My god. It’s actually happening. I never thought I’d see the day. We’re getting another Duelyst.
Well, we’re kind of getting another Duelyst. They’re calling it a sequel, but from what I’ve seen this is more of a rebirth. It’s the original game with a few gameplay tweaks, and some new modes. I know that doesn’t sound like much to be excited about, but you have to understand: I thought I was never going to play this game again. Duelyst was permanently taken offline some years ago. Hearing it’s going to get a second shot at life is genuinely the most exciting news I’ve received in weeks.
Before we continue, I think some background is required.
Duelyst was a turn-based tactics game with a collectible card component originally released in 2016. Players would create a deck of creatures, and spells that they’d have to play on a 9 by 9 board. The winner was whomever could take down their opponent’s powerful general. At first glance, the pairing of deck-building and tactics may seem unorthodox, but they complimented each other beautifully. The tactics felt more dynamic thanks to the inherent randomness of card games, while wombo combo sweeps were less common thanks to the tactical nature of playing the game board. It was one of a kind when it launched, and I haven’t played anything in the years since that hit all the same notes as well as Duelyst did.
Unfortunately, for as much as I loved Duelyst, the game didn’t do great. It obviously wasn’t making its developer enough money, so they shuttered the project. That’s when I thought I’d heard the last of it, but apparently I wasn’t the only person who liked the game. An enterprising group of individuals, including members of the original dev team, got together to make a spiritual successor to it. Somewhere along the lines they got permission to use the original IP, so now we’re getting a sequel. Huzzah!
I’ll be real with you – I’m very excited about this. So excited, in fact, that I’ve brought Duelyst II up in conversation with Mir numerous times in the past 2 weeks. I also spent more time than I care to admit looking up what changes the team made to the game, and was unreasonably happy to learn that some of my favourite cards were present in the newly revised core card set. The last time I got this into a game I wasn’t actually playing was Guilty Gear Strive – a game I played to death in the year following my purchase of it. That’s the level we’re on.
The thing I’m most looking forward to is playing as my favourite faction again: the Magmar. They stood out thanks to 2 of their unique mechanics that really gelled with me: grow, and rebirth. The former allowed minions to passively increase their stats every turn. This commonly meant weaker creatures would become absolute powerhouses if left unchecked. The latter, rebirth, turned critters that were slain into eggs that they’d hatch out of, fully healed, on the following turn. The only way to permanently remove rebirth units was to kill them while they were in an egg. In both cases, they mechanics forced your opponent to act, which ultimately led to a more aggressively paced match.
It wasn’t just the Magmar’s cards that let them play more aggressively: their different generals also thrived in the unga bunga. My favourite was the seeker. He was some old ass lizard dude with a magic stick. His unique ability let both players draw an additional card every turn. How often this would trigger was at the discretion of the Magmar player, so you had a lot control over its effect on the momentum of combat. I liked using this in combination with a minion that let me redraw a card every turn. This made fishing for the perfect cards a hell of a lot easier, and further incentivized a high aggression playstyle. Live by the unga, die by the bunga.
Duelyst isn’t just a game that I remember fondly because of how often I turned my opponent into paste though – it was also the game that got me over the terror of ranked play. If you wanted to play Duelyst online then you had to play ranked. There was no unranked, nor were their any single player modes. By normalizing ranked play, I stopped thinking about it like this big scary thing. I had a ton of fun playing ranked, and have gone on to play numerous other games without stressing about my online ranking as much. Hilariously, I think that’s actually allowed me to play better. It also might have been a key factor in helping me to enjoy fighting games in the long run.
Anyway, I think that’s enough blindly hyping up Duelyst II. My hope is that the folks behind it can deliver an experience that is better than what came before. I would love for Duelyst to actually take off with this second lease on life. It certainly has more competition in the card game space, but more people seem aware of digital card games, so maybe that’s a good thing? Time will tell. I’m just excited by the idea that I’ll be able to play a game that I thought was forever lost to the history books.