Foretales is a new virtual card game, developed by Alkemi and published by Dear Villager, that follows Volepain and his friend Léo, humble thieves who take on a job that is a bit more than they can handle. Tasked with stealing a powerful instrument, Volepain finds himself cursed with prophetic visions from the magical object. These prophecies guide Volepain and his party as they deal with increasingly distressing disasters. The uniqueness of this game is the limited time you have to avert these calamities, making it impossible to save everyone in this beautifully illustrated world of animals. The darker consequences of this branching storyline lead to moralistic questions that both the characters and the player must contend with.
The gameplay combines traditional trading card games with storytelling aspects common in tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons. This combination, uniquely possible through a digital medium, greatly contributes to the replayability of a game where the story can be radically different in each playthrough. The narration, featuring the voice talent of Travis Willingham of Critical Role fame, acts like a Game Master, connecting the various story threads into one narratively connected work. Mechanically, this game’s card-playing feature is notable in that it is the main driver behind the story. Referred to by the team of Alkemi as “decksploration”, the cards collected into the player’s deck feature important story-related items and skills gained through various exploits; this deck is then used to interact with various NPCs and locations, also represented in-game as cards, to move through the story, achieve objectives, and complete missions. This innovative game progression leads to an experience that is unique even among other deckbuilders and card games.
Overall, Foretales was a lot of fun to play. Centering the story around Volepain as a humble member of society, only turning to thievery out of a need to survive, creates a narrative that makes you want to root for the protagonist. The broader cast of characters helps keep the story engaging as you learn how to use your deck to interact with each of them successfully. The gameplay is different from any other game I played and reminded me more of my experience playing tabletops than it did other video games. The novelty of the mechanics and the numerous possible outcomes allow for a good deal of replayability. One of the difficulty points, however, is that the time limitations and card game mechanics sometimes work against each other, as time must be spent resting to regain the cards required to continue in the story. However, the ease of entry for this game for new players is notable, without players needing experience in either card games or TTRPGs to be able to play and enjoy this game.
Foretales is a notable addition to the card game genre, with a unique playstyle and diverging storylines that allow for numerous playthroughs. The decisions you must make as a player are thoughtful and heavy with moral consequences, affecting the story and the characters. Likewise, the combination of roleplaying and card games meld into a gaming experience that is unlike even other games focused on cards and deckbuilding. Alkemi and Dear Villagers have produced a game that will keep its players coming back to it time and again.