The Upside Of Free-To-Play: Duelyst In Open Beta

Duelyst [official site] is now in open beta. The turn-based strategy game was successfully Kickstarted last year and has been in closed beta for some time, but now anyone can sign up and play via its site.

From some of the same designers as Diablo, Duelyst aims to mix turn-based tactics in small, single-screen battlefields with the use of collectible cards. Marsh liked it a lot when he played the closed beta for us earlier this year, praising the intelligence of its design and the pace of its short, ten-minute rounds.

If you backed the Kickstarter however, you might be less happy. The game was originally meant to be accessed via a one-time fee, with free-to-play apparently not fitting the team’s vision for the game. That changed in February of this year when the game made the switch to free-to-play, saying that they’d “run the numbers, and a one-time purchase model simply doesn’t support the level of updates we want to bring to you.” I have no problem with the free-to-play model in theory, and can cite many good examples of its application, but it must sting if you backed the project on the grounds that it wouldn’t be free-to-play.

On the flipside of that, it means you can now try the game for free. Marsh’s write-up also found it, compared to other F2P economies, “one of the less aggressive, with an ample supply of cards for each factions unlocked from the start.” Real money is mainly used to buy cosmetic items and any card sold for real money can also be bought with in-game funds earned through play. As ever, any of this could change, of course.

You can download the game’s launcher for Windows and Mac here. Here’s an old gameplay walkthrough explaining how it works:


  1. skyturnedred says:

    It’s worth playing just for the tutorial section alone, they are like mini puzzles that teach you what all the cards and minions do.

  2. DjBlades says:

    The problem is, will going F2P result in there being a need for Always online DRM? This looks like a fun game to play when you’re bored but having it always online would reduce the times at which I can play.

    • neoncat says:

      The game is essentially PvP only. The only real modes are all 1v1 against other players, either in the ranked ladder or a drafting mode.

  3. XxBrentos9xX says:

    Would it really matter that much to a kick starter supporter if they changed it to F2P? I mean, the game still needed their funding and probably wouldn’t have been made without their help, so I can’t see why people would truly be upset. Plus, they can invite any friends they want to play it with them for free. If they felt deceived by it then I could understand that, but otherwise I think it’s a damn good idea.

    • draglikepull says:

      As a backer of the Kickstarter, yes, I’m quite upset about the decision to switch to F2P. One of the main reasons I backed the game is because they explicitly said during the KS that it would never have microtransactions. I don’t play games built around microtransactions and I wouldn’t have paid to Kickstart one.

      They sold backers on one idea and then, even though they were fully capable of delivering on that idea, decided they wanted to make a different game instead. That’s a BS way to treat the people without whom your game would not have been possible.

      I’m willing to bet that if it had initially been pitched as a microtransaction game, they wouldn’t have been successfully Kickstarted (for example, look at Anchors In The Drift by 5th Cell, which is a cool-looking game by a developer with a strong track record. It’s stalled at 20% funded, and it’s probably b/c people don’t want to fund F2P. I know that’s why I’m not backing it, even though it looks kind of cool.)

    • drewww says:

      As a backer of the Kickstarter, no. I would much rather the game be F2P and have a viable life ahead of it that justifies ongoing investment. Games that depend on multiplayer more or less have to be F2P at this point because it’s so critical for growing the player base. With the exception of CSGO, the vast majority of successful competitive online experiences use this model. And for good reason! The F2P model of unlocks and progression and (maybe!) eventual payment is a smoother path that allows for many different types of engagement with the game than a simple up front payment. If you’re really fanatical, you can drop $50 on a game. Or you can spend nothing and make the game part of your evenings where you play a few games and get a new pack of cards. Both are pleasant and satisfying ways to engage with the game, and having both options available helps support the company and ensure that the game has a chance to endure.

      • EhexT says:

        “Games that depend on multiplayer more or less have to be F2P at this point because it’s so critical for growing the player base. ”

        Ridiculous. So, so utterly ridiculous. There are tons of multiplayer games that aren’t F2P that are thriving right now. You might be thinking of MMOs – which this absolutely isn’t.

        And really Duelyst deserves to tank just for the bait and switch. Actively lying to people to get their money then making a complete 180 turn should get them blacklisted from every crowdfunding site for life. And properly shamed in the media.

    • wraithgr says:

      I’ll weigh in also: I was slightly upset by the switch to f2p. I was massively upset by the way the switch was handled, to the point I asked for (and got, to the company’s credit) a refund. Basically backers were told they would get one (1) of each card in their choice of faction (with more factions for higher tiers but not more cards), despite the fact that proper deckbuilding would definitely require multiples. They could easily have provided a full set per faction etc, but chose not to do so in order to force people to pay for more boosters. To me that was a dealbreaker, and the bad faith will probably mean that I won’t be trying the game even as f2p…

  4. wxsampson says:

    As a backer on Kickstarter, no it doesn’t bother me in the least. F2P != exploitative mechanics necessarily, and everything about their implementation of “microtransactions” – namely, buying packs of cards – seems completely fine and above board.

    As another poster has said, multiplayer games desperately need people in the door to fuel the gameplay. IMO, Mojang’s Scrolls has this problem (among many others).

    • Reefpirate says:

      I can’t speak as a backer who may have been deceived, but one of my first thoughts about the game was, ‘Oh this looks fun, I hope I get in there before the whole player community disappears.’ Having it be Free 2 Play makes it much more likely that it will have a lot of players on the ladder which is a good thing, imo.

    • QSpec says:

      Agreed 100%, and a game as niche as this is going to have a hard enough time getting a player base. I think this is one of the rare cases in which f2p is the right choice.

  5. QSpec says:

    I just want to throw this game a shoutout. This game is freaking fantastic.

    Just do the puzzles if nothing else, but the whole game is really great.

    • magogjack says:

      Yeah I’ve been playing for a couple months and I love it. Haven’t spent a dime yet (and I’ve managed to make rank 12).

      I want them to add cosmetics so I can support them!