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RTS-inspired deckbuilder Prismata goes free-to-play(ish) for the weekend

Rise of the robots

Prismata is a bit of a hard sell because I can't think of any other strategy game quite like it. It looks and controls like a Magic: The Gathering inspired card game, but flows like an RTS, and while you do gradually expand your construction options between matches, there's no randomly drawn booster packs or loot boxes.

While previously the only way into the game's early access release was to buy the $25 Founders Edition, this weekend you can jump in and play multiplayer and the start of the solo campaign free, from now until Monday, 10am Pacific, with those who get in on the free weekend seemingly able to keep this cut-down edition of the game.

While Steam user reviews aren't the greatest measure of quality, it is rare to see anything in early access with a 95% positive rating, so this one may be worth a look for the card-slinging strategists among you. I just took a look at the first few missions of the story campaign mode, and it really feels like a turn-based RTS, if that makes sense. The game is a resource-management balancing act for the most part, with unit counts in the dozens, and a UI designed to support that, with you able to swipe across an entire regiment of troops to send them to attack en-masse.

Cover image for YouTube video

The free version of the game contains the first episode (of a planned five) of the campaign, plus an unlockable Expert mode for each mission, with quite a bit of sci-fi banter about drone warfare in-between combat scenarios. Founders Edition owners get the second episode now, with the third coming in June and the remainder set for release by the end of the year. There are plans for this free-to-play 'lite' edition of the game to become the standard Steam version later on, so I suppose this weekend free event is to test the waters.

While I've only just tested the shallowest shallows of Prismata's depths, I get the feeling there's quite a bit to this one. The developers Lunarch Studios boast that even good players will find themselves challenged by the bot AI, which is coded by the winner of the 2013 Starcraft AI competition, and there do seem to be a decent number of matches going on, with plenty more available this weekend: Steamcharts says there are over 100,000 players trying the game out right now.

Prismata's PvP and multiplayer are free and open to all this weekend via Steam, with those who jump in now apparently getting to keep the Lite version even after Monday. The Founders Edition of the game - effectively purchasing it outright - costs £19.49/$20.

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Dominic Tarason