Ratropolis: Tower Defense + CCG


Nov 27, 2001
So, in what has sort of become a series, I decided to try out another interesting indie title that I found called Ratropolis (Steam). Ratropolis is billed as a mash-up between a tower defense and a collectible card game, and I think that's a fair way to describe the game.

What are the mechanics?
  • Leader
    Provides a different set of cards and gameplay mechanic(s). In Hearthstone terms, these would be your Class.
  • Leader Ability
    A unique ability that differs depending on the Leader selected. These have a 60 second cooldown, and are often tied into the cards. The Leader Ability's potency is upgraded through gaining Leader Levels.
  • Advisor
    Similar to relics in other games, these NPCs grant bonuses such as increased gold from economy cards, increased building attack rate, etc.
  • Cards
    These serve as your main method of performing actions in the game, and they consist of multiple categories: Military, Building, Economy, Skill and Quest cards. Cards typically start at level one and can be increased one time to level two.
    • Military cards (red border) allow you to place units at walls.
    • Building cards (brown border) allow you to create buildings within your defined territory (in between walls).
    • Economy cards (green border) typically provide some sort of resource.
    • Skill cards (blue border) are abilities that typically enact actions on the battle field (deal damage, heal, status effects, etc.) or can have an effect on other aspects (grant cards, etc.).
    • Quest cards (white border) are static cards that have requirements that must be met, which upon being met, will provide a relic card that grants a specific bonus while it is in your hand.
      • For example, one card (Labyrinth) grants you +10 Ratizen when you construct a building.
  • Buildings
    Structures that must be placed within your walls. These can provide bonuses (e.g. increased resources), timed effects (heal every x seconds), or serve as a weapon.
  • Ratizen
    Represent your maximum available unit count, and are used for deploying military units as well as executing some economy cards.
  • Gold
    Your main currency in the game. The main, reoccurring source of gold is Tax. You can also gain gold through economy cards and other means.
  • Treasure Chest
    These are granted after each wave. These offer upgrades such as Expansion Cards (House + Wall building cards), +1 Leader Level, +Card, -Card, +Legendary Card (rare chest), +Advisor (rare chest), +Card Level, or random effect cards (Blessing, Stoneskin, etc.). Note that the game does allow you to choose and option, and then back out if you do not like the reward choices. For example, I can choose +Card, determine that I do not like the options, hit ESC, and choose +Gold instead. Be wary as you can cancel a chest, and if you do, you do not get the option to open it again!
  • Ephemeral
    An attribute meaning the provided card or bonus is temporary. An ephemeral card will be destroyed upon discard, and an ephemeral effect placed on a card will be removed upon discard (or use).
  • Bounty
    Provides a direct increase to the gold received per enemy kill. For every +Bounty, you receive +1 Gold per kill.
  • Merchant
    The main way that you purchase cards in the game. Cards are only offered from what is available to you, and the merchant can offer cards of all rarities (common to legendary) and type (military, economy, etc.). Also offers a randomized option that will always be a specific type, but the rarity is randomized. Merchants will arrive randomly in between waves, and are located beside your main building.
  • Event
    Random encounters that typically provide a choice of good, bad, or mixed results. These typically show up beside your main building, but can also spawn randomly without having to click on them. Events that spawn automatically are typically negative events (flood, plague, etc.). These are similar to the '?' nodes in Slay the Spire.

What's the gameplay loop?

The game starts off with you selecting one of six leaders and then one of three biomes to play in. While "tower defense" tends to evoke top-down gameplay in my mind, Ratropolis plays from a front perspective similar to a 2D platformer. You start off with a base and a simple wall on the left and another on the right. You are also provided a deck with specific starter cards. Those started cards are typically one House, one Leader-specific unit, one generic ranged unit, and economic cards. My recommendation is to always play the economic cards at the start as playing the House card first will sap almost all of your starting money. It takes about 15-20 seconds for the first wave indicator to even pop-up, which leaves plenty of time to gain a bit of money and place units.

The wave indicator will pop up in the direction(s) that the enemies will come from. If you hover over the wave indicator, it will tell you which enemies are coming in that wave and how many. You can also click the wave indicator to summon the wave immediately. (The wave indicator has a round dial to indicate when the wave will start.) Summoning a wave early will grant you extra Gold, and I'd recommend doing it if you know you have the upper hand. The game consists of 30 waves, which are split into three sets. If I remember correctly, boss waves come at 4, 7 and 10 of each set where 10 is the big boss of that set. The difficulty of the enemies will ramp up with each set. For example, the enemies in set 2 have around 25 HP, and the enemies in set 3 have around 100 HP. (For reference, the starting units only deal ~3 damage.) Once you beat wave 30, you have the option to continue, which awkwardly resets your progress (leader level). You'll start off on what's effectively wave 1, but the even the normally weak enemies have been boosted.

What doesn't work?

While I've enjoyed playing the game, I do have some gripes in the overall mechanics. One large issue is that your military rats will only fight when they're at a wall. If the wall is destroyed, the rats will attempt to flee back. If that was your last wall before your base, you're likely dead. Rats can be sent from wall to wall via an arrow icon that appears above the wall, but this only works if the wall is still remaining. You can also send individual rats via clicking on them, or all rats of one type by double clicking on a rat of that type.

  1. Military rats only fight when at a wall. This means that losing the last wall before your base is pretty much a game over. Also, while running away, your rats will likely be picked off by the enemy. There's also one major boss in the game that will always destroy the first wall.
  2. You can't create groups of units. This makes it far harder to transfer units between walls.
  3. I think the difficulty ramps up too much past wave 20. (I can't tell you how many times I've lost at wave 23.)
  4. You cannot save in the middle of a run, and a run can easily take up to 45 minutes.

The follow are some recommended UI changes:

  1. In the card glossary, make the show upgraded checkbox also show the upgraded card in the listing. Right now, you have to click on the checkbox and select each card even though you can just read them in the listing.
  2. Allow the player to select locked cards to see what they do. (Consider it incentive to want to unlock a cool card.)
  3. Allow the user to filter between the different types of cards (e.g. military, economic, etc.) in each set.
  4. Fix some of the awkward English.
  5. Fix the text alignment in some areas.
  6. Allow for resolutions above 1920x1080.
I do think it's a bit more fair to criticize some of these since the game is no longer in Early Access, which is when you'd expect the game to receive a good, final polish to help remove some awkward UI issues.

Would you recommend the game?

Yes. I think that if you enjoy CCG-oriented games (Slay the Spire, Monster Train, etc.), then you will likely find this to be fun and possibly challenging. I did have a bit of a hard time understanding the way that some mechanics tied together at the start as it isn't always clear, but I think most players will be able to figure it out pretty quickly.