The deckbuilding category, when relegated to the physical tabletop, has actually seen explosive development on the indie PC scene recently. Now, competent designers are blending, mashing, and integrating standard deckbuilding mechanics with other categories. In Ratropolis, Cassel Games effectively incorporates card building with city-building and defense to develop a lovely method mix. The resulting amalgamation is a rewarding soiree of rodents, robotics, and huge ducks that keeps you returning video game after video game. Your army of cute mice and devices need to bring back the splendor of the ratropolis! Yes, that’s like a city for mice.

The objective is basic: You need to make it through 30 waves of assault as you develop a city. To that end, you pick a primary leader mouse that determines what cards are offered on each run. Each mouse has a range of techniques to use, and while you begin with fundamental loadouts like the military-oriented basic and the money-laden merchant, later on unlockable characters like the researcher, shaman, and marine officer include numerous timing factors to consider and advanced characteristics to the video game. 

Each run starts basic and fresh, with you safeguarding your recently established ratropolis from 2 various lanes. As you start including cards to your deck, you cycle through economy increases, soldiers, and structures. Each class plays differently, and the unique commander mechanics keep the experience crisp when it could otherwise get bogged down. For instance, the merchant’s military units are quite powerful – but they only stick around for so long after they’re paid. The scientist can morph and mutate soldiers, and shamans collect the souls of fallen systems. The action takes place in real time, though the assault pauses when you’re looking through cards to purchase. It’s a fun and frenetic mind-teaser to play all your cards, draw a new hand, and keep blasting through your deck. In addition to having different archetypes with their own special cards and abilities, you can also play in multiple biomes like deserts, coasts, and forests each with their own sets of power ups and enemy types.

 

Cycling through cards, pruning weaker options from your deck, and hoarding resources is interrupted by random events that often force you to make tough choices. Will you sacrifice some of your unit cap or all your gold to a mouse insurrection? These random happenings offer up choices that can have big impact. During one run I even had a special event happen that funneled all the enemy forces into a single lane of attack, making it a much easier defensive endeavor than fighting on two fronts. Combined with the variety in cards, builds, abilities, biomes, and hero choices, the random elements in the game feel tightly tuned toward letting you have plenty of different experiences that all feel fair, even if you get smashed by some barricade-hopping pirates or sleep-inducing sirens.

After each run, you’re awarded points that unlock new cards and advisors (essentially buffs that can be discovered during a run to help you out), which allow you to dive into additional strategies and try new things. Want to try a run that focuses on casting spells or just constructing tons of defensive structures? Unlocks help you out and offer incentives to keep playing your favorite classes, explore outside of your comfort zone with others, and keep you plodding on wave after wave. Once you’ve mastered the standard mode, you can begin exploring ascending pollution ranks, increasing levels of difficulty that add more challenging foes and other quirks to play around, like restricting your building space. Despite getting repetitive after I mastered core tactics, I had a great time pushing forth again and again, many hours after my first few victories.

Ratropolis has that ethereal “one more game” quality where the clock vanishes as you pour hour after hour into your feisty mice companions. When you lose a cool flame tank or a giant hatched duck lord, it’s a bit sad, however there’s always another game right around the corner. As more alchemic creations spawn from the deckbuilding surge, Ratropolis offers a lot of interesting and stylish entertainment for lovers of several brain-busting categories.