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Foretales Is A Card Game That Cares Way More About Story Than Mechanics

Foretales looks like a lot of recent digital card games, but it is actually more like a point-and-click adventure game than a typical deck-builder.

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Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.

Foretales is a really hard game to classify. There are so many rogue-like deck-builder games out there that as soon as I see a card-based interface I make a lot of assumptions about what to expect. You know, procedural generation, a deck of cards that you customize to build up cool combos, that sort of thing.

But that isn't what Foretales is at all. It's not a rogue-like game, it's not procedurally generated, and it's not really a deck builder. In a lot of ways, Foretales isn't even really a card game.

Story First Experience

Foretales is all about story and decision making.

The main protagonist in Foretales is a shoebill rogue named Volepain who is traveling with his companion Leo on a job to steal a relic. You’ll see a lot of these characters, along with enemies, NPCs, and recruitable allies throughout the game, but always as just static images on cards. The art is all absolutely fantastic, with a vibe that sort of reminds me of a slightly darker version of Disney’s Robin Hood. Just don’t go in expecting to see the characters animated.

Getting into the estate where their target rests isn’t a simple task for the two. First, they make their way through town, bartering, stealing, and building rapport with its citizens. Then, once they reach the grounds they have to either bumble through a hedge maze or hope to bribe a Gardner to show them the way. Finally, they have to enter the house, which will likely mean a confrontation with the guards. Things can get bloody, or the pair might be able to talk their way out of a fight.

Card Based Mechanics

Foretales has combat, but it is far from a focus.

All of these actions in Foretales play out through a card game. The city or any other area you explore is made up of a deck of cards, with three or four laid out face up in the center of the table. These include both locations and NPCs, and some cards get an enemy token on them indicating a battle has to take place before you can interact with the location. To interact with a location, you can play a character skill card, like picking pockets as Volepain or rallying support as Leo. You can also use resource cards to interact, like giving up some food to recruit a street kid to join you as a resource, who you can then play to steal from a merchant.

Not every card has an interaction with every location, but Foretales does a great job at using highlights to tell you which cards can interact and exactly what they will do. You can even look at the various decks most of the time, so this is very much a game about consideration and planning more than random chance. Really, it feels to me like a narrative resource management game that happens to use cards, more than it feels like any other card game I’ve played.

The Story Unfolds

Foretales let you see tragedies on the horizon.

When Volepain gets his hands on the relic in the opening story, go sideways. He blacks out as his mind is assaulted with visions of the future. He sees a city on fire, the striking miners being slaughtered, and his faithful companion imprisoned and executed. This is where the adventure of Foretales really opens up, as you can choose from several different missions to take on.

I love branching paths in a narrative, but the thing that really makes this interesting in Foretales is that each of the prophecies Volepain has witnessed are laid out alongside the missions you can choose from. Each prophecy has a foreboding countdown that ticks over each time you choose a mission. I’ve averted two crises so far in my play-through, but I’m right up against a third that I chose to let happen while I stopped the first two.

Being able to see exactly what my decisions were going to lead to as I made them felt unique and really, really cool.

Final Thoughts

Foretales characters don't really want to be murderers.

I’m only a few hours into Foretales so far but I really, really love it. It’s definitely a game I’m going to keep picking away at, but it’s so narratively focused that it takes a bigger amount of focus than you might expect from a digital card game. You could pick this up and just play some cards on some locations, but that would really be missing the point of the game. It is very much focused on its story, so playing it without being in the right headspace to absorb the narrative would be like grabbing a controller to play Mario but never touching the D-pad.

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