Sometimes the simplest and most minimalistic games can offer the greatest experiences. I mean, we’ve seen it in the past with games like Vampire Survivors, Isle of Jura or Neophyte: To create a great experience, one can put all your eggs into just one basket – and it can work out incredibly well. Who needs a story or complicated crafting recipes when you can just vibe with a relatively simple premise? Today we’re checking out Stacklands, a card-based rogue-lite village-builder developed by the Sokpop Collective. In case you haven’t heard about them, the Sokpop Collective is a group of developers that develop new games every month. You can subscribe to them on Patreon for three bucks and essentially support their passion while receiving the newest games as a perk. Alternatively, you can also just grab their games on Steam and itch.io.
Developer: Sokpop Collective Publisher: Sokpop Collective Genre: 2D, Indie, City (Village) Builder, Colony Sim, Roguelite, Card-Based Release Date: April 8th, 2022 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC (Steam & itch.io) Copy was purchased.
Stacklands is a rogue-lite village-builder based on cards and booster packs. You start off with a villager who needs to gather food for which you’ll place it on top of a berry bush. After a while, the villager will gather a bunch of berries that then can be eaten or even sold for some small coin. Trees can be hacked down for twigs, apples or wood. Rocks can be punched for stones or flints. The villager does it all. By the end of the “moon”, you’ll consume two food and move on to the next “moon”. Once you’ve got enough gold (earned by selling items), you can then buy one of seven different card packs which will then give you more items to work with. This entails soil to plant crops, materials to build things with, and even other villagers that can then help you out.
The more villagers you have, the higher your food production is. Starvation, however, isn’t your only enemy in this game as from time to time a “portal” appears, unleashing enemies onto your colony. Hence, you need to craft weapons, train militia and swordsmen and fight them off. Weaponised villagers are able to hit back faster and they can endure more… but they’re slower at normal tasks compared to standard villagers. Hence, your safety comes at a cost – but luckily, you can also “make” more villagers by building a house and putting two villagers into said house.
It’s a lot of drag-and-drop shenanigans, I would say, very much like Cultist Simulator, which is a game that I adore personally. At the same time, the “booster pack” idea kind of reminded me of Islanders, which is also a game that I adore. Hence, it must not be surprising that I had a blast with this game.
It’s easy to get into but the more you play it, the more you’ll end up enjoying it. There are roughly four hours of playtime in the game with 100+ cards to collect, 25+ “ideas” (crafting recipes) to find, 50+ quests to complete, and the 7 different packs to unlock. The quests and “ideas” are your only guidance really but I found the “trial and error” nature of the game to be quite satisfying. It is very much RNG-dependant but I found it quite intriguing how quick decision-making is important to maximise your chance of survival. Getting very far into the game with certain strategies is fun – but it’s also incredibly cool when you can go for a sequence break and try something new. Getting early explorers, for instance, may result in early iron ores and potentially even better gear! I only was able to make that work once and failed miserably the other two times but I wanna try again once I find a map for myself.
A lot of the game comes down to strategy and what you make of the cards that you’re dealt. It’s very simple yet in-depth and I found it rather enjoyable, especially for the price tag of 5+ bucks on itch.io. The art style is adorable. The music is pretty chill. There is a lot to do in the game as well, depending on how much you unlocked. At the same time, runs can be truly punishing and before you know it, a good run turns into a bad one – which is where you’ll need to improvise and try something else. Now, the game’s been updated rather frequently so the developers may actually this into the game as a QoL change… but I wish that the coins you collect weren’t actually cards in the game. Rather, I’d love to see a counter in the UI that displays how much money you have. That way, coins don’t clog up the field that your cards are on. Similarly, I would love it if there was a way to quickly sort everything or to increase the field as time goes on. I would also love it if you could make stuff automatically stack on top of a pile, no matter how far it is away. I feel like that would be pretty great.
Overall, though, I can highly recommend trying out Stacklands for yourself. The game’s available on itch.io over here – and it came out yesterday on Steam, too, in case you want to check it out over there. On itch.io, you get a lot of bang for your buck really with a lot of these games and I’m always surprised to see developers create experiences like this one. I mean, I figured that it looked interesting when I first stumbled across it but I then just got hooked on the game, so… yeah. Pretty great game!