After a three-month head start on Steam, Prominence Poker has now made its way on to the Xbox One. Is it a Royal Flush or about as useful as 2-7 off suit hole cards?
Prominence Poker is the next game based on Texas Hold ‘Em; the most popular version of poker and also one of the easiest to get into. Released on Steam Early Access, this is the same version ported over to the Xbox One, complete with bugs and certain menu features listed as ‘Coming Soon’. For a F2P game this isn’t such an issue, as it does prolong the life-cycle of the game to provide more income. But when ‘Coming Soon’ then limits the number of locations to three and only offers two different groups to join out of four, you start to think they really are holding stuff back. But any good poker player will tell you that patience is key and this is clearly just another test of that.
Some of the bugs have come over as well, including one that resets challenge progress. There is an upside to this though in that your rank is not reset, allowing you to collect the XP all over again. And as with any F2P game, the grind to maxing your character out is definitely present, so any boost to XP gains is welcome. The game also has daily events that vary, which grant boosts, and are a novel way to help mix up players’ outfits and/or accessories to ensure they are taking full advantage of them.
Prominence Poker (unsurprisingly) has both online and offline elements. Online is a staple for any poker game simply because humans are unpredictable in their betting, whereas an AI can be worked out. That isn’t to say that the offline is bad, it actually includes a story mode of sorts, and the groups mentioned before are referred to as Affiliations. There are four in total, each named after a suit in a deck of cards. As a player, you arrive in the city of Prominence with only the nickname ‘The Tourist’, a dodgy Hawaiian shirt and a bum bag/fanny pack for company. After defeating the crime lord/mayor of Prominence (which forms the tutorial) your next task should be to get to Rank 10. Then, you can choose which Affiliation to join. Here you can decide whether to rise to the top, or sneakily take down another Affiliation by defeating their leader at a game of poker. Casino Royale this is not.
Online there are three modes of play; Ring, Tournament or Head-to-Head. At the moment, online is limited only to Casual play, as Ranked mode is again ‘Coming Soon’. Each of these offer different monetary buy-ins depending on how much you can afford or wish to risk. So far, the online component is fluid and there have not been any server issues. There appears to be a long wait to start a game if you are in a lobby, but once the game has started there are no further delays start-wise; opponents can be another issue if they are there simply to post blinds.
The game doesn’t take itself too seriously for what traditionally can be a very serious game, and this is evident in the graphics and presentation. Graphically, it edges towards the more cartoony side but still maintains a decent quality. The animations on the characters are a bit of fun, but if more than two people go ‘All-In’ then you will see synchronised animations after the cards are revealed.
Aside from the repeated animations, Prominence does a good job of immersing you in the surroundings. In the Casino, you have a croupier deal the cards to you, and a quick scroll round with the right thumbstick shows that you are far from being the only table playing Poker. But then in the other, less desirable surroundings like the bar or laundromat basement, the dealer button comes into play as you all deal to each other. Thankfully this is automated so you don’t need to worry about messing this part up, but it’s certainly a welcome touch and clearly some thought was put into the locations.
To further immerse the player into the city of Prominence, cheating/devious play was given as an option in the blurb for the game and came in the form of being able to look at other players cards. You look at your own hole cards by pulling Left Trigger and every time you do so, your character on screen appears to look at their own cards. Having the camera positioned by other players who are checking their own hole cards should allow you to see what they have, according to the games own description. I have checked this (purely for the purpose of the review I hasten to add…) but this does not appear to be the case. If this is yet another feature ‘Coming Soon’ or not though is not made apparent.
What isn’t immersive at all however is the music. There only appears to be two or three tracks and one of those is solely for the Main Menu. It’s understandable that some Poker games will go on for a couple of hours and you wouldn’t want one long track on loop for the entire duration, but this is what we have at the moment. The team at 505 Games have promised years of support so hopefully there will be more tracks added over time.
As with most F2P online-focused games, a fair few achievements are a bit of a grind. For completion you need to play 50 games at each location, get to rank 3 in your affiliations (the equivalent of Level 110 on your character) and win 50 Head-to-Head tournaments. The biggest grind though is for earning 1Billion bankroll overall. You can buy chips with real money but even this method would set you back £40,000 so probably not the best option.
Poker has a bit of a chequered history in games; some have done it really well as a mini-game designed to offer only a few hours of fun. And then some games have focused purely on Poker and done a terrible job. Prominence Poker does both. A game primarily based on Texas Hold ‘Em done well and best of all, completely free. And with support ongoing long term, this looks set to be the stand out Poker game for the Xbox One.