Gloomhaven digital version review: a marvelous turn-based tactical RPG

Gloomhaven This is not a simple board game. It’s a franchise. Isaac Childres created and published the cooperative dungeon crawler. The project was hugely successful across three Kickstarters. FrosthavenIt is available here. The digital version of the game has been available in beta for several years and is finally ready to be released on PC. It is a stunning final product.

Tabletop games: GloomhavenThis novel concept is important for many reasons. First, it is an easy-to-use combat system. The players can select one of several classes that each have their own set of action cards. These include the typical options of moving around the dungeon and attacking a foe, but also special abilities such as the Cragheart’s talent for obliterating terrain, or the Tinkerer’s arsenal of traps.

In the digital version, you can enjoy all of the card-based combat system’s depth and excellence. It is especially evident when you play the game in a solo mode. While you can also play the board game all by yourself, it’s a burdensome process of managing multiple characters and enemies. The PC version makes organizing cards, tokens and tiles much easier, while allowing for a more relaxing loading time. Digital adaptation eliminates all the hassle while keeping the most important assets.

Several mercenaries in Gloomhaven square off against a dungeon’s enemies

Image by Asmodee Digital

Once the adventure has begun, there is no need to waste time. Controlling multiple characters is greatly streamlined — you can flip between party members and examine their many action cards with ease. Time is also saved as players no longer need to assess enemy priorities or adjudicate some of the more sticky situations where targeting isn’t clear. In the background, the game handles all antagonist activations. It saves enormous time and energy. This allows you to keep the momentum up as you move through the tsunami of content.

Its size is also a notable characteristic of this tabletop game. Physically, it’s a beast, chock-full of sealed content for a group of friends to discover over its roughly 40-hour campaign. Campaign-based games have seen a rise in popularity over the last few years. GloomhavenIt was somewhat of a trailblazer in its genre. The film incorporated influences from both. Pandemic LegacyAnd Dungeons & DragonsTo create a new vision. As it embraced “legacy” elements, such as permanently modifying cards by applying stickers, it opened up a new wealth of possibilities in supporting long-term progression. All of that original material is now included in this digital version, and it’s astonishingly effective.

You can feel a great deal of mental anxiety when you tear up an opportunity card or sticker an ability card. It could cause irreparable damage to this board game. This anguish can’t be replicated in the PC edition, but almost everything else can. It is possible to modify the cards by enhancement and unlock the different classes. You also have the ability to achieve achievements that virtually stick the digital board.

Mercenaries engage in turn-based combat against reanimated skeletons

Image: Asmodee Digital

In the PC version, you can see how the ongoing story is brought to life. You will find entrancing beats, a tension-inducing soundtrack and vibrant music. I’m particularly fond of the voice acting that narrates introductions to all of the scenarios. It’s also very efficient to organize quests in the world map. This allows you to predict what enemy you will encounter during each adventure. It can sometimes be hard to follow the different narrative lines when you are assessing side quests. If you meet up with your group of gamers in real life, this can be a challenge. But again, in the digital version, this is all trivial; each dungeon has a useful descriptor, allowing you to dive back in even if it’s been days since you’ve played.

These dungeons are magnificent. Their visuals aren’t particularly striking, but they do create an oppressive atmosphere. This mood is wonderful when paired with an emphasis on exploration. As you meet new enemies and rooms, they become more apparent. This is in contrast to the board game which forces you to ignore the unexplored areas. This fundamental change in our interaction with the environment creates tension and a sense of urgency. It doesn’t hurt that these dungeons, with their atmosphere and excellent design, are all the more enjoyable because the digital version removes so much of the busy work of the tabletop game. It’s so much easier to be enveloped by it all.

One of Asmodee Digital’s greatest accomplishments with Gloomhaven’s digital version is its clear and streamlined user interface. Occasionally you will find yourself searching for an element which feels buried — such as the character-specific battle goals for each dungeon — but the search is never tedious or lengthy. Gloomhaven it is, in fact, a very dense game. It feels like the digital designers have a deep understanding of the game and are trying to simplify it.

A Tinkerer deals damage to an Inox Guard

Image by Asmodee Digital

Gloomhaven digital is impressive for how it facilitates solo play, however, it’s also capable of providing a satisfying experience for a group of friends. It’s an enticing counter to the physical version, as it’s much easier to schedule an hour for everyone to hop on the PC, particularly with COVID still causing concern. It’s possible to tackle the whole campaign, or just the Guildmaster mode. This mode offers you a series of escalating encounters that lack any narrative connection, but allows for character development and card-based combat. This combat mode, when compared against the campaign is lacking in long-term reward and strength of narrative.

In its full-release state, I’m highly impressed with Gloomhaven digital. The original board game is extremely complex and challenging, but it’s a wonderful experience. The PC version of this experience is a masterful translation. It has removed all the unnecessary obstacles, and instead focuses on the core mechanisms. This is one of the best turn-based dungeon crawlers in 2021.

Gloomhaven’s digital version It will be available on Windows PC on October 20, with a Mac release to follow at TBD. Asmodee Digital provided a prerelease code for the game. The PC review was conducted using this code. Vox Media also has affiliate relationships. Although these partnerships do not impact editorial content, Vox Media could earn commissions for products sold via affiliate links. Find out more. additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here

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