Novus Orbis is the latest fantasy roguelike deck builder to catch my eye on Steam, and in just a short time playing it has me hooked on its combo-driven combat. Following in the footsteps of the best card games like Slay the Spire, Novus Orbis is built around the idea of chaining your attacks in specific sequences to maximize their effects. It’s a concept that’s simple but effective, and you can try it out for yourself with a free demo right now.
If you’re as easily tempted by the delicious roguelike deck builder format of games such as Slay the Spire, Monster Train, Wildfrost, and Nadir, then the basic setup of Novus Orbis will feel like second nature to you. If you aren’t, the structure simply sees you pathing your way through a run by choosing which room to enter next, with symbols denoting whether a fight, treasure, health, a boss, or some sort of mystery lies in wait.
Completing fights and opening chests rewards you with cards, which can be used to build out your basic starter deck into something capable of taking down the game’s toughest foes that lie ahead. As with the likes of Slay the Spire, most cards have a cost to play them labeled in the top-left and an effect that occurs when you play them. There are also blessings and pets that can be found over the course of a run to further up your power level.
The hook here, however, lies in the combo system. Many of the cards you’ll collect in Novus Orbis as your run progresses will have a number between zero and four denoting their ‘combo value.’ By playing a card at the appropriate stage of a combo, you’ll get a bonus effect and advance your combo meter to its next stage. Play an off-combo card, and your meter is reset to zero.
As a simple example, the zero-cost ‘Kick’ card I start with deals three damage to a target enemy, but four if I play it while my combo meter is at its starting value of zero. Doing so advances the combo meter to one, where now my one1-cost ‘Slash’ attack (listed with a combo value of one) will deal seven damage instead of its default five, and further increase my combo meter to two by doing so.
Reach the top of the chain, and you can unlock some incredibly potent options. ‘Sword Fracture’ is a four-cost card that, by default, deals just one damage to a target enemy and resets your combo meter to nothing. Play it when you’ve built your combo all the way up to level four, however, and Sword Fracture will deliver a monstrous 100 damage instead – the climactic coup de grâce on your efforts.
You’ll have to be mindful about how you build your combos up, however. Your foes each have a cooldown that ticks down with every card you play, and again when you end a turn. These are what determine incoming attacks – meaning you won’t always be targeted between turns, but that you can face a sudden incoming blow midway through your turn if you aren’t paying attention.
Novus Orbis is still in development, but there’s currently a demo available for free on Steam that gives you the chance to try out one of the game’s classes (currently “at least three” are planned for the full release), with over 100 cards, 49 blessings, and 5 pets included already, along with 22 different enemy, mini-boss, and boss fights to test your skills. Give it a shot and see what you think – I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on this one.