Pox Nora is a free-to-play, card game inspired, turn-based strategy RPG that was recently released on the Playstation store. If the name sounds familiar to you that’s because it’s a game that’s been available on PC for a long while. Now that it’s jumped platforms for Playstation fans to enjoy, it seems to have brought all the available content from its past years.
For a free-to-play game, Pox Nora gives nothing to complain about on the game play front. It plays like a deliberate call back to classic strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, mixed with some modern sensibilities and unique twists. Both players have a deck of 30 runes, which are essentially like collectible cards in all but name. You start the match with a random opening hand from your deck and you spend the Nora your shrine generate to play the runes onto the battlefield. The runes range from champions which make up the majority of your decks, legendary equipment for those champions, devastating spells that you can cast straight onto the battlefield, and powerful relics that you build permanently. Your shrine generates Nora every turn but to increase the Nora you earn and gain an advantage you have to send your heroes to capture more Nora fonts. You win by destroying the opponent’s shrine. Usually a map will have two Nora fonts and if one player captures both it usually becomes just a matter of time before they overwhelm the other player.
Each turn you draw more runes and decide which ones will help you get to victory. The strategy element of the game is pretty deep especially due to the massive amount of runes in its library. All the different champions have skill sets that are quite unique to them. During your turn you can use any of the available ability points from your deployed champions to take actions such as move, attack and use abilities. It is certainly a simplified system but the complexity is added by the unique abilities of champions. The strategic positioning and moving of champions can be quite deep and can be the difference between winning and losing.
The sprite art looks like a homage to old RPGs and has its own simple charm. The splash art for the runes are quite beautiful as well and give them a distinct identity. The UI however is a bit clunky and cumbersome. While giving the battlefield centre stage is commendable it results in other UI elements such as the runes list being too small to navigate easily. The control scheme is a bit hard to get used to as well, with the right stick standing in for selecting runes and champion’s details and face buttons being for champions’ abilities, which I can’t help but think would be much easier the other way around. It’s something minor though, and didn’t get in the way too much of my enjoyment of the game play.
The hub menu UI though, is pretty much a nightmare. It is very confusingly laid out and downright under optimised. Sometimes while scrolling from one menu section to another it will take a few seconds to load the sections you just want to scroll past. There is also no place to hold your unopened packs for later. Once you buy a pack it’s opened straight away and if you back out of that window, all the packs you bought are opened automatically and unceremoniously dumped in your collection. There is no easy way to see your collection either with the deck builder being the only time you can navigate through your runes.
Now lets talk about the free-to-play elements. There’s a lot of content in this game to play for free. There are many solo campaign missions to play thorough. It also is pretty good at giving you currency to buy more packs with daily missions and heroic missions that offer you free-to-play currency. Of course, the premium currency is charged at a… premium. It’s not that bad by free-to-play standards and I am an advocate for paying for a game you enjoy but the value proposition is as such that you should give it a few days to make sure you will stick with it first.
Such Card! Much Strategy!
If you are going to play ranked though you are going to have to shell out real money sooner or later. The game is pretty good at matching you with roughly same level opponents but sooner or later someone will use an legendary spell on you that will make you rage. You can use ‘shards’ that you get from opening packs toward specific runes but that is a long grind. Hey, it’s a collectible game. Some runes are more powerful than others. It’s a business model which, if it turns you off, might keep you away from the genre all together.
Overall, I really enjoy the time I spent actually playing Pox Nora. It’s nothing revolutionary but sure to scratch the strategy RPG itch for fans of the genre. However, the poor UI and less than perfect optimisation loses it some points.
Score – 80/100
Reviewed On – Playstation 4