Draft of Darkness – Review
Follow Genre: Turn-based strategy, deck-building, RPG, horror survival
Developer: Crawly Games, Crawly Studios
Publisher: Crawly Games, Crawly Studios
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Tested on: PC

Draft of Darkness – Review

Site Score
Good: You never know what you will find around the next corner
Bad: Deck-building and fighting feels weak
User Score
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Just after the surge of board games popularity, digital games also started to include deck-building mechanics with cards in them. These digital deck-builders often use the luck of the draw to give a game roguelike elements. We’ve seen this in Fights in Tight Spaces and even in the Beta of Back 4 Blood. Deck-building is a fun element because not only does it prolong the replayability of games, it also adds a dash of mystery and excitement. These are well-needed traits since modern games seem to lack mystery these days as inspiration for many games is running dry. Luckily, Draft of Darkness has plenty of surprises in its dark corners…


Draft of Darkness lacks a proper story. Instead, the focus of the game lies purely on roguelike elements. You start out with a character of your choice, where at the start only somebody named “Jake” is available. Jake will spawn in the dark corners of a mysterious, weird world. His unexplained goal is to make it to the exit in one piece and advance to the next level that way. Along the way, he will come across a variety of enemies, allies, and mysterious events. You can then respond to these things with general RPG rules, meaning you can talk and choose what you want to do when encountering an event or situation. The events are also the richest pieces of a story the game has, and an overlapping story is largely missing. It does feel like the game could benefit from an overarching main story, but it doesn’t completely hinder the quality of the game.


Graphically the game looks pretty tight. While the animations are a bit sluggish and they give the models the movement of stiff puppets, the pixelated and distorted style of the game works really well. Because the game is turn-based, it’s not very scary, but if the same graphics would be used in real-time gameplay, it would be quite startling. You can’t see ahead much when exploring a map which adds to a horror type of atmosphere. When fighting, the characters and enemy creatures are standing as if they were on a stage, with their sides fully in some lights for dramatic effect. Overall the game looks a bit like a typical indie game where somebody did their best to create something original to the best of their extent.


Hearing the rustling leaves around you in a game can make a huge difference in the immersion a game provides. Draft of Darkness does it a bit differently though and goes for a more retro, old-school approach. With ambient synth music combined with groaning, gunshots, and other effects, the game provides atmospheric sound. While sometimes even minimalistic in its soundtrack, the game gives you just enough to shroud your environment in mystery.


The game calls itself a survival horror deck-builder with roguelike dungeon exploration. Essentially, in Draft of Darkness, you have two different gameplay mechanics to deal with: Walking around on a map, and fighting with a deck of cards. Both look a lot like a traditional tabletop game that follows classic RPG rules. This means the map you walk on is divided into squares by a grid. If you move a square, it could be that an enemy also moves a square, though generally, they stay in the same spot. As you can only see about five spaces ahead and not through doors, you need to open doors and walk around corners to spot enemies or interact with NPCs and items on the map. This way, you can explore the rooms for items and decide what stuff you want to interact with. Because enemies generally stay in the same spot, you get to decide when you want to fight them as you step closer.

When fighting, you get to use a deck of cards. Each time it’s a character’s turn, they use their personalized deck to attack, heal, and deal special effects to allies or enemies. Where in deck-building games you normally can “simply use” assigned cards in your deck, Draft of Darkness also asks you to have the right weapon equipped for the corresponding cards. This makes the decks quite limited and to be honest, somewhat silly. With your starting deck as an example, you get to either use the same cards to shoot or to whip an enemy with your pistol. Shooting doesn’t just require a gun, but also bullets, making the whole deck-building element more and more complicated and closely linked to survival gameplay. It often feels like there is too little to really properly get a deck of cards together early in the game, and it takes quite some time to gather more useful things. You get more cards by playing and finishing games (or dying), which gives you credits to buy booster packs. Even then, you can only start each game with 10 cards.

Aside from the deck-building and fighting enemies, your characters also have stats that can change via items, buffs, debuffs, and leveling up. This is simply done by playing the game and looting whatever you can get. There’s a shop, and altogether the game works quite well. We just feel like the deck-building is not as fun as it could be by the simplicity of your deck at the start of each game, and the general strength of the cards combined with required items during the game.


Draft of Darkness has quite a bit going on, with intricate systems that link deck-building mechanics to survival mechanics. Don’t have bullets to use a gun card? Then you can’t use it. This is interesting, and together with the graphics and the sound, it provides a solid base for an original game. The deck-building feels weak though, as it does not provide you with many options and the options presented to you are often almost equally as useful. The game limits you too much with how you have to build a deck and its variety in cards. Due to this, it’s a game that is just ‘rather enjoyable’, instead of great.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Draft of Darkness - Review, 7.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

I'm a game designer, developer, and reviewer. I've been reviewing for 3rd-strike.com since 2017.

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