PSX 2016 – Pox Nora Preview – Strategic Complexity (PS4)
Pox Nora is insanely intricate. If you haven’t had the opportunity to play this game yet on PC (it’s been out for about 10 years), then you’re going into this like me. Getting a lesson on a game this deep doesn’t come easily, and though I got some of the basics down — enough to complete a simple encounter that took about 30 minutes — there was clearly a lot more of Pox Nora that I was missing. I was only scratching the surface, but I’ll try to briefly explain some of the nuance of my time with the game.
Pox Nora is a free-to-play game that combines card collection with tactical strategy, and because the game has been out for a decade, PS4 players will get to dive in with 1,500 champions, 500 spells, and 400 relics & equipment, and over 40 maps. There are over 4,000 abilities and 35 ongoing campaigns. Getting a sense for how insanely huge this game is yet? It’s not as simple as countering fire with water, or measuring out defense stats against attack numbers, although those basic mechanics are in the game. It just goes deeper. So much deeper.
At a core level, Pox Nora is a grid-based tactical game. You draw cards, or runes, each turn and use a variety of different points to do different things like summoning heroes, moving spaces, and using unique hero abilities, each one of which has a variety of stats and little things to remember. This is in addition to making sure that you are familiar with the pieces that your enemy has on the field, all of their abilities, and what they do, and also how your own heroes and enemies interact with the different types of squares in the environment. Honestly, it was all really overwhelming at first, but once I started to get the hang of things, I was having a lot of fun.
With so many types of champions, spells, and abilities, there aren’t any specific counters are things that fall into the category of good for every situation. every time it was my turn, I was playing a game of chess unlike any other chess game I’ve played (not that I actually play chess that often). Flying enemies, spell deadzones, ranged characters. Ever little detail came to be a part of my strategy. Where to place my heroes. When to sacrifice them. When to be aggressive. When to let them come to me. When to bank my points for future rounds, and when to use them right away. The AI I played against was a bit of a pushover, but I can’t wait to jump in and take on the various campaigns and versus players waiting to fall before my strategic might.
PC to Console
I normally try not to offer too many criticisms in previews, as I know that these are early builds that can still be refined and changed before the final release, but it’s notable to say that Pox Nora felt too unchanged from its PC counterpart. The UI particularly was difficult to navigate with one stick moving to different menus and the other selecting things within them. Even near the end of the demo I was constantly mixing up which control stick did what, and losing which menu of the UI that I was currently selected in. With a mouse and keyboard, this isn’t a problem, but without a traditional cursor on consoles, this clunky UI could create issues. One of the developers walking me through let me know that things are subject to change, and that they were still working on the specifics of the UI controls, which makes me hopeful that they’ll clean them up for the final release.
The text on the screen is also very small and information is difficult to read or even obviously find. For a game with such small nuances to every ability, it isn’t easy for the uninitiated to jump in and quickly find the information they are looking for. If I was bogged down and couldn’t move because of an enemy ability, the game didn’t make it obviously known to me, and every time I tried to move while having more than enough ability points, my character simply wouldn’t move. There was no error message or pop up telling me that I was hindered by something. For all I knew, the game could have just been glitching and not clicking in the right place. Once I was familiar with this hiccup, it became a little easier to navigate my way through and win the battle.
Pox Nora is one of the deepest tactical strategy games that will ever see release on the PS4, but there are some growing pains in catering to a console audience that don’t seem to have been addressed yet. I understand that parity between the console and PC releases is crucial with PC/PS4 cross-play, but the user experience should come first to make sure that you gain and retain those PS4 players in the first place. If they can work out making the UI a little more accessible and controller friendly, and offer more readable fonts without me needing to put a chair in the middle of the room to get closer to my TV, I think that Pox Nora PS4 could share the same kind of success on console that it does on PC, providing PS4 players with a mind bending strategy game, more intricate and complex than anything that they have ever played before.