Base Game Review
Play Time (Box): 30mins
Play Time (Goof): 60mins
Producer: Level 99 Games
Designer: Chris Solis
I don’t know what it is about Level 99 Games. Every time I look at or play one of their products I want to crush a visor in my hand screaming “ITS OVER 9000!!!”
See L99 does exactly what I want it to do. It takes these weird ideas and runs with them, sometimes right into a wall but generally speaking that wall is a magical portal into a world of wonder and excitement (with at least as many twists as the sentence I used to describe it).
Want to vie for control of a magic University? They’ve got that. Want to relive your Saturday morning cartoons with epic and over-the-top collectible card battles (without having to make a blood sacrifice to the Coastal Wizards every few months) and BAM! They’ve got you covered. I mean look at Seventh Cross. LOOK AT IT! I am so excited to get my hands on the game I might release my monstrous nature prematurely (which is a sentence I both instantly regret writing and find too hilarious to delete).
My long-winded point is – L99 takes risks and chances to make some of the coolest games. They definitely classify as excessive. So many other companies out there refine their games down to a knife point, which is great but it can also leave you wanting more. But because L99 throws so much in the box there’s always something new to play with, always a new experience to have or a strategy to try. There are times when you want the weird and wacky. The long-ass games with a billion pieces.
So I grabbed a copy of Temporal Odyssey. How does it stack up? Well like most L99 games it’s an absolute nightmare to do a deep dive into. But I wanted to at least take a glance.
I knew exactly three things when I bought Temporal Odyssey – it was made by L99, the front cover of the box looked cool, and it was about two time travellers using their magic powers to duke it out across time. Ah, sign me the fuck up! I know the one vs one market is full of great games, but L99 is the sort to throw their own unique spin on it, chuck way too many components in the box and tell you to just have a good time.
I mean stop for a minute and think about how cool the theme is as a concept. Recruiting troops from across time, hucking spells at one another as you cause them to become instable across the timeline. This concept really needed a company like L99 to make it work. I think my biggest gripe with MtG over all these years is you never felt you were actually jumping through these unique Planes. Yeah… they had Planechase. But I was never really grabbed by it (admittedly I only played it once).
The pick three, keep one, put one back face up, discard the other is a really interesting game mechanic to me. It gets you to really think about what your opponent is doing. And how the card you have may help them. In a sort of “rather the demon you know” kind of way you often end up putting okay cards back on top because the next one might be scarier. In an abstract way it’s probably the most Time Traveller part of the game.
If there isn’t some sort of series about the characters from Temporal Odyssey (hold on I’m actually going to look that up… no… nope. Doesn’t appear to be), there really should be. They look so unique and interesting. I really enjoy the fact each character starts with a unique set of spells, a unique tower, and in the case of the Medium a completely different way to play. Actually, side note here – why aren’t they all as diverse as the Medium? It’s such a missed opportunity. I’m not saying they’re bad (read the subheading, this is still in The Good section), but she is far and away the most interesting character. I would have loved the others to play more uniquely than they do, but you still feel pretty damn badass hurling spells and summoning creatures.
The artwork is amazing. It’s exactly what I wanted it to be. It’s the sort of artwork you spend so long looking at you miss what your opponent did on their turn. But it works well for me. Sometimes I wish I had more to say about artwork stuff. Like “oh yes, the penmanship of this style of…” yeah whatever. “PICTURE. IS. PRETTY.” Is about as nuanced as I get with the artwork stuff. But I feel like me explaining how much I want to say nice things about it, is in itself saying nice things about it.
I feel like the battle line system should have been way more complex. More about who’s on your left and right as well as forward and back. Give you more of a thought process about where to place creatures. As it stands the battle line system feels like it’s barely a choice at all. It’s just following an obvious process (oh this person is better at being in the back, should I put them in the front or the back? Like I’m some sort of games based Dora the Explorer. Vaminos! Dora was a time traveller in this analogy).
I’m going to go back to something I said earlier – each of the characters feel a little too samey after a while. (Huh! Fooled you! You didn’t think I’d jump back in time to bring up the characters again! Just call me… The Master.) The only character which hasn’t felt this way to me is the Medium. But there are six characters is the box. Each of their towers (this thing you’re supposed to start with and hide behind while it does something interesting) feel a bit like cardboard cut-outs. It’s just a bit unsatisfying as the game goes on. And why doesn’t each of the characters have some sort of unique ability or something? I know they’ve got a couple spells but even like a resistance to a certain kind of magic, or an innate power buff to others, just seems like such an obvious addition to me.
So you know the whole time travelling thing? Yeah… you sorta just pull people out of different times. Why not have us actually jump to the different time periods? Or send troops to different time periods to do different things? I feel like we’re pulling them into a black void from which there is no return (because they all die in like a turn after they’re put into play).
There really is no chance to set up long term strategy in Temporal Odyssey. Each turn is a huge swing with a few hits on the other traveller until one of them falls over. I get it’s more of a fast paced “do what you can with what you’ve got” kind of game but it doesn’t seem to particularly give me this either. I have tried multiple strategies, as a general rule I play quite aggressively in games. But if you don’t turtle, then you don’t win. And I don’t know if you know anything about turtles, but they’re not known for their speed.
I know it has to be hard to write a rulebook, but for the love of the Doctor, you have to do a better job than this. I’m a bit sick of the cop out by putting up a poorly done tutorial video and shrugging at the rulebook saying “who’s going to read that anyway?” ME, damn it! Especially when I want to reference something and I’m skipping around the video hoping to remember something someone said before or after the bit I’m looking for. Alright. I feel a rant coming on so someone go get Doctor Strange to deal with me before I Hulk out.
I’m going to say the most bizarre thing – I think my biggest issue with Temporal Odyssey is it doesn’t feel like enough. From a company where I expected a billion choices of cool characters and strategies, I never expected to say they didn’t put enough in the box. I’d have happily spent a couple of hours learning how to play – I did with Milennuim Blades and Argent the Consortium. Give me this in depth and out of control game. Make me feel like I’m jumping through time. Instead of just wasting it.
I don’t really like Temporal Odyssey (you’ve probably time travelled ahead and already seen this outcome). But I want to. I know I’m going to play it again, hoping I’ll disagree with this article after a few more plays. But I don’t think I will.
Someone jump into the future and tell me if I should even bother.
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