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The 1 to 5 on games: Ancient Enemy

This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all games, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.

Ancient Enemy is the newest from Grey Alien Games; just like with Picross games, Grey Alien titles are really hard to “review” because it’s just more of what you want, nothing particularly new or innovative, and that’s exactly what it needs to be. For this particular title that may be a bit harsh, but I feel like it is what fans of the studio would want to hear and what will sell the game to them. For those not in the know, Grey Alien titles are a particular brand of solitaire alongside a simple story and some nice art, and that may sound very dumb (since solitaire can be found for free), you should keep reading because it is anything but.

For most of their games, Grey Alien have a light “gimmick” of sorts; Regency Solitaire is Jane Austin but with solitaire; Shadowhand is an RPG but with solitaire. Similarly, Ancient Enemy is a card builder but with solitaire. For all of these games, the extra gimmick is never really deep or changes the way you will play solitaire; you still start with a card and then click on another card that is either 1 above or below it, and if you don’t have an available move, you move on to the next card. However, the thing that makes Grey Alien games worthwhile for me, is the way they use these gimmicks to turn solitaire from something that I do for killing time to something that has actual entertainment value. In Ancient Enemy, it is about playing through the levels with chains and abilities in mind; the longer the chain you have going, the more power you gain at the end and the stronger your abilities are. Abilities are the way you defend or attack and Ancient Enemy adds just enough to that formula that it keeps their appeal of being relaxing solitaire, rather than time-wasting; enemies will have resistances to some attack types, so you need to avoid those to be more efficient, and they will use certain types of damage, so you need to bring the correct abilities to deflect that damage. It never becomes annoying or turns into a completely different genre, but it’s also enough to keep you engaged with what you are doing.

To most people I have described every Grey Alien game, and Ancient Enemy is another great game from that studio, but to be fair there are a few changes. First of all, I think the art is pretty great; all the enemy designs, the cards and abilities are easily distinguished and look pretty rad, the stills between levels are beautiful, in general I think this is their best-looking game thus far. I’m less appreciative of the changes they made in the writing department. So far, their stories and dialogues have been more direct and shorter, which I appreciated because I’m here for the solitaire and the gimmicks around it to which the story only really needs to add context on characters and a basic plot. With Ancient Enemy, they have written a lot more dialogue and I wasn’t as thrilled about that; it’s not bad, but it also drags on for a few too many screens for what I want it to be.

Overall, this is a GREAT game; Grey Alien have found the perfect spin-off of solitaire that transforms it into something genuinely relaxing and worthwhile, and alongside their gimmicks and great artwork, are still unique experiences. The writing does drag on a bit, but there is a skip story button so it wasn’t really a huge misstep, but beyond that, as I said in the beginning, this is the newest game from Grey Alien and I’m so happy they can keep making these games and I can relax with some quality, calming solitaire.

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