Steam’s official page for Thomas Moon Kang’s One Step From Eden is understandably coy about its inspirations. But if you check out the original Kickstarter, its itch.io page, or elsewhere, you’ll see at least one Battle Network namedrop. It’s an unmistakable resemblance, but if you’re an old school Mega Man Battle Network fan, don’t get your hopes up. One Step From Eden takes that core gameplay concept, but fits it into a totally different space. That said, there’s a lot more going on here than simply Battle Network’s combat system slapped into a procedural roguelike.
When I say “don’t get your hopes up,” I mean don’t let One Step From Eden’s gameplay resemblance to Mega Man Battle Network trick you into expecting a full-fledged JRPG. That isn’t what this is. Instead, what we’re dealing with here is a messy hybrid of things, combining deck-building, action, and procedural roguelike elements. The RPG bits down at the bottom of the list. When I first jumped in, I spent more time shooting around the grid avoiding damage than paying attention to what cards I was using. That works okay in a “shmup” sort of way, but eventually you do learn to multitask.
One Step From Eden isn’t a deck-building game in the same way Battle Network is. You don’t have a big collection of cards you can arrange your deck with. Instead, each encounter gives you bonus opportunities, which include new cards, upgrades, and passives. Your card deck probably won’t get huge, especially while you’re learning the ropes and absolutely not reaching the end of your seed. Once you die you start over, but you’ll still earn bonuses that add cards to the overall pool, unlock alternate costumes, and even bring new characters to play as. Each character can significantly change your playstyle.
This game isn’t just a faster, more punishing Battle Network with all the story and exploration stripped out. There’s more going on here, with all kinds of nooks and crannies to dig into. That includes the game’s inclination to drastically change the gameplay up on you, usually during a boss fight. Sometimes, there are alternative objectives, such as protecting an innocent bystander on the field or chasing a warping treasure chest. Other times a boss battle will completely shift the way you have to approach things. And if you’re using an unlocked character, they’ll have a unique gimmick that can totally shift your basic approach.
Compared to something like Advance Wars and Wargroove, One Step From Eden isn’t a direct spiritual successor to the Battle Network series. While taking inspiration from a combat system we haven’t seen in years, One Step From Eden injects its own style, personality and ideas into a familiar framework. Roguelikes, card games, and even roguelike card games aren’t uncommon these days. But by drawing from an unlikely source for combat structure and being unafraid to dramatically mix up its own rules, One Step From Eden stands out for sure.
One Step From Eden is coming to the Nintendo Switch and the PC on March 26, 2020.