jakub | June 5, 2024

the Gathering’ meets ‘RuneScape’ in this card battle royale


Like any card or board game, it’s hard to describe Inferni: Hope & Fear without playing it, but once you have, you understand it instantly. Created by Village Studio, helmed by developers who worked on RuneScape, Rust, and Angry Birds 2, Inferni looks like something thrown together during a game jam but it’s immensely satisfying to play and much more than the sum of its parts.

Unlike most card games, Inferni takes place in real time as up to four teams of two duke it out simultaneously. You draw cards from your deck, pick one from your hand, choose a target, and wait a few seconds while you cast the spell.

Rather than effects instantly taking hold, attacks appear in the middle of the battlefield as orbs that fly menacingly toward their victim. This gives all players a chance to react and creates a living, evolving board. Some cards can interact with already cast spells, weakening them, speeding them up, reflecting them, or increasing their damage. Players can also cast defensive spells on themselves to block incoming damage or bounce it back to the original caster. During our hands-on, there’s real fear when you realise three spells are going to hit you at the same time but your reflection card isn’t going to cast in time.

people sending spells at each other
‘Inferni’ Credit: Village Studio

The real-time combat creates a different type of strategy from what you normally experience in turn-based card games. When you see six spheres all floating toward you and you’ve got no defensive cards in your hand, the sense of panic and dread is overwhelming. Fortunately, Inferni includes a draft feature that pauses the action and gives you some much-needed cards.

Like a Magic: the Gathering draft in your local card shop, packs are opened and passed around for all players. You choose one and pass the rest on. This not only gives you the chance to fill your hand with cards not available in your deck, but it gives you information about the actions your opponents are likely to take next.

Before the match, you can choose from one of five characters. They each embody a different style of play, from glass cannons to control to healers to the aptly named Leather Man, a guy in a gimp suit whose spells revolve around dealing self-inflicted damage. Each gives you access to a different deck, and you need to rely on the draft system to ensure you can get yourself out of a tough spot that your base deck isn’t prepared for.

Cards in Inferni
‘Inferni’ Credit: Village Studio

As well as targeting opponents, you can use your cards on yourself and teammates – not just healing cards, either. Each character starts with two charms, passive bonuses that can give you more damage, a self-revive, and more. You can have up to four during a match, and since some activate when you take damage, it can be advantageous to hurt your comrades or hit them with spells that make them lose life but draw more cards.

There’s a surprising amount of depth on offer in Inferni, so don’t let its old-school aesthetic put you off. While it may not have the graphical fidelity of more modern games, that’s deliberate – it evokes the style of ‘90s PC games, and similarly runs on almost any machine.

There’s a free demo available now on Steam.





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