Preview – Death Roads: Tournament

Rogue-like deck builders are many these days thanks to Slay the Spire; we have covered plenty of them on the site—Pirates Outlaws most recently. If you can name a particular theme or setting, it might have one in the genre. Death Roads: Tournament is the most recent newcomer, taking place in a post-apocalyptic world inspired by the likes of Mad Max and Death Race 2000. From Knights of Unity, it was released on Steam Early Access on the 28th of March. It boasts a unique style of turn-based combat and an immersive level of deck customization that I believe is addictive and unrivaled.

As with most deck builders, you’ll start by picking a character, but also get to pick a car. Selecting a car is the equivalent of choosing a starter deck, as you’ll be further customizing it throughout the progression of your run. The beginning of each run shows a map full of branching paths and a few starting points to choose from. Those paths are the usual for the genre—in the form of battles, shops, and risk/reward events. Your character isn’t the only one on the road either, as others fill the starting points you didn’t choose. So far, what I have described is par for the course, but let me switch gears and get into what makes this game fun and addictive.

Gear system and combat

Death Roads may be centered around a race but isn’t a racing video game. A majority of nodes on the map are combat-centric. When starting an encounter, you’ll see the number and types of enemies that you are about to face. Your deck consists of both attack and movement cards that help you change your position on the invisible grid or deal damage to opponents. Other gameplay mechanics such as the skid deck and gear shifting add layers of both chaos and depth to the action as well. Battles could be compared to tactical RPGs rather than traditional turn-based combat. As you take on opponents and avoid road hazards, you have the option to escape with your life if you don’t think you’ll survive.

The skid deck can work for you or against you.

Building a deck is made easy thanks to the fact that you are making modifications to your car, ranging from weapons to your tires and engine. This game is as deep as any in the genre, but I can look at a card that I gained and understand what it does fairly quickly and apply it to any given strategy. Some cards are effective in disorienting enemies, while others are useful in making a getaway—it’s not always about dealing damage. Though I initially sold whatever cards/parts I no longer needed, it is wise to keep some extras on hand that may be useful against varying enemy types. “Easy to pick up and tough to master” is an overused phrase in video game coverage, but I feel that it strongly applies here.

Customization

Death Roads: Tournament is the most immersive rogue-like deck-builder I’ve ever played, and I could see it being adaptable into actual tabletop form if such a thing doesn’t already exist in some way. A few glaring minor bugs and issues I experienced pre-launch such as missing gunfire sound effects have been fixed, making it an easy addition to your ever-growing Steam library. Where the game lacks the most is that it currently has zero controller support, so I won’t be installing it on my new Steam Deck any time soon. However, I find myself content sitting in front of my computer telling myself to shut the game down before bed—it can only get better in its current state.

L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

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