Hands-On Preview: Power Chord lets us slay the Squier

Hands-On Preview: Power Chord lets us slay the Squier

Smash guitars, drums, and more to beat the odds in this upcoming deck builder

Card battling loot dungeon crawlers are a whole genre now, and one that’s quickly showing up all over the place. While most tend to focus on the fantasy (or steampunk!) side of the gaming world, Big Blue Bubble’s Power Chord jumps onto the stage with a musical take.

Okay, enough with the puns. This project is a pure take on the concept, with minimal barriers to entry for those new to the genre. Essentially, it’s a tried and true turn-based card battling formula that’s dripping with rock music references and themes. It’s the core of the game, and even the short demo really focuses on throwing as much hard rock at us as possible. From a visual side it’s designed to look like a graphic novel biography of bands like Mötley Crüe, with cel-shaded characters, heavy metal color schemes (Black! Purple! Neon green!), and a lot of spikes and spot lights. Obviously the musical choice hits on the prerequisite riffs, massive drum beats, and screaming singers. And there are goblins, because of course there are goblins. It’s rock!

It’s set up to look and feel like a concert, and almost like a “battle of the bands” type of event, as the action takes place on a stage in some outworld venue.

We manage a team of four musical warriors, choosing from a cadre of musicians that are designed to basically be classes. I choose a cross section of what’s immediately available, in hopes to try out as many aspects of the combat as possible. Think of the drummer as like a tank, the lead guitarist as an attacker, the vocalist as a support — you get the picture. Though the show floor demo has four specific musicians to use, the final game will have multiple of each class, with variations on their skillsets.

The combat is turn based, and because this is a deck building game, there are certain amounts of action points at our disposal with each card costing a different amount. Balance is absolutely crucial here, as I almost need to think a couple of moves ahead when planning out my attack. Do I want to go for an all out attack? Do I target one enemy with the hope of knocking him out, or do I try to stun multiple demons and try to buy myself an extra turn as a breather? The demo starts us off with a set deck of cards, but as we progress through the game we can unlock, win, and find more.

In my first couple of battles I take a more cautious approach, hoping to learn the systems of the game. I focus on defensive cards, improving armor and shields, and focus on one enemy at a time. It’s safer,m I find, but that also leads to longer fights. After a few rounds I switch to my offense, using my vocalist to hype up my bandmates and make them temporarily stronger, poisoning enemies to chip away, and focusing my defense on whichever bandmate is facing more peril from upcoming targeted attacks.

Every battle plays out a little differently, depending on what cards I have available and how aggressive the enemies are.

The overworld is a splitting, winding path that can lead to treasure chests or even more battles if we’re not careful. While the full plot of the game hasn’t been revealed, there were hints dropped of different environments we’ll be powering through as we travel deeper and deeper into the world.

While it’s a rock-themed game, that’s more or less just a stylistic choice at the moment, not a gameplay one. We don’t have cards that require us tapping along to a beat to get more hit power, we don’t combine phrases into song lyrics for better assists, the music doesn’t change depending on which band members we have on our stage. That’s not a detractor by any means, but it does leave some interesting ideas on the table for how to really go all in with the theme.

Power Chord does a banger job of making a battle feel like a concert that GWAR would be proud of attending, and the easy of entry for the genre is something that’s commendable, albeit a tad bit basic. Look for it to rock out on Steam and Switch later this year.