Home Game Reviews Endless Destinies: The Clockwork City Review

Endless Destinies: The Clockwork City Review

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Board Game Review by::
James Wolff
Price:
$24.99

Reviewed by:
Rating:
3
On Mar 28, 2024
Last modified:Mar 28, 2024

Summary:

We review Endless Destinies: The Clockwork City, a solo choose-your-own adventure type game published by Arcturus Publishing Ltd.

Endless DestiniesI love big narrative adventure games. Do you know what I don’t have space for anymore? Big narrative adventure games. I also don’t have a lot of time so quick-playing games are more likely to hit the table than the big sprawling games. Endless Destinies comes in a box the size of a medium paperback book that is a narrative adventure book/game.

I read a lot of Choose Your Own Adventure books growing up. Both the white covered ones with various themes and some D&D themed ones. I had heard about the Fighting Fantasy books but had never played them. Overall, I love the idea of CYOA mixed with a game mechanism compared to the “You died!” that plagued the old paperbacks. How does Endless Destinies stack up?

For a gameplay overview: Go to Gameplay Overview
For my thoughts on the game: Go to Game Experience
Go to Final Thoughts for the rousing conclusion

Gameplay Overview:

First thing you’ll need to do is either accept writing in your book or print out a character sheet and the maps you’ll use. You’ll create a character by picking two items from a selected list and start with some health and gold. It’s a typical choose-your-own adventure format of read and make choice. Sometimes there will be puzzles to solve or trinkets to use that will have you counting forwards or backward from your current entry if you have a specific item.

There are two main game elements to cover that justify this section over trying to explain how to read a book. The first is Feat checks and the second is combat.

Endless Destinies Cards
Cards laid out for a round of combat. This round I’m gaining focus, running away and shooting which also allowed me to avoid taking damage.

Feat checks have you drawing two cards and checking the icons on either the top or bottom side of the card. Successes usually require two of a specific icon representing strength, skill, or spirit. A single icon grants the success entry with some minor penalty and failing to draw any results in a negative result.

Combat has you lay out three cards for your Wildling Hex Knight and three for your current opponent with a middle card showing whether you’re at ranged or in melee combat. The cards represent health, Focus, or Peril (hero or enemies, respectively), and current statuses. Each enemy has a prescribed deck of cards they’ll randomly draw from and you will have your deck of action cards.

During a combat round, you draw three cards (or less if a status dictates it) and you order them as you’d like. Then you draw an enemy card from their deck and apply its effects after all your actions have been calculated.

Combat continues until someone loses. The actions you’ll get to choose between include gaining focus, attacks (with different values at ranged or melee), changing from ranged to melee or vice versa, parrying, using focus to attack or defend, or looking at the top enemy card. Some enemies have shields that reduce the total damage done over a round so three shields would negate three damage from two separate attacks doing two damage each. If you die, as long as you have some coins, you can come back which avoids the dreaded bad endings sprinkled throughout the books I grew up reading.

At various points, you can unlock gold-bordered abilities that are more powerful and get added to your action cards. You’ll continue through each chapter unlocking new areas, gaining fame, and earning coins as the story unfurls.

Endless Destinies Gameplay
Do you see any possible solutions to this puzzle? Drawing the enemy card may change that answer.

Game Experience:

The battle mechanics that Joe Harris put into this game are quite clever and there’s a sense of accomplishment when things work out. When you play your cards and build focus while deftly blocking damage and setting yourself up for a future turn, you feel clever. I did feel like my strategy was often “build up focus to use my one uber card” which made some battles feel samey but at least I played some part in my success. Meanwhile, there is still some luck as the Doom card that inhabits a lot of enemies’ decks often grants immunity to damage that round which can be mildly infuriating. Furthermore, with Doom often escalating Peril, waiting around to burn through your deck is a risky choice.

Endless Destinies Cards
Doom: The happy death face card of screwing up your plans and laughing in your face. Or, in game terms, it triggers a special effect.

But veering from poor life choices back to frustrating, the Feat checks felt like all luck with no mitigation and no way to practically build your deck in any special way to meaningfully craft your deck to be better at one of the three areas. It’s basically a three-sided coin flip. Each card has two symbols which does increase the odds of getting two of the target symbol but it’s still random as funiculars.

Each chapter reminded me a bit of some old PC games where everything you grab is needed for something in the future. But you don’t know the order of the places you’re supposed to visit. I wandered around the starting area like I would as an adventurer but had to circle back to a few locations since I lacked a McGuffin to move on. Since you explore almost every area to progress the story, I don’t think this will have a ton of replay value. However, for an MSRP $25 you’ll probably get 6-8 hours of gameplay out of this game book.

And weirdly, I wish it was shorter. There were a lot of combats that seemingly existed to pad experience and overall game length without adding to the story (sort of like a random encounter in most RPGs). While I think the combat system is interesting, over 15 encounters through the first two chapters felt like too much, especially with such a basic combat system. The flow of the story also suffered from the read, fight, rest, and repeat loop with coins spent mostly on resting.

Endless Destinies Gameplay
Hero and Enemy cards face off. The distance tracker says if they’re in your face or waving at a distance.

Many of the entries are only a few sentences long and with the protagonist not really having a personality there wasn’t a lot of content to get invested in the moment. However, the longer entries had me more engaged as I learned about the world or characters I met. This is a solo experience and a book, so going full Middara for narrative is better here than in most games including Middara itself. I found this worked best for me when I played a whole chapter at a time. The 160-page book has art from Paula Zorite throughout and I enjoyed that it wasn’t just goblins and orcs. Many of the creatures were creative and the world of Corinna Keefe was different than most Tolkien-esque fantasy.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed the interesting world but found it a little grindy at times which made the storytelling choppy. Despite my criticisms, I did enjoy it enough that I would happily buy a different book in this series, especially if I was going on a business trip and wanted to have something to do with some downtime.

Final Score: 3 Stars – Endless Destinies features some simple card play with a choose-your-own adventure story in an imaginative world

3 StarsHits:
• Simple and clever combat system using just a few cards
• Interesting world to explore
• Dying typically doesn’t end the adventure

Misses:
• Can be a bit grindy
• Overly frequent combat makes the narrative choppy
• Limited replay value

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