Despite being in early access, Banners of Ruin is a solid deck building game with unique character styles and clever card combat strategies.
Banners of Ruin is a turn-based roguelike card battler with RPG elements, developed by MonteBearo and published by Golbinz Studio. It released in early access on Steam on July 31, 2020. Players build a deck of cards and fight a series of turn-based battles with up to six party characters through the city streets of Dawn’s Point. Each animal character, which is incredibly detailed, can unlock a set of unique racial cards and passive abilities that can augment your deck in powerful, exciting ways.
Animals in your party can range from weasels, bears and wolves to rats, beavers and hares. Bears are understandably stronger than rats, and you can bet the rats will have dirty tricks up their sleeves such as poison damage. The animal character designs are cleverly drawn, especially once you deck them out with armour. The bears in full plate armour look terrifying and the hares look awesome in medium armour with ears sticking out.
The Blackfoots have been dealt a mighty blow by the fearsome House Ender – you must infiltrate their defences and cut out the rot. Defeat each of the elite opponents in your path to the city’s Guard Captain and cripple the Enders at their core. You and your brethren may fall at this attempt, but there will always be others to carry the torch. House Blackfoot will remember, and they will never relent. Encounter a series of scenarios as you travel through the city which may help you, but at the expense of some moral ground.
Banners of Ruin consists of two gameplay elements. The first is at street level where you will travel along streets with elite bosses at the end of them. The second element is the battle screen where you need to defeat the enemies to advance along that street. Each street has three lanes you can travel down and each lane in the street leads to a service. Services can range from equipment, hire or healing services. Equipment services allow you to modify your deck or your character’s equipment. Hire services allow you to hire characters for your party, and the healing service allows you to heal members of your party.
Which service you choose will depend on how your party is travelling as you progress. You may need to heal your party if they are getting low on health. If your party is doing well, you may then want to hire more help or get some new items for existing characters. Once you have completed a service lane and fought the elite boss, you will then move to the next street within Dawn’s Point. Some lanes have non-combat encounters where you can possibly find new items or party characters, but may eventually come to a dead-end, while other lanes have combat situations you must defeat to move forward. The lane encounter variations start to get a little stale after a couple of runs, so hopefully more variety and random encounters will be added during the early access period.
Entering combat changes to the battle arena screen where you will use your deck of cards and varying strategies to take down the opposing party. Cards cost stamina and will to use, with stamina replenishing each turn whereas will does not replenish until the next battle. Each side has two ranks to attack from and each rank alternates who attacks next, indicated by a red highlight. You can also hover over the enemies to see who they are going to target next. That allows you to play some defensive cards on your troops or take out threats early.
There are cards that can complement troops in your active lane or be a detriment to an enemy rank. Some cards will have different effects depending on which character uses it, so it is important to read the benefits or hindrances of each card before throwing them down. Combat is initially a little slow and can be clunky given not all animations have been implemented in this early access build, however a recent quality of life update has added speed options which is great. This patch also fixed the fact I couldn’t cancel some cards if I chose incorrectly.
Party characters can carry additional unique cards themselves however if these characters die, you’ll lose access to those cards in future runs. These character cards are designated with the character symbol at the top of the card and only that character can use them. My first character was a weasel named Desselyn who had a 1-h hatchet and wore medium armour. The next character I came across was a bear who wielded a 2-h polearm. Later you can discover and loot items that you can swap out and customise your characters to benefit each other and the battle cards you’ve unlocked.
If your entire party dies then the game is lost, but don’t worry, death is part of the game. You will have earned experience based on how many combat encounters you won, number of streets completed and so on, filling a tiered experience bar to unlock tokens. Characters can reach a maximum level 8 and each new level gives you choices for talents and passive abilities. Tokens at the end of a run allow you to unlock new cards and passive abilities to help you in future battles. There are over 150 cards to unlock as well as over 50 passive ability variations, and over 30 unique enemies in dozens of combat encounters.
Despite being in early access, Banners of Ruin is a solid deck building game with unique character styles and clever card combat strategies. I like the fact that it is roguelike, allowing you to unlock different characters and unlock new cards/passives to try in your next run. Developers MonteBearo stated on the game’s Steam page they’re “planning to release the full version of the game within a year, adding a larger pool of cards, character passives, and campaign scenarios than those in the Early Access period. Some artwork is subject to change, some characters do not have final animations, but the game can be played broadly as intended.”
This review utilised a Steam key provided by Future Friends Games. Banners of Ruin is available now in early access on Steam for AUD28.95 full release is aiming for mid-2021.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis