The Videogame Corner: Blood Card 2: Dark Mist

Game: Blood Card 2: Dark Mist
Developer: Pixel Cattle Games
First Released: 2021
Genre: Rogue-like, Card Battler

When I started writing about videogames on this blog, I had two titles I wanted to get out of the way before anything else: “The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind” as a nostalgia-ladened and starry-eyed tour of the title that dominated my childhood, and “Dungeon Siege” as the major slog that it was. After that, I had no set plans for what to feature next, but if I remember correctly the game I chose to write about after that featured an obscure card battler called “Blood Card“, which I found to be quite enjoyable. The game even got a sequel in form of “Blood Card 2: Dark Mist”; something you would not have guessed by looking at the picture up top since it only displays the “Dark Mist” part. This second installment sent out all the wrong signals, looking very different in terms of gameplay and, as you can see above, not even being sure about its origins in the first place. I put it on the bucket list back then, more for a weird sense of completionism rather than actually wanting to give it a fair shot, but with the wave of indie games I am currently featuring now seemed to be a good time to take a closer look and give my opinion about the game that turned “Blood Card” into a series.

Presentation is definitely the major weakness of “Blood Card 2: Dark Mist”; which is a shame, since the game is actually not that bad. However, no one will try it if it looks like this.

Let us start with the bad stuff for a change: The presentation of “Blood Card 2: Dark Mist” is catastrophic. I can understand why Pixel Cattle Games decided to make the game part of the “Blood Card” series rather than simply calling it “Dark Mist” and throwing it onto the Steam store page. “Blood Card” was not crazy popular, but I can imagine it pulling enough people to garner interest in a sequel, but players do not simply buy whatever wears a familiar name (unless you play “Assassin’s Creed”, I guess). I was genuinely interested when I saw a “Blood Card 2” appear in my recommendations, and then made the mistake of clicking the store page for the game. While the game still uses cards as the main gameplay feature, the style was completely different. Instead of having gritty and even somewhat ugly graphics that are part of what made “Blood Card” weirdly charming, I now looked at cards which static pictures on them that could have been named “The Fall of Darkmore” for all it had to do with the original. And reading through some of the Steam reviews, I was not the only one to feel like the game had nothing to do with “Blood Card”, which certainly lost them quite a bit of customers.

And the presentation confusion even continues after you bought the game. The game might be called “Blood Card 2: Dark Mist” on the Steam store, but once you start the game you will see the screen above that displays nothing but the “Dark Mist” name, no “Blood Card” being found anywhere. If you want to force a series, at least be consistent enough to place the actual name of the game on your starting screen. Furthermore, the file names have nothing to do with either name, displaying “Red Mist” instead. But let us look at that first screen at bit more, since this first impression is certain amateurish: The “Setting” button is certainly interesting, apparently we are only allowed to change one setting, singular. I have no idea what those shadow monsters are supposed to be since they certainly do not appear in game. And they know better than that: One of the main features of “Blood Card”, the fact that you are constantly followed by death itself, is displayed in the starting screen to give you a perfect idea of what it is you are facing. In “Blood Card 2: Dark Mist”, death is not featured anymore, which is a shame because the idea of constantly being followed by a super boss that I can use to my advantage since he slices me and my enemies alike was certainly a cool feature.

Hordes of enemies standing rank and file to overwhelm me; but they will not see the end of the day…

So, what is left that could resemble “Blood Card”? Well, there is something: Your cards are still your life points. This was a unique feature that I had not seen before, since it made card choices more interesting. In other card-based rogue-likes, you normally want to go for rares if you get the chance to pick them since they feature powerful effects that could turn the tide of battles ahead of you. In “Blood Card”, rares were still good, but since I could also decide to pick three copies of a common card instead I not only gained more of that common but two more life points to work with. “Blood Card” really allowed you to go pauper, and that health mechanic completely twisted how some cards would behave since curses, just to name one example, would still be a drawback but technically increased your health in addition to whatever else they were doing. Where am I going with this? Well, “Blood Card 2: Dark Mist” took that very approach and made it its core and center. Your character has two types of decks: The life pile, which is just your deck from which you draw, and your block pile, which is technically your discard pile. Once your life pile runs out, you do not automatically lose, but instead the block pile is shuffled and becomes your new life pile, giving you an endless number of cards to draw from technically. However, the attacks from your enemies will steal cards equal to their attack points, starting with the block pile and then moving on to the life pile once the block pile is depleted. You only lose once all cards are gone.

