If you dig old-school turn-based fantasy games, I’ve got some great news for you. Hellcard is going to scratch that itch, and it adds quite a few strategic gameplay elements to the mix as well, keeping the game engaging for a long time. What could be better? Well, I’m glad you asked. Right now, we’re giving away keys for the Steam version to members of IGN Plus!
IGN Plus Monthly Game: Hellcard
Hellcard is the latest game from Thing Trunk, the studio behind Book Of Demons. It’s a turn-based fantasy game where you choose one of three classic fantasy classes (Fighter, Wizard, and Rogue) and start to delve beneath an old cathedral to defeat the forces of evil. Sound familiar (that’s part of the point)? Along the way you’ll pick up extra party members to form a team of up to three heroes to tackle skeletons, giant spiders, and monsters from beyond (you can also play with human companions via the game’s multiplayer system).
In battle, you’ll have ‘perfect information,’ meaning you’ll be able to see what every enemy intends to do in their next turn, and you can plan your strategy accordingly. Strategic elements include moving enemies between ‘near’ and ‘far’ combat zones, deckbuilding, decision making in-between battles, gathering gameplay-modifying artifacts, upgrading cards in one of several ways, and roguelite elements, meaning you can enjoy Hellcard as long as you like. A powerful enemy is closing in, intending to attack you? Use ‘Kick’ to hit them back to the ‘Far’ zone, so they’ll have to spend their next turn running back to you. All in a day’s work for the papercraft heroes of Hellcard.
Hellcard Developer Interview – Konstanty Kalicki (Thing Trunk Co-Founder)
For this interview, I spoke with Konstanty Kalicki about Hellcard, Book of Demons, Return 2 Games, and more. The pandemic’s influence meant the studio had to abandon a work space they had just secured, coming back to it later like a scene from post-apocalyptic fiction. The change in work environments also meant the dev team could recruit an aspiring modder, who joined the team remotely during development. They made
I hope you enjoy the game, and this excerpt from our interview. Cheers!
Konstanty: My name is Konstanty. I’m a co-founder of Thing Trunk. Our previous game, Book of Demons, was… well it still is pretty popular. I’ve been working in academia, teaching game design and programming and, from academia, I moved with my friends and colleagues. From the university, we created game development studios, and over time those studios merged into Thing Trunk, because we had this one, core leading vision.
Brian: What inspired the team to make Hellcard?
Konstanty: Our vision was to create [the] Return 2 Games series that would recapture the magic, the uniqueness of games we played back in the golden era of video gaming, which we define as the 90s. Because that was the time when most new genres were created. And games really, really spread their wings. We had Diablo, we had plenty of new genres just popping up. Like every game, every new hit was a huge, huge paradigm shift for for the whole of video gaming. So we just felt that somehow, our generation was kinda left behind. We identify ourselves as ‘post hardcore gamers,’ people who used to play games more than 10 hours a day, and then life happened. We are now 30 or 40, and we can not always find games for ourselves. So the idea was to create seven games, [that] was the initial idea… right now it’s eight games, because Hellcard happened. We didn’t plan that initially. The idea was to create seven games, each a tribute to both a genre and the game that started the genre.
We started with Book Of Demons, the love letter to Diablo. We want our games to be unique visually, but for good reason, not just for the sake of uniqueness. Our goal was to create games that would that would spark imagination… because this is what happened with us in the 90s in the 80s. Games had those symbolic, simple visuals and for us, half of the action played in our imagination. We were ‘there’ even though the visuals were very rudimentary and that’s something we wanted to recapture as well. So we decided to style our games, to tell the stories like they were books in a huge library of games. And each would be a pop-up book. So hence our art style; pop-up paper books. The animation is very symbolic as well. So you can see what’s happening, it looks good, but half of the action is happening in your head.
How Card-Based Action in Book of Demons Inspired the Deckbuilding Follow-Up
Konstanty: With Book of Demons, we wanted to create a single player experience, because this was how we played hack-and-slash games back in the day. Yeah, we swapped most mechanics and stuff, like items and spells and skills, for cards. And back when card games were not, you know, super hot in gaming. And this sparked this discussion [in] the community about how this game could be a true deck builder, because it wasn’t a deck builder, it was a hack and slash with cards, basically.
