LifeisXbox’s Griftlands review | I’ve been reviewing quite a few (roguelike) deck-building games lately, and I am definitely not mad about that! After taking a look at the Belgian Roguebook, and trying out the popular Monster Train (both labeled with the LifeisXbox Recommended label!), it is time for a title by Klei Entertainment. First announced at E3 in 2017, the developers jumped the gun a bit and had to reannounce their game two years later, again at E3. What was initially going to be an open-world game, turned into a card-based type of game and went into Early Access that same year. About a month ago, the final version of Griftlands was released, so we thought it was time to take a look at this highly anticipated game.
In Griftlands you earn cards in battle and negotiations, lose the run, and start all over again. You grow every run, and no two runs are ever the same. Along the way, you unlock new cards, people, bosses, grafts, grifts, and so on. You can level up prestige-wise, and unlock new perks so you get stronger every run.
We played Griftlands for 7 hours on Xbox Series X. This game is also available on Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4.
What we liked!
- Focus on story | Most roguelike deck-builders keep a heavy focus on the combat aspect of the game, so a story usually lacks some depth. Griftlands uses a different approach as it offers a big elaborate story for you to follow. There are a ton of conversations, a lot to discover, and three characters that each have their own path to follow. I loved that each of these playable character’s stories took place in a different setting with various locations to explore and exploit.
- Graphics | Griftlands is as much fun to look at as it is to play, honestly. I pretty much loved everything about the art style. It’s a very muddy, dirty look that fits in with the story, and the overall feeling of the game. You see, the world of Havaria is a harsh place, full of harsher denizens, and they portraited this perfectly. First of all, there are three maps (one for each playable character). They look absolutely gorgeous, and little icons show up where there are quests, battlefields, your home location, etc. Then you also have the actual locations and battlefields, which all simply look stunning! But the best part is probably the character design. Whether it’s the playable characters, the NPCs, or the enemies, you can just feast your eyes on the hand-illustrated graphics. I feel like the characters all had their own unique personality, which you could already feel radiating from the way they looked!
- Sound | There is not real voice-acting in Griftlands except some gibberish when someone talks. I never missed any voices, but get ready for a lot of reading because there is quite some dialogue. This is not a bad thing here, since there is an actual story with sides to follow, so it’s all good! Now, there is also a soundtrack when you’re blazing through your runs.
- Combat and negotiation | A deck-builder usually implies cards are used for combat. And that is partly true in Griftlands. You see, you can choose to use your bare strength, or you can take the high road and try to convince your opponents with the power of your words. That’s right, you can use combat or negotiation tactics to overpower your enemies in Griftlands! The combat deck is pretty standard with your usual buffs and debuffs, offensive and defensive cards, etc. But simultaneously, you’ll also have another deck to build! Yes, negotiation also works through cards, and this is where things get a little more complicated. You’ll have to use certain cards to talk to your opponent and make them see that your way is the right way. Negotiations take more effort and are more difficult, so opting for a quicker battle will probably be your go-to move, but I learned the hard way that this is not always the best decision. Talking is so very important, so do not underestimate this! Along the way, you’ll also be able to hire mercenaries, take along pets, or seek help from friends. The deck you can use and build differs per character (Sal, Rook, Smith) so that definitely keeps the gameplay interesting!
- Decide wisely | I cannot stress this enough but your decisions matter, a lot! Near the end of a combat battle, you are faced with a choice: will you grant your opponent(s) mercy and let them live, or will you kill them? Whatever you decide will have repercussions. Killing someone might upset their friends but make the person who ordered the hit very happy. Granting mercy might make your enemy love you, and be in debt to you, but you’ll have to face your ‘boss’. For certain actions, the game will tell you if someone will hate, like, or love you for it, but other times, you’ll have to think for yourself about what possible effects can occur. You can definitely try to doublecross someone, but that’s not always the best idea. So, I repeat: decide wisely!
- Achievement difficulty | Griftlands offers 13 achievements, and die-hard achievement hunters will have a blast trying to complete all of them. In the 7 hours I spent in Griftlands, I did not get a single achievement, precisely because the achievements are very hard to get. If you want an achievement challenge, then Griftlands is your game. Good luck!
- Extra menu options | Besides playing Griftlands, the starters menu offers you some extras. The most important one here is the daily challenge, which can be a variety of things. For example, you might have to protect your injured ally from waves of enemies. There will be a certain amount of mutators active and optional feats are included as well. You always have a choice here: either you play in easy, medium, or hard mode. Of course, the more difficult the game, the more points you get. Besides this daily challenge, you can also go to the Compendium, which is like a big collection showing everything concerning your progress. You can look at your characters, their cards, and the people you met (and even listen to their voice) and whether or not you unlocked a social boon or bane (love vs hate). You can even see the bosses you’ve unlocked, and consult graft and grifts. It’s also possible to access achievements in the menu.
- Overwhelming at first | I have to admit that Griftlands left me feeling a bit overwhelmed when I first started playing. There are two playable decks per character, I died quite fast, didn’t know what to choose, didn’t understand the negotiating, etc. It takes a bit of practice to learn everything about Griftlands, so if you’re more of a ‘quick player’, then Griftlands will probably not be your type of game. I personally didn’t really mind the elaborate gameplay, because once you get the hang of everything, you’re definitely in for a pleasant ride!
What we disliked
- There isn’t really anything to dislike about Griftlands.
How long to beat the story | 8 to 10 hours (per character)
How long to achieve 1000G | 100+ hours
Similar with | Monster Train, Slay the Spire
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Head of PC team. PC, Switch, and Xbox game reviewer. Also a marketeer, concert and animal lover, and photographer in training 🙂