Pox Nora Review
I think it needs to be said up front that Pox Nora is a game for only the most hardcore of strategy fans. Nothing about this game is friendly to the newcomer, and without a working knowledge of collectible card games, tabletops, and tactics games there’s going to be a pretty steep wall to climb to get anywhere. Hell, even with a broad knowledge of the aforementioned genres there is still a steep wall to climb. Pox Nora ain’t messing around.
Pox Nora the ever-evolving brainchild of Desert Owl Games and has been out in some form or another since 2006, and if the sheer amount of content in the game is anything to go by, they’ve been updating it regularly even since. There’s close to two-thousand ‘runes’, which are Pox Nora’s cards that you’ll build a deck from. Runes exist in four flavors: Champions, Spells, Relics, and Equipment. A solid deck will need to be crafted around a tight strategy, rather than hodge-podging together whatever looks cool. But if that is a novel concept to you then Pox Nora is going to eat you alive.
The card system is pretty neat and helps separate the game from others in the genre. The game progresses in turns where you’ll draw cards and spend resources (Nora) to cast them with your ultimate goal being to destroy your opponent’s shrine. On the map are resource points that, when captured, boost the amount of Nora you gather each turn, which is often a game winning advantage. The nodes serve dual purposes: bonus Nora, and a reason to engage your enemy. It’s easy to play incredibly defensively when you have no reason to leave your base.
“Pox Nora will not starve you for content.”
Yes, Pox Nora is about as hardcore as tactics games come. It has enough champions and spells to fill an encyclopedia, and to a subset of gamers that’s a good thing, but for the casual – who has only dipped a toe into the strategy scene – that translates to about a month (or two) where your brain’s Pox Nora databases will need to be constantly updated. Also, consider the fact that it has a freemium pay model. The in-game store lets you buy packs of runes that you can use to supplement the free decks they give you to start with. There are a number of campaigns that will unlock faction specific decks upon completion, in addition to online ranked play, custom play, and a traditional tutorial. Pox Nora will not starve you for content.
Visually Pox Nora is… let’s say, old school. It’s covered in that early 90’s PC crustiness that you don’t see these days. You know what I’m talking about, right? The menus are built out of granite textures, and glowing orbs serve as loading screen filler. I find it all very endearing and evocative of an era, which makes sense considering this game is over a decade old. Your units animate with just a few frames of animation, but each one seems to be unique, which is staggering to think about since there are so many. It’s all very simple yet practical. Which is fine, it just means you’ll have to use your imagination a bit more.
Over the past decade, Pox Nora has built an amazingly deep strategy universe for tactics junkies to really sink their teeth into; we’re talking Marianas Trench levels of deep. When you take a moment to think about how complex all the interactions in Pox Nora must be, it staggers the mind. It’s unreal, it’s awesome, and it’s just a wee bit intimidating. But if deep is what you’re after, Pox Nora delivers.
*** Reviewed on PS4, Boost Packs provided by the publisher ***
- Endless strategy
- Pleasant soundtrack
- Free to play
- Dated visuals
- Lacks polish
- Rough learning curve