Developer 9FingerGames • Publisher Ravenage Games • Release Q4 • Platforms PC
Welcome to hell. Unexpectedly, the first face that greets me — a representative of the IT department — is a familiar one. A fan of The IT Crowd, I note a more-than-passing resemblance in my tutorial guide to Moss, whose monotone voice I imagine in my head as I read my instructions. If Heretic’s Fork was looking to grab me from the get-go, it succeeded. And I descend into the game with some idea of its cultural touchstones and tone.
In the game, Heretic’s Fork is the name given to a virtual tool intended to help me, the best administer in all the nine circles, oversee sinners’ punishments and “create a more streamlined and efficient underworld.” The blend of dry humor and hellish setting tickles me pink.
On the top of my day’s to-do list is hiring an employee to take care of the moment-to-moment punishing. But I’m light on funds, and the only available candidate, the red-haired and pointy-horned Denny Fox, has an unfortunate lack of motivation. But I have to make due. I set them up in Limbo, the easiest of the circles, in hopes of gaining more credits to onboard a better crop of underlings down the line.
Each of the roguelike, deck builder’s runs are called shifts, and this one starts off mercifully slow. I begin with a central tower with one, constantly firing, gun surrounded by an otherworldly domain whose unholy denizens attempt to attack the structure. Surviving for twenty minutes or letting the tower’s health fall to zero ends the shift. But I have a lot of tools to keep the latter from happening.
My tower has six slots into which I can place various offensive instruments. I gain these via the cards in my hand, which I get to pull from after defeating a certain number of enemies and filling up my blood meter. This means I get to pick more cards as enemy numbers steadily increase throughout the round, but with more enemies comes more danger. Each card has a cost, and I begin with only six power charges to spend. So, choosing cards wisely is a must.
Weapons, like the projectile-shooting Sin Shooters, take up a space in my tower, but slotting in two Sin Shooters allows me to combine the guns. This ups the firepower and also frees one space for other blasters, which adds an interesting level of strategy. However, cards offer more than just weapons.
I often find myself holding buff cards that increase my rate of fire, cards that let me select more cards for a price, and even cards that grant me cooldown abilities. This last type transforms the gameplay from engaging to can’t look away. I’m constantly watching the cooldown bars to see when I can drop a Holy Hand Grenade on an incoming horde, send fighting units out onto the field, or chug my much-needed health potion.
As time ticks by, enemy waves grow more intense and it becomes a real challenge to keep the sinners at bay. I manage to ride out my shift without losing my tower and am rewarded with four new card types at the end, as well as more credits to put towards upsizing my operation. Sadly, this Heretic’s Fork preview doesn’t let me unlock new employees or levels, but it absolutely succeeds in making me want to continue playing.
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