Recently I have been quite busy pursuing a few different projects with full steam. These have included the solo-play dungeon crawler Peril, the other more puzzle-like adventure solo-play game Doom Realm, and most recently the space horror solo-play game Desolate. Notice a trend? Yep, I am in the midst of designing three different solo-play games. I did not mean for this to happen, it just sort of did. Each is quite different from one another, but today I will be delving into the latest design Desolate.
In Desolate you take on the role of a rescue soldier. You mission was to investigate a distant moon station that your main base had lost contact with. Moments before your squad landed however, something happened to you ships controls and you crash landed but a hundred meters from the station. You are the sole survivor. <insert creepy and dramatic music here> The station is overrun by aliens and everyone is dead. You are tasked with fighting off these intruders while trying to locate five power cells in order to jump-start the escape shuttle. All the while you must monitor your health, ammo, and oxygen. Muhahahahaha!
At the beginning of the game you will receive two equipment items from a total of seven. These include items like a space suit that expand your health meter and give you more starting health, to items like night vision goggles that allow you to reveal both cards during a turn (more on that in a moment). This allows the game to play a bit differently each time through as your character will be quite unique every time you enter the station.
The core of the game comes in the form of the exploration deck. This deck contains cards with both locations and conflicts (aliens). Locations are safe rooms that contain particular goods like more ammo or medpacs. Conflicts, when drawn, trigger a combat sequence (more on that in a moment). On your turn you will draw two cards from this deck, keeping them both face-down. You choose one to reveal. Now you must make the decision to either resolve the card you just revealed, or discard it and resolve the other unknown card. This is a nice tension building press-your-luck mechanics that will cause you to make some tough choices as you are trying to avoid aliens, while needing to find those power cells. Discarding an unknown card may be the choice that leads to conflict or another step closer to escaping this deadly place.
You will notice that the bottom portion of the exploration cards are upside down. This portion is only used when a player opens a crate. Alien cards, when defeated, reward the player with a crate (small or large). To open a crate you only need to flip and reveal the next card in the exploration deck. If you are opening a small create, you may choose one item from the two items shown. One has more overall value while the other is lesser, but you must decide which item you think you need more. If you are opening a large crate, you get both items on the card. Stronger enemies give large crates and weaker ones give the smaller variety.
So you have revealed a conflict card in the exploration deck. Now you must draw a card from the combat deck. This is a separate deck of cards that help to randomly generate your foe. The conflict card you first revealed will have a die icon next to the title indicating the initial power of the alien. When you reveal the combat card it will show another die icon with a value. Place a dice on the die icon with the value equal to the one shown face-up. Now place another die on the blank die icon below that equal to the value shown on the exploration card. The sum of both dice is the health/power of your enemy. This can range from 2-12.
You will also notice a numeric value with the word “damage” next to it. This is the initial damage you will take. You see the aliens always attack first. Have you ever tried to sneak up on an alien? It cannot be done… Anyways, you must adjust your health tracker accordingly to this initial attack.
Now you must make a very tough decision. How much ammo are you willing to spend on your turn (how long are you willing to hold that trigger down)? Each ammo you spend (adjusted on your character tracker) equates to one die you get to roll in an effort to kill your foe. So spending three ammo will allow you to roll three dice. You then roll and if the sum is equal to or greater than the power/health of your enemy you defeat them and gain whatever items is in their crate. Easy right? Well, if your roll results in a sum less than your enemies power/heath they get to counter-strike. This is done simply be flipping and revealing the next card in the combat deck. The bottom portion of the card indicates counter-strike damage. You never know exactly what card is up next and how much damage you may take as a result of rolling too low. This makes the decision in regards to ammo pretty tense.
Making it out Alive
The other resource you have to keep an eye on is your oxygen level. When you cycle through the exploration deck, you must spend two oxygen. This mechanic mimics time spent in the station. Oxygen can also be spent in the Garrison in order to rest/heal if you happen to draw that card while exploring.
Your mission is to find five power cells. These are located in the engineering room and there are two of these cards in the exploration deck. If at any moment you have 5 power cells, you power up the escape shuttle and blast off, winning the game. However, if you run out of either health or oxygen, you die.
That is the basic overview of the game. More little details to come.