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December 2022

These Doomed Isles

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Triplevision Games
Developer: Triplevision Games
Release Date: Summer 2023


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PC Preview - 'These Doomed Isles'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 22, 2022 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In These Doomed Isles, players craft a deck of cards to raise islands from the sea, build settlements for their followers, and keep them alive as famine threatens, forests burn, and raiders loom on the horizon.

Slay the Spire and similar titles have had a heavy influence on video games. One of most enjoyable influences has been unusual new takes on quick-paced roguelite mechanics. RPGs, adventure games, and even cooking games have all tried their hand at rapid-paced games — often with card mechanics. These Doomed Isles is a distinct take on the genre, combining the rapid pace of a modern roguelite with the resource management of a god game.

We've all at least seen Civilization-style "god games," where your goal is to build from humble beginnings to worldwide empires. At first blush, These Doomed Isles looks a lot like that. You start with little to your name but a few patches of lands, a couple of cabins, and a shrine. You have a few resources to manage, including faith, food, gold, wood and workers. Your overall goal is to earn enough Victory Points to be the winner. Each turn represents one season, and you'll either need to succeed or eventually get overwhelmed.

What sets apart These Doomed Isles is that the game is designed to be similar to a quick pick-up-and-play roguelike à la Slay the Spire more so than any game of Civ. It is more reminiscent of Actraiser's city building. Everything in the game is straightforward, and your goal is to make the best use of the available space for maximum benefit. If you can fit a few more forests into a small area, your gatherers and lumberjacks can harvest more. In a way, it's Inventory Tetris, with most buildings and landmasses having their own shapes and sizes, which reward you for thinking carefully about what fits where.

Faith is where things start to feel similar to Slay the Spire. You are playing as a deity and are thus powered by the faith of your followers. This is represented by your Faith meter, which is a resource you can use to play cards from a deck. During each turn, you draw a number of cards from your deck, but you can spend gold to redraw if needed. These cards do everything in the game. If you want more buildings, you need a card for them rather than just building them. Cards allow you to perform miracles, which can range from creating a new landmass to improving your next harvest to destroying existing buildings so you can place new ones in better formations.

However, cards aren't permanent. Once you use most cards, they are gone for good. You can only get new cards by surviving a full year (four turns) and purchasing them during harvest season. During the harvest, you're given a choice from a handful of cards, but you need to purchase them with gold, which can limit what you can select. If you need more workers, you might need to prioritize cabins or other buildings that give workers, but if that overtaxes your food supplies, then you could end up losing some food stores while waiting for the next year's harvest. You can spend gold to reroll the available cards, but that leaves you with less resources to purchase the needed cards.

The limit on cards also makes it more dangerous to lose anything. Every so often, enemies attack by rolling up to your island in boats and wrecking everything in their path. They tend to prioritize your gold-manufacturing buildings, but their overall goal is to wreck your shrine. Lose the shrine, and it's game over. It still hurts to lose one of your vital food production plants or worker housing, since you can't easily replace it.

Combat fits into the "Inventory Tetris" game style. You can get various combat tools, ranging from watchtowers to hired soldiers to good old-fashioned fences. They'll fight automatically, so you'll have to manage their positioning to make sure everything is protected. Workers are often needed to maintain your defenses, so you have to balance taking away workers from productive things to fight with not losing a bunch of important resources. If you're not careful, you can get easily swamped, which can lead to a death spiral while you desperately try to rebuild before the next invasion.

Like many games of this type, These Doomed Isles also includes an ascension system that will make the game harder with each level. The differences seem more nuanced than bigger numbers. For example, the first tier says, "workers get unhappy if they are bored," which means that unemployed workers gradually lose happiness and can leave. Ascensions can also include more limited resources, higher requirements for certain milestones, and exist to make things tougher for players.

These Doomed Isles is a cute concept. Combining the addictiveness of Civilization with the "just one more run" feeling of Slay the Spire has the potential to eat up an absurd number of hours. The demo only showed off a small glimpse of the game, but it's clear that it has a very strong foundation. It's worth keeping an eye on this god game, and I look forward to seeing more from These Doomed Isles in the coming months.

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