There is a rapidly tiring trend among the post apocalypse genre to set itself in the grim, irradiated deserts and cities of America or the grim, irradiated countryside of Russia. That isn’t to say that these settings are completely dried up, just last year Horizon Zero Dawn proved there’s still life in the post apocalyptic US but it is refreshing to see a different culture get the ol’ apocalyptic makeover. This time up we have Nowhere Prophet, a card based strategy inspired by Indian culture.
As SharkBomb’s Nowhere Prophet is still in “First Access” with a vague Q2 release scheduled on Steam, everything in this preview is subject to change. Especially considering how much the game has changed since its initial debut.
Nowhere Prophet is set on the planet Soma, a Borderlands style world of vicious raiders, powerful robots, and slavering beasts where life is more than just a little difficult for the average Joe. The story follows a technopath who is able to sense and affect electrical currents who receives a vision from a fallen satellite and sets out to lead a horde of followers to find the mysterious “Crypt” and the salvation that lies within.
From here the story quickly becomes your own as you are presented with an FTL style map showing crossroads, markets, campsites, areas of interest, and strongholds. Each choice you make will determine what happens in your story and much like FTL it is a bit of a roll of the dice.
Travelling in Nowhere Prophet requires Food and Faith because apparently my word as prophet is not enough for the instant gratification needing horde. Unlike FTL, which requires a set amount of fuel per jump with the number of jumps being the big puzzle, Nowhere Prophet challenges players to weigh up the reduced costs of the highways or the lure of the dirt roads. It’s a small change from the genre forebear and it makes a noticeable difference. With the constant need for food and reassurance of my divinity providing pressure, the game can and will become a death march at points as you make your way desperately towards a green stop, hoping for a good chunk of food only to be jumped by beasts.
Speaking of which, fuck beast packs. Beast packs, like every faction in Nowhere Prophet, have their own deck filled with themed convoy and leader cards. Convoy cards being the units you can play to the field and Leader cards being the effects you can use (Direct attacks, buffs, etc). It feels similar to Hearthstone or Yu-Gi-Oh but with less strategy. See, while Nowhere Prophet has a lot of interesting cards the most useful power is, by far, Taunt. Taunt is the only monster trait that prevents your leader from getting attacked directly. And if your leader gets killed then its roguelike game over, right back to the main menu. Which is frustrating when luck isn’t on your side or you set up a nice start to your strategy and the enemy pulls 3 Shoot cards and kills all your monsters.
Eventually the combat starts to make sense and by closely watching what the higher level enemies are doing, you start to understand Nowhere Prophet’s unique approach to card game strategy. Units on the frontline are offered up as shields, protecting the heavy hitters in the back which are inevitably killed by a combination of direct attacks and bullshittery. Much the same way as FTL can feel frustrating when you are starting out and don’t realise that you need to do certain counter-productive moves, like backtracking to get more resources for the end of area market, Nowhere Prophet can at times feel arcane in its design. For my first few runs I dodged combat as much as I could because a bunker I came across at the start told me I needed 50 followers to access a special option. My goal then was to collect as many followers as possible which, seeing as they can only die in combat, meant avoiding the big crossed sword nodes. What I didn’t realise at the start though was that this meant I was missing a lot of loot that I would need for later on.
Yet even with the frustration of losing upwards of an hour of progress, I’m still drawn back to Nowhere Prophet. The little touches like each card having its own unique name which is referenced in the world events, making it feel like the convoy is alive and the descriptions of the villages make them feel different and, while not as vivid as a true text-based adventure, at least paint a picture in the mind lend itself well to the emergent storytelling that roguelikes thrive on.
Cards on the table, I like Nowhere Prophet. Even if it is a little unbalanced at the moment – something the designer has said he will be working on before the full release – it still provides a strong experience with a unique world. And if you are a better tactician than I then you might not even run into the same issues that I’ve had.
You can get first access to Nowhere Prophet on Itch.io HERE.