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Parallel Preview

Parallel Preview

Parallel, coming to us from developer Parallel Studios, is an upcoming free-to-play trading card game with a gorgeous sci-fi aesthetic. I was lucky enough to get a chance to preview the game before its release into open beta. Despite enjoying several games in this genre (Gwent took away my life at one point!), I must admit that when it comes to playing against others, I don’t make for a worthy opponent. But, with both single and multiplayer facets to Parallel, I was nevertheless excited to give it a go!

10,000 years in the future, five variants of human evolution are prospering after the majority of the population fled Earth after a catastrophic event was unleashed whilst trying to find an unlimited source of energy. Now, the five civilisations (known collectively as Parallel’s) are called back to their home planet, as the energy source that once almost destroyed them has become active. Then wouldn’t you know it, each Parallel feels they have a rightful claim to it, leading to large-scale warfare. Humanity never really changes, does it?

Upon entering the game for the first time, I was greeted by a gorgeous cinematic opening cutscene that gave a bit of backstory to the universe and characters of Parallel. This felt like it was merely scratching the surface of what Parallel Studios has envisioned for this sci-fi universe, but it certainly had me more engaged in the goings-on of the plot than the average digital trading card game would!

Before being able to freely explore all the menus, fiddle with the settings, and get obliterated online, a set of mandatory tutorials began. These matches covered everything from what the necessary heads-up display sections meant, cards and their various abilities, and, unsurprisingly, how to actually play! It didn’t take long to learn, and although the game may be fairly straightforward, it does include a unique mechanic that I haven’t seen in turn-based card battlers before.

The mechanic in question — the Energy system — has you banking cards to build up your Energy pool, which is used to be able to play other cards. It not only adds Energy for that turn but also increases the total for all subsequent turns, with each card giving you one extra Energy. This adds a great level of strategic thinking during matches. Do you quickly try to increase your Energy to go all-out in a later round? Or do you slowly build up energy while using more basic cards as canon fodder? A fun risk/reward system that is more in-depth than that simplified explanation, but thankfully it’s not overly complex to the point of Parallel becoming difficult to get to grips with.

At its most basic form, Parallel is a simple game to understand. You and your opponent both have decks made up of 40 cards and a health pool that can be attacked using said cards. Once either player's health reaches 0, it’s game over, and to the victor go the spoils! It’s more than simply throwing as many cards as possible onto your half of the battlefield and reducing the enemy’s health points, though, and taking each of the unit's own health and attack power into consideration is a must.

During your turn, you can choose to bank one card (to increase your total Energy) before playing any cards with a cost equal to, or less than, your current Energy. The number of cards you can play is only limited by how much Energy you have stored in your bank, with, unsurprisingly, more powerful cards costing much more than weaker units or upgrades. Speaking of upgrades, these can be played on top of units already placed to give them specific buffs or abilities, with the potential to turn a fairly basic unit into a damage-dealing powerhouse. It’s definitely worth learning which card is fit for what purpose, though, as matches against human opponents will be on a timer, so make those decisions quickly!

Each of the factions has their own set of cards, which can’t be mixed in with each other when creating your own deck. There are certain cards that are universal and can be placed into any deck, regardless of the chosen Parallel. Each deck also needs a leader — a Paragon — that offers different skills depending on which one is selected. Most of these cards can also be played, with active and passive abilities that can really help turn the tide of battle.

The cards themselves feature some genuinely stunning artwork, and it’s almost a shame that this isn’t a physical card game, as I would love to have a set on display! From the cybernetically enhanced Ishkur to the hulking mech G.R.A.U.L, each card has such a unique design, and it’s impressive just how much detail has gone into them. Each one also has some optional lore to read attached to the card, giving the universe a decent amount of depth. It really feels like a huge amount of love was poured into creating the history and stories within Parallel, and I hope to see it grow into a franchise encompassing a variety of genres.

Parallel is certainly a multiplayer-focused title, with ranked and unranked matches being where I spent most of my time. There is the “Rookie Mode”, where each player has the same pre-constructed decks, which acted as a helpful hands-on style of unintrusive tutorial that, despite some losses, forced me to learn how best to handle any given situation. You do have the option to play against a computer-controlled opposition, where you’re able to let them loose with whatever decks you’ve created. I found this was a good way to think about how someone might defend against my deck in multiplayer matches, meaning there was a lot of returning to the deck builder for some much-needed tweaks!

Now, it should be noted that there are some web3 elements in the game, as well as the Battle Passes that change up every season. They’re entirely optional — and certainly not something I’d ever be interested in — but it may end up that Parallel becomes pay-to-win. It’s not a practice I’m particularly fond of, but the fact that I can completely ignore it is a plus, at the very least. However, only time will tell if this shapes the future of the game going forward!

Parallel definitely surprised me in more ways than one. First off, the lore and sheer amount of detail gone into creating this universe is very impressive, especially when the developer could have just brushed this aside and given little to no context to each Parallel. Secondly, there is already a decent player base online, and — having seen a few matches being played online — there are already some very, very good players. Which, at the very least, makes me feel a little better about some of those crushing defeats during my multiplayer matches. It’s certainly a title I’ll keep my eye on for future updates, hopefully we’ll see some more single-player-focused content that delves into the lore, but as it stands, Parallel is sure to entertain fans of strategic card games!

Mike Crewe

Mike Crewe

Staff Writer

Bought a PS5 and won't stop talking about it

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