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Deviously deterministic card battler Prismata goes free-to-play

Featuring Tarsiers with laser eyes

Despite its card-game layout, Lunarch's Prismata is more Starcraft than Hearthstone and maybe even purer as a strategy game than that. Going free-to-play today (though still early access), I recommend strategy fans give it a try, partly as it defies easy description and mostly because it's very clever.

I'd call it a turn-based card game without decks, hands, boosters, trading or dice - it's entirely deterministic strategy and math. Today's free-to-play launch makes much of it free, minus four episodes of solo story missions, a bundle of puzzles and some restrictions to ranked multiplayer. Below, a new launch trailer.

While Prismata's story and puzzle missions put some fun and interesting limitations on players, its competitive modes (versus players or bots) are purely symmetrical and do all their dice-rolling before play begins. Both players are assigned identical randomly-picked sets of units, and one player is chosen to go first. From there, everything is math - you know what your opponent has, and what they have in reserve, and it feels oddly like Starcraft, minus fog-of-war. Do you expand to start farming a second resource to get artillery units? A quick rush? It's all jockeying for position.

Watch on YouTube

As both players are always on equal footing, Prismata's rewards for play are cosmetic, and there's a lot of them to collect. Every single unit type in the game has multiple alternate skins, so players eventually end up with distinct-looking armies, even though they play the same as your opponent. The skins that just stick big googly eyes on everything are the best, by the way. There's premium currency used to unlock stuff faster, and you can buy more story missions and puzzle packs with real money, but otherwise the game is properly free, which is nice.

Prismata is still in early access, with the end of the story campaign still in development and due for release over the next few months. Beyond that? There's not a huge amount planned for the game so far as I know, other than more puzzle packs and cosmetics. Any new units will be accessible to everyone equally - if the other player has something, so do you. It's impressively fair. The game has been kicking around since a Kickstarter in 2014, and devs Lunarch Studios seem to be in for the long-haul on this one and have stuck to their guns on not selling advantages.

Prismata is now free-to-play. You can find it on Steam or its official site here. The Founder's Edition DLC (containing the remainder of the story missions, plus some perks) costs £19.50/€23/$25.

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