Resident Evil Deck Building Game: David’s Final Word

I played Resident Evil: Deck Building Game (which is one of the most awkward titles ever) at Gen Con, and I was pretty open about my feelings of that experience. I came away from the show thinking that it was unoriginal and frustrating, but I’ll admit that the presentation at the show prejudiced me against the game. A loud hall and rude product reps are no way to play. With the Halloween demos that stores received, I’ve since had a chance to play it at home. So how did I enjoy the game without any outside influences?

After a few games, I still felt like Resident Evil was junk. But then I realize that everyone who taught me how to play were teaching me the wrong rules. I’m glad I gave it some more chances because I wrote a harsh review last week that was never published. Now that I played the game correctly, it is zombie blasting fun. I still have a few complaints, but what game doesn’t have problems? To keep in theme, I’m going to give the game a final score using a “Steve Burnside” versus “Ada Wong” scale.

Steve Burnside was a costar in Resident Evil: Code Veronica, and he may be the most annoying video game character ever created. He looked like Leonardo DiCaprio found his mothers make-up kit and spent the game stealing the best guns and then failing to do anything to help Claire Redfield in her mission. So here’s how the game is like good ol’ Steve Burnside:

The game does not feel like Resident Evil. It certainly feels like I’m blowing the domes of dozens of zombies, but I never feel like I’m exploring creepy mansions and ancient castles. There are spin-off Resident Evil games that focus on action, but I’ve always associated RE with exploration and puzzle solving. Betrayal at House on the Hill feels more like I’m exploring a secret Umbrella lab than a deck building game. This feels more like a Left 4 Dead card game. It doesn’t affect the gameplay, but theme is something that I value greatly when judging games.

But let’s not completely fault the game for what it isn’t. It is a deck building game, which is undoubtedly the most popular type of game right now. At times RE feels like shotguns and Lickers were pasted over Thunderstone cards. The genre is becoming very crowded, and slapping a license onto this game feels disingenuous at times. There are some new things it introduces, which I’ll get to with what I liked about the game, but most of it is too familiar.

The art is also familiar to anyone who plays the Resident Evil video games. Like most licensed games, the art is all from stock CG models and concept art provided by Capcom. Obviously this was a cost issue, but it comes off as weak when some of the art is from a mid-90’s PS1 game. At least most of the older monsters are kept to their concept art representation. The back of the Mansion cards (basically a monster or dungeon deck) are the loading screen from the original game that showed the doors of the mansion opening. It is a cool idea, but you can see the jagginess of the image which looks more cheap than nostalgic.

And finally, coming to the Mansion deck itself, it is too dangerous. There are just too few positive cards hiding in there and too many dangerous cards. The game can bog down because when the players draw several bad hands in a row, no one will want to open the door. This problem goes away as you learn to build better decks, but I do wish there were more rules for customizing the monster deck. Certain scenarios have you remove some monsters from the deck, so it’s not totally cheating if you did decided to customize the Mansion.

But the game isn’t all bad. How does the game compare to Ada Wong, the tommy gun wielding, high heeled stomping anti-heroine who works for the shadowy “Organization?”

I enjoyed how you select one character to play in the game, so you have different advantages every time you play. There are a variety of fan favorites to choose from, such as Jill Valentine, Claire and Chris Redfield, and Ada Wong. Not surprisingly, Steve Burnside is nowhere to be found. Some people have complained about Jill being broken because her special ability with grenades is powerful, but I haven’t seen it become absurd.

The card drafting is pretty fun. It does nothing original, but there is a cool mix of cards available. I like how weapon cards have required amounts of ammo, and that is almost unique. It’s really a reskinning of Thunderstone’s lighting system, but I’m sure some people would debate me on that. Either way, it was my favorite part of Thunderstone, and it works well here.

Resident Evil has several game mode that are all different from each other. I passed on Versus because it didn’t interest me at all, but Mercenary mode is intense. There are only fifteen turns, which completely nullifies timid players who spend turn after turn building their deck. Instead, you are encouraged to search the Mansion deck on every turn to run a combo of defeated enemies. This is where Resident Evil’s choice to combine the buy and explore actions into one turn becomes really convenient, and it does speed the game along compared to Thunderstone.

Lastly, I’m going to give the game plenty of credit for being priced at $30. Clearly, this low price point shows in the quality of the game, but 250 cards come in a nice box that features the artwork of a hit video game franchise. Bandai can position this as a great gateway game in Target, Toys R’ Us, GameStop if they really want to do hobby games a service by introducing card drafting to the masses. I’m also interested in seeing if this is Bandai’s first effort in making games beyond anime CCGs.

So in summation, Resident Evil: Deck Building Game gets four Steves and four Adas. Unfortunately for Resident Evil, Steve is so annoying that he out weighs Ada two to one. Still, if you haven’t tried a deck building game because of the price points or a lack of interest in their themes, then you may enjoy Resident Evil if shooting zombies is your thing. You can probably still try it at your local store if your curious, and the game should be widely available later this year.

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