Before I begin, I was sent a prototype copy of the game, and will receive a copy of the game should it fund, in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid preview. If you would rather see a video review of the game, or a full playthrough you can check those out below. You can get your own copy of the game here.
I am a sucker for a cool box cover. I just can’t help myself. So when I got a glimpse of Sheol, with its greys and blacks, with the almost blinding blue white light, I was intrigued. Then, come to find out that the game has an incredibly deep story, and some mechanics that I have never encountered in an Adventure game before and I was in. I had to know more.
In the game world, in the not too distant future, something is found on the dark side of the moon. This triggers the Sheol, covering the moon in an inky darkness. The darkness, then over time, slowly moves down to the Earth and systematically covers it in darkness, triggering a new ice age. Inside the darkness are all sorts of horrific shadow monsters.
The last bastion of humanity is the Citadel, a massive tower containing not only the last humans, but the remnants of the lost technology from before the worlds collapse. There they create Lux, the only thing capable of combatting the shadows. You, are a scout, one of the few willing to venture out into the darkness, and battle these monsters before they close in on the citadel and destroy it.
Each game session you select a mission to play. Each mission will give you a deck of mission cards that you slowly work through as you complete the various objectives on them. In addition to that you often have an optional secondary mission, that has its own branching options as well. Sometimes these missions just require you to reach a land on the game board, other times you have to do a challenge (rolling dice and trying to match the required combination).
In addition to the story unfolding through the mission cards, each land you can reach has its own story, and often events and choices that you have to make, which serves to reveal the world even more so.
The core of the game is traveling out of the citadel and battling monsters and reaching these lands, to do so however, you have to create a light stream of Lux out into the dark. This is the only way you can travel in the darkness. However, using Lux to create the light stream depletes your supply, which would be find, except you Lux also functions as you life. So you have to be careful how you use it.
In case you were wondering each character has their own set of unique cards which give them various abilities, and discounts on using their other actions. You see, remember how I said constructing the light stream costs you your Lux? Well so does fighting. So does revealing the shadows that approach you in the darkness.
I mentioned above that the shadows are constantly drawn to the citadel trying to destroy it. Each turn, shadows will spawn around the board, and start to approach. However, you do not know what they are until you shine some light on them to reveal them. If you don’t they are just blips. Blips that can kill you and the tower. Now you can kill these blips, but it is much harder to hit them as they are shrouded in darkness. However, if you do reveal them you not only find out what it is, and what its abilities are, but you get a 100% chance to hit it on an attack if it is revealed. Choices!
In addition to all of this…there is a citadel board that you are managing in between scenarios. The supplies you bring back from each mission allows you to improve the various city districts, which in turn give you in scenario bonuses or abilities. But wait, there’s more! While you are managing the city as whole, you are also managing the three factions within the city, because the more respected you are with them, the more options of upgrades you will have, and the more things you can buy from the shop.
So what do I think?
I love the way this game looks, it is dark, it is engaging, and it really helps tell the story. The miniatures look amazing, and the story is quite in depth and very engaging.
I also really appreciate that this is not your standard dungeon crawl or adventure game. Rather it mixes elements of tower defense, adventure game, RPG, tile laying and resource management into something that feels unique and new. I absolutely adore the management of Lux, and the creation of the light stream. This combined with very quick and simple combat systems really has me engaged.
I also love how the lands work. There are so many different land cards with story, and hard choices that you have to make, and even better there is no way to predict what might happen. Sometimes it pays to be kind and gentle, and other times that is the worst choice possible. Brilliant.
Finally, I am super engaged with the story. The demo copy came with a short story to set the world, and I very much am dying to know more about it.
Here, I place the boss fights and the city building. Now this is not because I think they are lesser than the rest of the game, but rather because I have only gotten to see how they work in theory. The demo did not come with any scenarios for either, but it did come with the cards, and supplies so I can see what they are and how they work. So I only got to putter about with them a little. I think they will be very cool, but I do not know for certain.
This is a game that takes up a huge amount of space on your table. It looks awesome, but it really is massive. I also suspect that you will need to purchase at least one of the expansions to get more than three base monsters with the game. The three base monsters are all good, and unique and fun, but I do think over 60 hours of gameplay, or more, you will find that you need more than that to keep it really exciting.
Finally, I will just add a reminder that this game is not a traditional dungeoncrawl. I know many people that saw the pictures were expecting that, but it very clearly is not. It is a tower defense, adventure, RPG, city building, resource management, tile laying game. I think it is a very well done one, but just make sure you do not get the wrong idea!
Bringing it all together
Sheol meshes a variety of mechanics together in a novel way to create what feels like a fresh and exciting Adventure-ish game. The story, art and miniatures are top notch, the game looks amazing on the table, though it will take all of your table. The game forces you to constantly make hard choices as you have to manage your Lux, which functions as your life, your attack power, your power to explore, and everything else! I have not gotten to experience the boss fights, or the city building as they did not come with the demo, but I am hopeful about them. Finally I think you will want to grab at least one expansion to have more base monsters.
STOP TALKING YOU WILL DRAW THE SHADOWS!
* Awesome art, minis, and story
* Mixes elements of RPG, adventure games, tower defense, tile laying and resource management in a way that just works
* Promising boss fights and city building elements
* Game looks awesome on the table, but takes up a lot of space
* You will want to grab at least one expansion so base monsters do not start to feel stale.