In-Depth Review

Metroplex Zero

Developer: Enigma Dragons LLC

Release Date: 28 August, 2023

Platform: Windows, Linux

Genre: Card battler

By Chris Picone, 07 July 2024


I had the pleasure of playing Metroplex Zero in pre-release form, and loved it so much that I had to come back and play it again after full release so I could do it the justice it deserves with a full review.  Metroplex Zero is a superb cyberpunk-themed card battler that really sets itself apart in a very cluttered genre full of MTG clones.  Its main point of difference is its use of team play and combined decks, leading to a whole new layer of combinations and synergies not found in similar games.  


The first few missions come with their own story; the prologue, which doubles as the tutorial, sees you breaking into the Metroplex while being both assisted from the inside by corporate big wigs as part of a bizarre PR stunt.  The second mission probably has the strongest story, and puts you up against some genuinely tough ethical decisions. I won't go into detail but the mission involves breaking into a medical complex, and the decisions are in regard to who should be harvested for organs. Sadly, there are only a few story missions, but the ones in place are quite good and I would absolutely love for Enigma Dragons to release more story missions as DLC down the track. 


As expected for the genre, the visuals are Metroplex Zero's weakest area; the focus is very much on the gameplay.  Which in my mind is a good thing - and having said that, most of the game looks great.  I love the card art; it looks fantastic and is quite distinct from other games, giving Metroplex Zero a unique feel.  Having said that, the card layout itself definitely favours function over form.  The rest of the UI, however, is not only very clear and easy to use, but is surprisingly sexy, and fits the cyberpunk theme nicely.  The music's very fitting too - mellow between missions and tense during battles.  The battles themselves occur across a range of environments depending on where the missions take place, and there's a nice range - inside the medical complex, out on the street, space docks, and a variety of corporate offices, warehouses, and the like.  They look good.  The special effects when you play your cards are simple but effective. The weakest link, however, is the character art, which is enough to give you an impression of what you're facing, but comes across as weirdly cartoony and doesn't quite fit the rest of the artwork.  It's a small price to pay, though, and to be honest I didn't really notice most of the time because I was too focused on the cards. 


I'm going to start by digging right into the mechanics, which are both surprisingly broad, and tight.  In Metroplex Zero, you control multiple characters simultaneously.  Each character has their own deck, made up of exactly twelve cards, which you choose from a larger pool that you build on as you progress through the game.  Half the game is played in your deck selection; each character has two or more focii and you really need to try to pick one to focus on and try to build up your synergy and min/max as much as possible.  For example, the assassin can either focus on stealth or marks.  Stealth makes you untargetable, protecting you until you attack, and the following sneak attack is usually quite powerful. Marks are trickier; they don't do anything on their own and take up valuable turns, but they create a stacking effect so when you finally trigger them they can be exceptionally powerful.  Both are viable options but trying to do both simultaneously you spread yourself too thin.  After all, card draw is limited, and you only get three actions every turn.  Also, most of the more powerful abilities and attacks use a form of mana (it's not called that, of course - and it also differs for some characters, like the commando who uses ammunition and grenades instead), so you need a way to generate that.  There's a huge range of characters, each with wildly different decks and playstyles.  I won't reveal all but some of the early character unlocks include the troubleshooter, electroblade, thermologist, and cyberninja.  The cyberninja and electroblade are similar; both solid damage dealers, both wanting to build combo attacks.  The key differences are that the cyberninja is great at exploiting enemy defences while the electroblade can stun his opponents. The thermologist has a few direct attacks but most of his arsenal revolves around buffs and area of effect attacks. On the other end of the spectrum is the troubleshooter, who doesn't have much damage capacity but plays a huge role in card draw and cycling, and in setting up plays for the other characters.  During different missions, you might have 1, 2, or 3 characters in your party.  When playing with multiple characters, each of their decks are simply combined and shuffled in together to create one draw pile.  This creates a number of interesting effects.  Consider the electroblade, for example, whose main strength revolves around creating combo attacks.  This is easy to do if they're the only character because you're pulling out of one deck so you can guarantee all cards will belong to them and so you can probably combo out most turns. When you add a second or third deck into the mix, it means that only every second or third card will belong to them, so combo attacks are harder to put together.  Also of note is that there are two types of damage (and corresponding resistances) in the game - physical and magic, so you need to ensure you are versatile enough to damage any enemy you face.  This makes it absolutely crucial that, instead of just building two or three individually strong decks, you must also select characters that will support each other and create synergies across decks.  So, for example, you could use the thermologist's area of attack spells to whittle down enemy evasion and shields so by the time your cyberninja is ready to combo, they're also ready to do max damage. While mixing decks like this might create dead zones where you would be short mana to attack, unable to form a combo, etc., the developers have cleverly built in a "base card" system.  At any point, you can swap any of your cards for your character's "base card."  This is different for every character; the assassin can use theirs to place marks or go into stealth; the electroblade has a base attack that also generates a small amount of mana; the commando can replenish ammunition or gain a grenade.  

Metroplex Zero is played one battle at a time; each time you face a range of opponents who have a small and very specific set of cards so you always know what you're going to face.  Your opponents typically outnumber you but also normally only get to play one card each per turn - with some exceptions, particularly bosses.  The challenge comes from the synergy presented across these enemies.  For example, a battle might see you facing off against a missile launcher, a triage bot, and a combat drone.  The missile launcher deals no damage for several turns in a row as it charges up, but once it's fully charged it deals massive damage - so while it's tempting to leave this concentrate on more immediate threats, it's usually best to take it out early.  Likewise, the triage bot does no damage but continuously heals its friends.  So do you take it out first, wasting precious early attacks, or try to ride out the damage mitigation?  And all the while the combat drone's sitting there dealing steady damage each turn. The decision, ultimately, will come down to the makeup of your party.  If you have a shield expert, you might be able to mitigate the minimum damage dealt by the combat drone while your party takes out the bigger threat.  A tactician might enable you to set yourself up for a delayed win:  The rest of your party take out the triage bot and combat drone while the tactician puts buffs into place, hopefully enabling to take the missile launcher down a few turns later or in one hit - or allow you to take a single turn without taking damage, when the bombs drop.  This is a simplistic scenario though.  Throw some more enemies in and add a seeker bot and a couple of hired cleaners into the mix. The seeker bot is a bit of a mosquito - it doesn't do much for a couple of rounds and then it suicide attacks.  The hired cleaners are similar to the combat drone - steady damage, except they're weaker - in theory; you don't even have to kill them as they will flee the first time they take damage.  However, they automatically dodge the first two attacks made against them. This means that it doesn't matter how much damage you're capable of dishing out, it's still going to take three separate strikes to take them down.  If you're lucky, you'll have a grenadier or pyromancer in your party - someone with area of attack capabilities that might not do much damage but who can very quickly burn through enemy evasion.  Alternatively, Metroplex Zero absolutely rewards lateral thinking. Damage over time effects usually deal very small amounts of damage, and not until the following turn, but bypass all evasion.  Note two things here:  First, these are the lowest level, most basic enemies in the game.  There are also enemies like the spellslinger, assassin, or scorpion bot. The spellslnger attacks twice a turn - once with a small spell to whittle down your own evasion, followed up by a more powerful attack.  The scorpion bot deals poison, which bypasses your defences and deals damage over time, putting you on a clock.  The assassin can't be targeted while in stealth mode, then reveals himself to do massive damage.  And there's a huge range of other enemies, and bosses as well.  The second thing to note is that while none of these creatures are much of a threat on their own, it's the combinations that are challenging.  But there's one more thing: Damage that you take doesn't reset after a battle.  So while you might win, if you take too many risks you might find you then lack the health to carry you through the next battle and it's game over.  This is even more relevant during the boss battles, each of which occur in three stages.

At the end of each battle you earn yourself a new card from a randomised selection of three, as well as a medic token and some credits.  You play each mission through in runs, with brief interludes between each battle where you normally uncover a little more of the story and often get a chance to visit a doctor or card shop for upgrades.  What I love about this is that it's all randomised and often pushes you into some tough decisions.  You can never afford every card in the shop so you have to be choosey - and while sometimes you will pick obvious upgrades for your current cards, you'll often find you need to buy cards that are useless to you now but potentially invaluable later, because you may not see them again.  You need to pick cards that build on the synergy of your deck/s, but you may not know what that is immediately because your characters level up every few battles. The upgrades, which can come in the form of niche bonuses and replacement upgraded "base cards" can have a profound effect on the focus for your deck, and you'll often find you'll end up building your deck around them.  And the randomisation of your options means that even if you play the same character twice in two missions, you'll likely wind up with two very different decks by the end.

Fun Factor / Replayability

Metroplex Zero could definitely use a longer story campaign but it does at least offer replayable runs with a whole swag of playable characters and bosses to choose from, and a number of difficulty modes, so there's still plenty of game to get through and you can keep coming back to try out new strategies.


Metroplex Zero is very cleverly designed; mechanically, very tight, but with lots of variation and replayability carefully built in so no two runs are ever the same.  It's a top shelf card battler, an easy recommendation.