, you’ll need to have good control of the battlefield.
With all the variations in rangers, cards, terrain and, of course, your opponents, the tactics you employ are going to be crucial to whether or not you succeed. For example, do you spread your army out to take control of the victory crystals or will you focus your army on your opponent’s ranger? Do you bring your own ranger into the fray to use their abilities, or keep them back so they are protected? Do you focus your actions on attacking or manipulating the terrain to your advantage?
In the Shardbound preview, I was provided with a whole host of cards to use. However, the final version of the game will also allow you to collect cards from battles and use it to construct your perfect deck. This should make for some satisfying progression as you each battle earns you more rewards to be used in future battles.
Visuals – Just a Beautiful Game!
One of the first things that struck me about the Shardbound preview is the gorgeous art style. There are some stunning visuals in the promotional art, the comics and the backgrounds used in the game itself. These bright and beautiful backdrops reinforce the magic and wonder behind the game’s premise.
The design of the characters and their minions really helps get this across as well. The 3D figures that you can move around to do your bidding are all intricately designed. They range from Venerator Wynn’s flashy golden artificers to General Vardan’s earthy golems.
The cards as well are all beautifully eye catching, making it hard to choose between what card is going to be the best tactically and the card you just like the look of the most! At this stage, many of the cards have placeholder images, meaning we have much more card art to look forward to in the Beta and the final version!
Shardbound was previewed on Steamdeck at Gamescom and on Steam after the event.