Luckily, the cards that your enemies steal do not vanish into nothingness, but instead are put under them which the game calls their “body”. To retrieve any cards you have lost before, you need to kill the opponent that took them in the first place which opens up a number of decisions to make. In fact, since there are three, later four, lanes of enemies against you at any given time, you will take damage at some point; and you will then need to make the decision whether you want to focus down some threat or retrieve cards from a less dangerous but annoying enemy. Since the lanes are finite, it might even make sense to focus down one row so that you take less damage in future turns; although that might come with a quick comeuppance and your timely demise if things go wrong. Enemies do not only have stats but also feature abilities that could turn the tide either way. Defeating some random enemy only to learn that they force you to discard your hand when dying sure is painful, but you can hover over them to learn what they do and since you can see three columns of enemies you can plan ahead to avoid random game over scenarios.

“Blood Card 2: Dark Mist” also introduces various different classes, all of which I found unique enough to be interesting but also easy enough to grasp that you can get how they work after a few tries. You need to unlock them one by one by completing a run with the previous class, so you actually gain access to them in the order listed below.

  • Berserker: The first class you can use is the Berserker. He can focus on making “Boiling Blood” cards, zero cost cards that only deal one damage but which you get in sizeable numbers, which feels a bit like using “The Silent” in “Slay the Spire” with the Shiv build. The other strategy is working with his “Critical” keyword, which normally comes with a percentage number to show you how likely the keyword is to trigger. If it triggers, the card deals double damage and might even trigger additional effects. Lastly, the Berserker has “Finishing Move”, which simply triggers if the card is the last card in your hand when played. The Berserker is definitely the most straightforward class, but I did not mind that while playing him since you can still have crazy turns with attack boosts and a flood of “Boiling Blood”.
  • Bugmaster: The Bugmaster is the first class that actually makes use of the “cards as life points”-system. Her first keyword, “Echo”, is normally featured on fairly costly cards but since you also play any copies with the same name in your hand you can get some crazy mileage out of that strategy. The “Parasitic” keyword activates when the card is in an opponent’s body, which is either the case because they attacked and took that card, or because card effects of the Bugmaster allow you to do so. “Parasitic” has all kinds of effects, like “Chrysalis” reducing the cost of your cards while in an opponent’s body, and you are meant to cycle the useful cards out of the opposing body with your cards while giving them all sorts of drawbacks in return. The Bugmaster also has a light theme of making enemies attack each other, which adds to her control-heavy nature.
  • Prophet: With the Prophet, I feel like the developers really nailed the divination theme. “Foresee”, the first keyword the Prophet uses, is basically “Scry” from Magic the Gathering, allowing you to look at the top X cards of your life pile aka deck and place the ones you want back on the deck. Combine this with cards that automatically reveal themselves while on top to give you various bonus effects and the card draw control definitely makes sense. The other theme the Prophet uses is “Star Point”: “Star Point” also comes with a value which shows at what position the card needs to be in your hand in order to trigger bonus effects. With “Star Point 3”, you need to have two cards to the left of that card in order to boost it; which is why the Prophet has draw spells that add cards to the left of the hand instead of the right.
  • Chaos Knight: The Chaos Knight is an interesting powerhouse character, using both dark and holy themes for its theme. Basically, the Chaos Knight produces curse cards called “Dark Mark” which cost nothing but are unplayable and therefore only clog up your deck. However, they are the first cards you lose when taking damage, so they will eventually end up under the opponent’s. This is where the synergy comes into play: The “Pray” keyword allows you to take “Dark Marks” out of your life pile as a resource for extra effects while the “Punish” keyword will remove a “Dark Mark” in the opponent’s body and trigger additional effects that way. The other mechanic of the Chaos Knight is “Combo”, which basically plays all lower-valued “Combo” cards in your hand for free when a “Combo” card with a big value is played. “Combo 1” does basically nothing, but playing a “Combo 2” card also triggers “Combo 1” cards, while the very expensive “Combo 3” cards trigger both of the lower ones.
  • Beastmaster: The Beastmaster was yet another pleasant surprise, working with summons … of sorts. The card pool of the Beastmaster has plenty of animals that you can summon, which you do by paying the cost and then placing the summon on either you life pile or block pile. The remaining cards in that pile serve as the life points of the summoned creature and it will die if you lose all cards in that pile for whatever reason, be it damage or drawing at the start of the turn. Some of the summons attack automatically, like the “Cheetah” attacking any enemy that moves into the front row or the “Grizzly” attacking the enemy with the highest attack value, but there are cards that force summons to attack like “Feral Rage” or any card with the “Mark” keyword. If you already have summons placed on a pile, you can use additional summon cards to boost said creature via their “Command” effects which can give energy or additional attack points. And then there is the “Kicker” keyword, which uses the fact that the Beastmaster needs to attack less due to animal support by using more energy on her other cards for additional effects.
  • Vampire: There is a reason why the Vampire is the last class to unlock; she is definitely the hardest to play. Unlike any other class in the game, the Vampire loses cards to herself by adding them to a so-called Hunger Pile. That can result in an early game over since you effectively damage yourself on top of all the opponents constantly attacking you. However, she has mechanics to work around or with that fact. “Bite”, the first character-specific keyword of the Vampire, allows her to “drain” cards you previously lost from your opponents, which obviously heals you. Her Hunger Pile can be added to or removed from via card effects, but the “Blood Art” keyword rewards you for stacking that pile since it gives additional effects to your cards at certain thresholds. And then there is “Skilled”: A card with “Skilled 5”, for example, will reduce its “Skilled” value every time it is played. Once it reaches zero, it becomes upgraded for the rest of the battle, normally by massively reducing its cost.
The shop between dungeons is where you can spend your coin; and you definitely want to hit that upgrade button as much as possible.

