I came to Quinterra as a huge fan of Faeria. On the surface, this seemed like it is a similar style of game and in many ways it is. Released into Early Access this month, Quinterra has some great potential but at present, it is struggling to nail the balance between challenging and frustrating. It also perhaps tries to throw too many things at you at once too.
Quinterra asks you to take charge of a species and conquer five worlds. Each world is full of clusters of levels that you can travel to around an overworld map and choose to take on various battles. You’ll do this with lots of monsters and minions. Everything comes down to elements though. There are more than just earth, wind, fire and water – there’s arcane and non-elemental too. Bare this in mind as I walk you through a battle.
Each battle lets you carry up to 12 giant monsters, 2 minions and 2 support cards into the battlefield. The battlefield is made up of hex tiles and each of these has up to three of those elements attached. Each turn starts with a draw phase where you draw your monsters from the tiles on the map. You see your army is locked away until you draw the tiles that match the monsters elements. There you can add buffs in the form of crystals to your monster stats (HP, attack, magic attack, shield) and then bring the monster into your hand. The hex tile you chose falls away from the map and resurfaces somewhere else at random. Each turn changes the map and that’s a great sub-strategy in itself.
Now you can place your monsters. You have 2 move points for placing minions and support towers and up to 12 mana points for summoning your giant monsters to the battle. Those cost per monster varies and mana replenishes slowly per round. Quinterra is an aggressive game and you can place your monsters anywhere on the map. That means right next to your target if you like. Then you can move or attack. Attacks are always counter-attacked so everyone gets damage. Monsters can also have passive and active abilities too which you can trigger and some of them can be in addition to your regular move.
Matches are won by either killing the boss of the level before 10 moves or winning two victory points. It must be said that on launch, the failure conditions for these don’t seem to work properly and the definition of a victory point seems to be very vague, making battles go on much longer than the UI suggests they should.
After battles, you can then collect some treasure and some coins to then buy new monsters, minions, crystal buffs or armour to equip on an army member. There is loads of choice – too much in fact. The prices for all of these mean that you can buy one every two or three battles and as they can be summoned or used in every battle, once you have them, they are yours for your run to keep. The trick is – do you buff a smaller army or expand them to cover your basis and playstyles? This question became frankly, the bane of my playtime with Quinterra and I’ll explain why.
As you have loads of choices but little money to spend, it is very easy to make one wrong decision and have your army feel very weak. This is exasperated by the fact each world changes up elements. If your army are all green, blue and red elementals – you are absolutely ruined when you swap to the purple arcane world. You’ll not be able to summon many of your monsters and so you’ll need to buy some monsters of that ilk to keep going. That means you can’t buff anything and your powerful monsters can only attack maybe 3 points at best and have a health of 4 or 5. This means your monsters come in, do two hits, die. Then you have to build the mana and wait a cooldown period to then draw that monster back into the game. This is fine early on but from world two onwards, the bosses have 4-6 shield damage and so I could rarely actually cause an impact at all. In theory, the game would say I’d failed as I’d taken too long but as the end battle states are broken – it just does on forever as a stalemate. More money to dig into the customisation would help but it feels like something fundamental is missing to make the battles more satisfying. I felt like everything was just chipping away – no matter what play style I chose.
The story mode itself has a strange game over state too. For each battle, you lose morale every three turns. You then regain some for winning a battle or resting at a port. Ports are usually the only free way to gain new recruits for your army though. Eventually, you’ll realise your army is stuck because of the unbalanced battles and economic system. To drain your morale to zero you will have to lose a battle over and over to get a game over. It is painful. Even worse, although described as a roguelite – I couldn’t see any carryover between runs. Each run is procedurally generated so whilst you’ll learn enemy behaviour, you won’t get the same monsters or loot or shops. It pushed me from ‘this is challenging’ to ‘this is frustrating’.
Quinterra also has some early technical hiccups. Menus open out on top of each other and get stuck. I broke the newly added tutorial four times in a row. Some things are simply just not explained at all. It led me to be confused and then a bit bored after several hours trying to decipher the deep nuances of the game. I’m sure this will improve over time. The tutorial wasn’t even there at launch making some of the game incomprehensible. More support should be given for those not looking for a hardcore challenge.
There is so much going on with Quinterra, I’m sure this review is a mess and potentially overwhelming. That is also how I felt playing the game too. There is the seed of something decent here but it needs more than a simple polish to be approachable and understandable.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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