In 2014, Counterplay Games raised $137,707 on Kickstarter (opens in new tab) for a project called Duelyst, promising a card game that had “Squad-Based Tactical Combat with Ranked Competitive Play. Brought to you by veterans from Diablo III and Rogue Legacy.” Its pixel art and complex blend of cards and turn-based strategy drew plenty of interest during beta, and after launch Counterplay signed a publishing deal with Bandai Namco. The good times didn’t last, and three years later Duelyst’s servers were shut down. Counterplay’s next release would be looter-slasher Godfall.
That’s not the end of the Duelyst story, however. Fans at indie studio Dream Sloth were given a licence by Counterplay (who still own the rights to Duelyst), as well as most of the original source code, and are currently working on a relaunch called Duelyst 2 (opens in new tab). It’s based on the beta of Duelyst rather than the launch version, which means players draw two cards at the end of each turn rather than one, among other changes.
A popular element of Duelyst in beta, two-card draw made for fast, combo-driven play, though it proved difficult to balance around. Cards that cost lots of mana were rarely worth using when you could play two mid-price cards every turn without depleting your hand, and cards that synergized well were even better if you could get both at once. (A rule that let you swap a card in your hand for a draw from the deck once per turn exacerbated that.)
The eventual switch to a more traditional one-card-per-turn model was controversial with the Duelyst hardcore, and Duelyst 2’s return to the original style of play will doubtless win some of them over. Duelyst 2 also lacks another controversial addition, Bloodbound Spells, which were part of version 1.63 of the original, and gave each player’s general—the hero unit representing them on the battlefield—a unique ability they could use every second turn.
Duelyst 2 will be free-to-play. On Discord (opens in new tab), Dream Sloth explained the game’s monetization by saying, “Cards and cosmetic items will both be sold, however cards will be easier to obtain more quickly without spending money compared to Duelyst. We hope to create more purchasable cosmetics to supplement the more generous f2p model, and allow those who want to support the game through in-game purchases to do so.”
Network tests for Duelyst 2 have begun, with the date of the next one due to be announced soon. You can sign up for them at alpha.duelyst2.com (opens in new tab), and see the revised core set of cards it will launch with at Duelyst2.com (opens in new tab). A legacy mode will be included for those who prefer to play Duelyst as it was when it died, running version 1.96—the final patch before servers were shut down—with all cards unlocked and available free. A beta is scheduled to follow the network tests in fall of this year.
There’s another fan revival in progress as well, though an unlicensed one. Duelyst.gg is aiming to pick up where Counterplay left off, building on and rebalancing version 1.96, though without using the original source code. It’s the work of a single fan named Hellgin, who is funding it via Patreon (opens in new tab). You can play Duelyst.gg in your browser (opens in new tab) right now, though not all of the cards have been implemented yet. It’s got a Discord (opens in new tab) too, with a channel dedicated to the differences between it and the original Duelyst.