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Inti Creates Tries Something New With Deck-Builder Card-en-Ciel

Inti Creates Tries Something New With Deck-Builder Card-en-Ciel - Preview

by Evan Norris , posted on 02 April 2024 / 1,856 Views

The Japanese independent developer Inti Creates has been in the industry for a long time, and made a lot of outstanding games. The great majority of those games have been 2D pixel-art action-platformers in the mold of Mega Man, Castlevania, and other classic NES-era franchises. In a bid to step outside of its comfort zone, the studio decided to tackle an entirely new genre with the upcoming Card-en-Ciel. With its card-collection gameplay, role-playing mechanics, and rogue-like tendencies, the game represents an exciting departure from the status quo.

Last month, at PAX East in Boston, I was fortunate to spend 30 minutes demoing Card-en-Ciel alongside Andrew Singleton, Producer at Inti Creates. Half an hour is insufficient to fully unpack the deep tactical mechanics that underpin the game, but thanks to Singleton I quickly understood the basics.

While the game might look, at first blush, like a spiritual sequel to the Mega Man Battle Network games, it actually plays more like Slay the Spire or Monster Slayers. As Neon, the hero of the game, you must assemble a deck of synergistic cards to defeat monsters and bosses in turn-based fights. With every victory, you'll earn a card to add to your deck, thus strengthening your hand and creating new combo opportunities. Neon can deploy cards to attack, move around each three-by-six battle grid, or activate a Special Skill.

Although the game is technically turn-based, it supports something akin to the active time battle system. At times, you need to contend with an enemy attack in the middle of your own turn, which adds another layer of tactics to the proceedings. "It's something you have to keep an eye on," said Singleton. "And also make sure you don't back yourself into a corner."

During my brief time with the game, I only scratched the surface of all the card-collecting and card-combining rules and limits. In addition to the standard mechanics listed above, there are rush cards — zero-cost cards that you can deploy in quick succession — and muse cards, condition-specific cards that trigger a song that activates a special ability. It's obvious there will be a lot to unravel and master when the game officially launches.

Speaking of those muse cards: there are 50 of them and each has a bespoke song attached to it. Not only that, but every single one of the 300 collectible character cards has a voice line — all recorded in English and Japanese, no less. The result is one of the more lavish Inti Creates' productions, at least in terms of voice cast. "We are pretty particular about the acting we want and expressing the original intended story," said Singleton. "So I think being able to have that quality level and having control over it has really helped to raise the quality level that we want to have in all of our games. At least as long as it's possible budget-wise. This one was definitely a challenge, but I was very insistent that we have it."

Singleton's insistence seems to have paid off, at least during my time with the opening tutorial. Each card has a purpose, but also a personality. And the game world feels alive and bustling. It doesn't hurt that the art is stunning, as befitting an Inti Creates' project. Thanks to a veritable army of artists behind the scenes, the virtual worlds within the game are brought to life in vibrant detail and color. "You can see the things that we are good at — which is designing characters, artwork, and music — we've put as much of that into there as possible," said Singleton.

With deep card-based mechanics, extraordinary production value, and lovely art, Card-en-Ciel is posed to make a strong impression at launch. It's exciting not only on its own terms, but also for what it means to a company that has proved its mettle making mostly side-scrolling action-platformers. This is a brand new adventure for the studio, one that will hopefully pay off. 

Card-en-Ciel will release TBD on Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and Steam. The game promises a substantial single-player campaign and online card-battling multiplayer & leaderboards.

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