Breach Wanderers is available in Steam Early Access. A copy of the game was provided for Gideon’s Gaming for the purpose of review.
You can find a video version of this review here! Breach Wanderers Early Access Review (Rogue-lite Deck Builder) – YouTube
Card games really seem to be a timeless genre. When I was a kid a couple of decades ago, trading card games were all the rage. I played Pokemon, YuGiOh, and in my young adult life, Magic: The Gathering. All three of those games live to this day. Then Fantasy Flight Games created the Living Card Game genre, and Slay the Spire popularized the concept of rogue-lite deck-builders. You certainly aren’t starved for choice when it comes to the latter.
I don’t think oversaturation is truly a problem though. When’s the last time you heard a country music fan say “You know what, I ain’t listening to no more Garth Brooks, we have enough country music.” They don’t, they just crank up the volume and resume plowing their siblings. It’s only internet gamers that are goofy enough to moan and complain about too many games in one genre before flicking the joystick to step sibling erotica on the hub…
The country music thing was a joke, please don’t run me over with your pick up truck.
It does mean new games have to work a bit harder to stand out, however. Breach Wanderers takes a crack at it by combining the essence of trading card games with the deck builder rogue-lite genre. You even open booster packs, without the pain of wasting money on garbage cards, which is nice.
Breach Wanderers allows you to edit your starting deck with the cards you have obtained as well as the pool of cards that can show up for you to choose during a run. This gives Breach Wanderers a pretty unique feel right out of the gate, despite the obvious influence of Slay the Spire.
It’s a nice nostalgic feeling from when I was more interested in chasing a Blue-Eyes White Dragon than a pink-eyed clam ramming. That’s the adult version of finding a Charizard, I never did get one of those as a kid, and now…Well, life is indeed a circle.
There are currently five playable characters in Breach Wanderers, they each have passive abilities and a few cards that are unique to them. The majority of what you use comes from a generic pool of cards that any hero can use.
That may give the impression that each hero plays the same, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The design of the heroes is subtle but clever enough to give each of them a unique playstyle. It’s pretty impressive that the same pool of cards can feel so different between each of them.
The Blood Mage, for example, gains a blood burst attack card whenever she loses health and some of her unique cards cost health to play. Meanwhile, the Inventor has a knack for making random tool cards. The fact that you can edit your starting deck and card pool for each hero makes Breach Wanderers one of the most flexible deck builders I’ve played.
You can spend hours just theory crafting different deck ideas, and it combines really well with the rogue-lite deckbuilding side of the game. Since you also edit the pool of cards that show up as battle rewards, it feels like you are building a deck with a specific strategy right out of the gate, rather than a hodgepodge of random drafting that most deck builders adopt.
It’s particularly interesting that the monsters you face also offer specific cards after a battle that can only be obtained by defeating them. It’s another little slice of strategy to think about. You may want to go after specific monsters if they have cards that fit your deck-building strategy.
Combat will feel familiar to fans of the genre, but calling it a Slay the Spire clone would be disingenuous. It’s much closer to certain popular trading card games. You generate mana to spend on playing cards, unspent mana carries over to your next turn and what you can play is limited only by how much mana you have.
You discard your hand each turn, but the ability to retain mana lends Breach Wanders an extra layer of strategy. It opens up a lot of possible combo plays that wouldn’t be possible in another deck builder.
Status effects are also a pretty big deal. Certain damage types like Arcane, Frost, and Shock fill up a meter that has an effect once it’s full. Frost will freeze a character and skip their turn for example.
Each time a character would be frozen, the threshold to become frozen again is higher. This applies to both you and the enemies. Your strategy can focus on these ailments or not at all, and both are valid.
The meta-progression comes in three flavors. Leveling a character unlocks new hero-specific cards and passive bonuses. Essence can be spent on opening packs for new generic cards, and gold can be used to purchase permanent upgrades, one-time use market items, or even new characters. Each one feels like a substantial boost to your power.
Breach Wanderers is indeed an early access game, but for the first several hours, it doesn’t feel like one. There are a ton of cards, 200 generic cards plus a bunch of character-specific and monster cards. The five characters are all unique, and the meta-progression feels solid.
Once you get the hang of the game, the gaps in the game’s armor start to show. There are only two areas in Breach Wanderers. Each one consists of around ten fights or events. The events are super repetitive and samey, and the monster variety is severely lacking simply because the game only has two of the six planned areas implemented.
There are some gaps between the characters too. The Frost Mage gets a bonus to mana making him the ideal character to build with high-cost spells. But his passive abilities grant bonuses on status ailments and frost. If you want to build another kind of spell slinger, he feels like the ideal candidate out of the five, but it also feels like you’re putting yourself at disadvantage by not utilizing his full set of boons.
The bones and structure are certainly intact, the combat is solid, the deckbuilding feels great, and the meta-progression is satisfying. But if you truly want to sink your teeth into the game, you’re gonna be hungry for a little while.
Breach Wanderers has all the ingredients to be a grand deck builder. In fact, it has the potential to be one of the best. I can’t understate how much editing your deck and card pool before the run even begins really opens everything up. The amount of freedom and strategy it presents is a massive step up over the games that inspired it.
Two areas and limited enemy variety don’t give you enough room to flex that freedom quite yet. The same events reappear constantly, and you might feel a little shoehorned into certain builds until more heroes are implemented.
I’m confident that Breach Wanderers will be finished fairly quickly. When you play as many early access games as I have, you get a feel for it. The care that has gone into the game as it stands, was not done lightly. The developer also has a great roadmap ready and the game plans on having a fairly short early access run of 6 to 12 months which inspires confidence.
From a professional level, however, I have to recommend the game on the basis of if the developer rode off into the sunset right now and the game was never updated again. I simply can’t do that, even though I actually love the game itself.
Keep an eye on Breach Wanderers though, seriously. It’s gonna be a real ace in the hole sometime soon. I’d bet on it.
You might also enjoy my review of another deck builder, Tainted Grail: Conquest.
- Editing your deck and card pool before a run is a massive step up for the genre
- The Trading Card Game feeling of collecting cards is fun without stinging the wallet like a real TCG
- Combat is solid and satisfying with clever mana and status management mechanics
- Meta-progression feels meaningful
- Monsters having specific cards you can choose is a nice tactical touch
- 5 unique characters with different playstyles
- The game only currently has 2 of 6 planned areas, that’s not a lot of room to flex your deck builder muscles
- Enemy variety is lacking
- Events repeat constantly
- While still more open than other games in the genre, deckbuilding feels constrained with certain characters