HomeReviews4/5 ReviewFor the Warp Review

For the Warp Review

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We should start with a confession: if there’s a game that’s catnip to us, it’s the deckbuilding roguelike. You could scribble ‘Attack for 6 damage’ onto a slip of toilet paper, then hand it to us, and we’d be in gaming heaven. There’s something about the simple loops of accumulating a deck, making that deck impossibly unbalanced, and then chewing through card-game encounters that raises goosebumps. 

Which doesn’t make us particularly impartial. Slay the Spire is GOATed for us, and Monster Train, Roguebook and Pirate Outlaws aren’t far behind. If you only gave us those four games to play until the end of time, we’d probably do alright. We’d be merrily prestiging each deck until our final days.

For The Warp review 1
Deckbuilding in space!

The devs of For the Warp are probably happy we’re the ones reviewing their game. Because it is, as you’ve likely guessed, a deckbuilding roguelike. You do everything that the genre demands: you choose a character and take its unique deck through a map of nodes. Those nodes might represent events that hand you more cards or take them away, while others represent encounters. In these, you play a simple card game of attack and defense, leading – hopefully – to your victory, and the best bit: a new card to add to your deck. 

For the Warp does, at the very least, clothe it differently. Instead of demons and minotaurs, you’re facing off against space freighters and cruisers. This is Elite, Eve Online or the works of Iain M Banks brought to the CCG space. Health is swapped for hull integrity, and armour is replaced with shields. You don’t poison opponents, you ‘Ignite’ them, and summoned creatures are now drones, floating about your ship. It’s a basic swap-out, but – alongside the pixel art approach – makes for a refreshing view through the porthole. 

We’re not so partisan to ignore the similarities, though. Posters for Slay the Spire and Roguebook, in particular, are clearly cellotaped to the walls of the For the Warp offices. Roguebook is there in the node-map exploration. It’s very much a risk-reward proposition, as you choose how much of a grid you want to explore before you jump through a warpgate and onto the next level. You could cover every square and fight every ship, but that risks not only your health – since life is persistent across battles – but also Fuel. You only have a finite amount to enable exploration, and the encounters and events will only generate so much. Run out, and you will be punished with a reduction in health. 

Slay the Spire is the inspiration for the combat. While the terminology is different, you are still using attack cards to lower enemy health while anticipating the enemy’s moves and adding defense to block it. The Slay the Spire flavour is so dominant that we would often make direct card comparisons. We would run Ironclad-like decks, accumulating armour and then using that armour as a weapon, converting it into damage. 

For The Warp review 2
You know the drill.

There are some differences here and there. For the Warp likes to dally with drones, and you can have a ridiculous number hovering about your ship. They attack passively each turn, which – in deckbuilding terms – is particularly unattractive, since the best decks will often spike damage to remove enemies from confrontations rather than blindly attack everyone. But For the Warp knows this, and lets you generate a stupid number of drones. Suddenly, having passive attacks every turn isn’t the worst thing in the world. 

There’s a greater emphasis on ‘disabling’ enemies, which is stupidly powerful (and how we often completed the Hardcore mode), since it takes whole enemies out of the equation – something that’s useful when you’ve got an army of drones fighting for free. And you can accumulate stacks of buffs like ‘Boost Points’, which can be cashed in for various benefits later. 

It’s an overly familiar system, but it’s also one that works. We found ourselves getting lost in the min-maxing meta of how to generate infinite armour or damage. Since For the Warp lets you keep armour turn-after-turn, it becomes the most powerful of all stats. Most of our decks revolved around avoiding damage and thinking about how to kill the enemies afterwards. That tactic is only helped by enemies who don’t seem to get more powerful over the course of the battle. 

For The Warp review 3
Where will your galactic journey take you?

For the Warp works in the short term, then. It adheres to a previously set-out formula, but that formula is so tried-and-tested that we immediately understood what it was doing and enjoyed it. But where For the Warp comes a little unstuck is when you zoom out further than ‘short term’.

To keep you playing For the Warp, it offers three different modes. There’s the conventional campaign, a Hardcore mode, and a Draft mode that is the basic campaign but with the quirk of picking your starting deck from a diminishing pool of cards to draw from (Magic: The Gathering players will know what this looks like). 

That sounds a lot, but isn’t really. Take Slay the Spire: if you complete it once, then you have stacking tiers of ‘Ascension’ where you can replay it with debilitating debuffs applied. For the Warp has no Ascension or prestige system. There are no new cards to unlock as you play, either, and you can’t upgrade the cards to get better versions. You’re motivated to play again solely by the joy of playing (which is, admittedly, a pull), and trying out the different ships and their unique starting decks. Except each ship isn’t all that different or all that unique, and the cards you gain in the campaign are shared between all of the other decks. Add in the relative easiness of the game’s campaign, and things begin to unwind.

Which leaves Hardcore mode to offer the difficulty. Except it, again, has only one speed, and doesn’t increase over time. We’d argue that it’s still easy, and should really have been the main campaign’s difficulty tier. Draft mode is nice, but it only makes a difference to the opening moments of the game. Soon, the cards you start with will be diluted by others, so the feeling of newness evaporates away.

For The Warp review 4
We wish For The Warp did more

We’re being mean because we care. For the Warp is an enjoyable if unambitious take on the deckbuilding roguelike genre. It pushes all our buttons: we’ve theory-crafted some crazy decks that barely lets the enemy take a turn, and that’s exactly what we love about the genre. We want to be deliciously overpowered, and For the Warp lets us. 

We just have that wistful wish that it did more. There’s a Hall of Fame when it comes to deckbuilding roguelikes, and For the Warp visits the hall rather than cements its place. Without card upgrades, without deck-specific cards, and without ‘Ascension’-like reasons to replay, For the Warp begins to fade away. We had a whale of a time making an inventory of everything For the Warp has to offer, but we’re not convinced that we will ever come back.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Unusual sci-fi take on the Slay the Spire template
  • Gets the game loops exactly right
  • Neat grid-based exploration
Cons:
  • Feels overly familiar
  • Some deck types feel imbalanced
  • Lacks reasons to replay
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, ImaginationOverflow
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 12 March 2024 | £14.49
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Unusual sci-fi take on the Slay the Spire template</li> <li>Gets the game loops exactly right</li> <li>Neat grid-based exploration</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Feels overly familiar</li> <li>Some deck types feel imbalanced</li> <li>Lacks reasons to replay</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, ImaginationOverflow</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 12 March 2024 | £14.49</li> </ul>For the Warp Review
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