“I’d play this… on Switch!”
It’s a common refrain. A game releases. It’s appealing and interesting and fun. But you’d rather play it with the convenience and portability and form factor of the Nintendo Switch, so you wait. Sometimes a very long time! But when a game meshes so well with the platform and doesn’t need technical compromises to get there, it can be very much worth it.
Nowhere Prophet is one of those games.
Part of the popular genre of roguelike deck-building games that has grown around Slay the Spire, Nowhere Prophet sees you leading a group of followers through difficult environments and scavenging to get by as you go. Along the way, battles play out on fields of various sizes, with obstacles and enemy traits varying along the way.
Nowhere Prophet has more… card game to it than most of the entries in the genre. It has a lot of ideas from Hearthstone, but there are positioning and mechanical ideas that definitely feel pulled from lesser-known, more in-depth card combat systems.
Its unique core idea is that each Follower card essentially has two lives, taking injuries when defeated the first time and being destroyed the second. You can heal followers to keep them around, but this in-between status grants a benefit: one fewer cost point at the expense of one health. For many cards, this makes them better. But it’s a risk!
Surrounding the card combat is something more narrative-driven, feeling like Massive Chalice or even King of Dragon Pass at times. You gain traits based on your decisions, and if you show enough altruism or scholarliness, new options open to you. You also unlock new leaders and factions by playing, and combining the two to start a new run is a bit reminiscent of Into the Breach.
All of these elements make Nowhere Prophet a great fit for the Switch. It’s playable in chunks. It’s a good game to play to wind down at the end of the day. It even uses the touch screen fairly well. And most importantly, its aesthetic and gameplay don’t have to compromise to fit.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its own touches to make it more appealing to some at the expense of others. Like many roguelikes, Nowhere Prophet leans into a feeling of subsistence and desperation, and you’re always running out of food, hope or health as you make tough and selfish choices to get through to the next resting point. Its difficulty matches its tone, too. Even at a lower difficulty, the game doesn’t pull its punches for very long, so be prepared to lose. A lot.
That said, there are ways to make things easier for yourself if you put in the time. The more you use a group of followers, the more boosts you unlock for them, sometimes starting supplies and other times ongoing abilities. This slight advantage you unlock as you get used to the strategies of these groups’ cards, serving to accelerate your existing growth.
The result is that Nowhere Prophet leads with the most punishing version of its gameplay. As such, it doesn’t serve well as a player’s first entry into the genre. As the next step after exhausting games like Slay the Spire and Into the Breach, though? It makes a compelling case.