During your run, you will gain experience after killing enemies, which will open the card reward screen to give you more options and, due to the game’s health system, one extra life point to work with. You will also gain gold which you can spend in the shop between dungeons to buy more cards, upgrade cards in your deck, remove options you would rather not want to have in the pile, or buy so-called props for additional passive effects. I will be honest: I almost always bought more cards and upgraded the hell out of my deck since deleting cards means damaging my health pool permanently while adding more props was normally not worth the money. Thankfully, you will also gain lot of props from enemies over the course of the run, some of which are absolutely insane. The run with the Vampire was at some point dominated by the “Tentacle” prop, which turns any excess energy into randomly spread damage. The Vampire has some crazy energy-generating options, so it was very much possible to end with fifteen unused energy and then see the ranks thin out in front of me. But I also killed lots of enemies with the “Chessboard” before, which deals damage to copies of the enemy that moves into the front row and is wicked fun with the “Cheetah” from the Beastmaster also going ham.

“Blood Card 2: Dark Mist” is a pleasant surprise of a card battler. The presentation is dreadful and the major reason this game will be barred from sizeable popularity, but if you can look past that and just want a solid rogue-like using cards this game certainly delivers. I have seen people criticizing the replayability since you pretty much know what is good after a few tries and can default to picking those cards, but I guess that comes down to player preference. Conclusively, “Blood Card 2: Dark Mist” has nothing to do with “Blood Card”, offers no story, has only decent sounds and music, and is definitely not the prettiest game around; but if you look for nothing more than a gameplay-focussed and strategic march through rows of enemies, this might be the game to buy; even though I would probably wait for a sale since 12.49€ seems kinda expensive for what is on offer.

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