Cards were just a way to streamline all the clutter we considered superfluous to the core experience of hack & slash. Like gray items and other stuff that drops, and you have to carry it back to the town and sell it for gold that you can spend on something actually useful. We did away with all that. However, it’s part of this debate on whether it could be remade into a true deck builder. And at the same time, we are still getting mails and comments on Steam community about maybe adding co-op multiplayer to Book of Demons.
Hellcard – Steam Screenshots
Eventually we decided that why we can’t actually add the co-op multiplier to Book of Demons because it wasn’t designed to include any form of multiplayer from the get-go. It would basically be like writing a new game. We were playing Slay the Spire and we thought, ‘how about we we make a Book of Demon-like,’ take the word of Book of Demons and the idea behind Slay the Spire and create a deckbuilder that can be played with your friends. That would be pretty cool. It went through a couple of iterations. At some point, Book of the Hellcard was something like a tower defense. We’ve cards and deck building and Co-p multiplayer. And yeah, and the eventually landed we’re where we are right now.
The Developer’s Favorite Things in Hellcard
Brian: What are some of your favorite classes, cards, or elements from the game? Is there anything that jumps out to you or anyone else at the studio as ‘oh man, this is the card?’
Konstanty: For me, it’s always the mage, because I’m the mage/wizard person.
Brian: Oh, you are just like me, dude. All magic, all the time. (laughs)
Konstanty: (laughs) There are people who always play dwarves, and people who always play rogues. And for me, it’s always ‘mage.’ I’m the person who enjoys those ‘glass cannon’ characters that are very fragile, but they can wreak havoc. I also would describe myself as a ‘chaotic neutral’ kind of player. I love chaos on the board. And that’s why I’m known in the community for my mage, and there is a card called Dark Pact. The mage can trade it basically grants everyone extra block, mana, cards, it’s super powerful. But after some time, like three turns, everyone [takes] huge damage. So it’s a dark pact that basically you know, gives you a second breath… an opportunity to pick [yourself] up from a very dicey situation, but there will be a timer and hell to pay in return. And that’s my favorite card.
I used to kill parties all the time with it, and it was super fun for me. So yeah, it’s not easy to wipe a party with the card nowadays, because it was redesigned since the very early [part of] early access. But it’s still very cool. It’s still this kind of card that you have this discussion [about]. Other players ask you ‘But you don’t have that [card] right?’ ‘No, no, no.’ That’s something I love. Also, I love the way the mage snowballs in later turns and on higher floors, because there are chain cards. There is Incantation that gives you more powerful versions of that card, which don’t do much, but eventually, the last card you play will give you a card that’s super powerful. And you just need either AI companions or friends who will protect you until you are ready to cast that one powerful spell. This is not the only way you can play the mage, obviously, but for me, it’s the most fun way. You can also go for healing, go for support, and stuff like that. Mages should be glass cannons, for me. That’s how I feel.
What to Know About Hellcard Before Jumping In
Brian: So people are going to be reading this interview, getting ready to jump into Hellcard for the first time. What would you say to them?
Konstanty: Try playing with friends. That’s not always very obvious. I love solo runs, because our solo runs are kinda unique. Like, you’re not playing with AI’s, you are picking AI’s that have their own personalities and you control their cards, so it adds a new layer of strategy to the game in a way. You can play with random folks, but the game really shines with friends. It’s really fun to be able to play your cards with someone and see the weird combos and synchronize your strategies and stuff like that. For me, that’s the best part. And, most importantly, of course, play the Mage first. My friends would say that the Warrior is the safe bet, because it’s more defensive, he has more Block, he can give Block to other characters. But it’s not the Mage. Also, there is more stuff coming after release.
What’s Next for Hellcard?
Konstanty: With the 1.0 version, we’ll have the Tinkerer class, which is a very new class with completely new mechanics that are very different from the previous three classes. He’s more of an industry-focused dwarf that creates contraptions and he’s the true snowballing class because he has to build up stuff and, after a couple of turns, lots of damage-dealing and block-giving and stuff like that. So it’s difficult to describe, but it’s a very cool class.
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Brian Barnett writes reviews, guides, features, & more for IGN & GameSpot. You can get your fix of his antics on YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Bluesky, & Backloggd, & check out his fantastic video game talk show, The Platformers, on Spotify & Apple Podcasts.