Stacklands

Review: Stacklands

The deckbuilding genre has exploded in the gaming space. Many people trace the beginning of this popularity spike to Slay the SpireAnd while that could be true, many titles, especially in the indie game space, have iterated and made something wholly unique.

Stacklands fall into that particular category. It’s been available on Steam for some time now, with a quirky art style and a blend of home base simulation and deckbuilding. Now, on Switch, I’m pleased to say that no matter how you put together your wacky crew of roguelike adventurers, it’s a heck of a good time!

It strikes an outstanding balance of a very in-depth title while also being light-hearted and fun. It didn’t take long before I was sucked into the world of controlled chaos!

Setting Up for Stacklands

Stacklands has a simple premise: acquire resources, use them to build your home, sell items along the way, and unlock discoveries and ways to construct, feed your people, and fight off enemies. It feels familiar enough to get you through the basic idea of survival, but it is progressing quickly, and I found it soon had me on my card-based toes almost immediately.

For the vast majority of my time with Stacklands, I truly enjoyed it. But the first few runs were a little too sparse on the details. The minimal tutorial does get you into the game quickly, but it also felt like I was left to my own devices, teaching myself the mechanics.

There’s an argument to be made for this “learn as you go” approach; which I don’t mind. But it just felt a tad too light on the details for me.

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Once you do get rolling though, the game is a mind-bending blast of fun and simulation. Toss in some roguelike elements, and you will have one of the most unique experiences in the genre.

The main gameplay loop is based on resources, coins, and unlocking new cards in booster packs. These are linked at the top of the screen, and much like actual booster packs, you don’t know what you’ll get. This provides a real unpredictability to Stacklands and ensures you’ll never have the same run twice. It’s an excellent idea, though sometimes it creates a concise and unrewarding run.

Packs also have the chance to include Ideas. These are essentially recipes for various things like a campfire, smelter, spear, shields, or even resources like a brick or plank. All of these can also be stumbled upon, but I found it pretty tough to know what created what until I was a couple of hours in.

Well, That Escalated Quickly

Stacklands does include an overarching story and adventure to dig into. Portals will appear from time to time, bringing baddies like slime monsters, goblins, ghosts, and more. These all act as different classes you’ll need to defeat to survive the next “moon” or day cycle.

While they were pretty brutal in my first several runs, I was prepared once I understood the nuance of what was about to hit me. I wasn’t always successful, but I still had a good time!

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This is just one of the examples of how resources and villager management pull you through each attempt in Stacklands. It’s not an easy game, and much of that has to do with the systems in place, like food management, item limits (which can be expanded), and what cards you may or may not unlock in your next booster pack purchase.

I enjoyed the variability and found that despite the difficulty, Stacklands still provides a rewarding experience and allows you to learn from your mistakes—a key feature any rogue-like game should possess.

However, my main gripe with the game is not the game’s fault. Controlling your deck and village is a little cumbersome. Playing on the Switch, you are limited to moving a mouse cursor with a joystick. Then, the face buttons act as the “click” and drag. Don’t get me wrong, it works, but it doesn’t feel as intuitive with a controller. With a mouse and keyboard, I imagine some hectic situations I encountered would have been more manageable.

Verdict

Stacklands is great-looking and plays games. Despite the less-than-intuitive controls on the console, there is a ton to unpack and enjoy in this game.

No two runs will be the same, and a rewarding discovery loop makes it a great option for both at home and on the go with the Switch.

Recommended

[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: Switch

Stacklands
Review: Stacklands
Summary
Despite less-than-intuitive controls on Switch, Stacklands provides a fun and rewarding gameplay loop that any deckbuilding and roguelike fan can enjoy!
Liked
Fun, quirky art style and sound design
Great gameplay loop of discovery
Lots to unlock and unpack for hours and hours
Didn't Like
Some runs are very, very short
Controls aren't great on console