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Video Game / Prismata

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Prismata is a turn based game that borrows elements from the Real-Time Strategy and card game genres. You and your opponent play the role of Swarmwielders and take turns building your economy, teching up, and attacking with robots and genetically engineered animals.

Each game's tech tree consists of 10 'core' units that are always the same, plus 5-10 extra ones drawn randomly from a large pool. The random units set the tone of the set, with the aggressive ones encouraging players to attack early, while the economy or defense based ones are more likely to lead to slower games.

It's currently in Steam early access, and went Free-to-Play in September 2018.

Prismata's multiplayer contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Achilles' Heel: Units with the Frontline keyword are very durable for their cost, but because they can be attacked directly they have trouble absorbing damage efficiently and tend to instantly die once your opponent gets enough attack.
  • Action Bomb: Explosive units like Protoplasms, Pixies, and Gauss charges give you a lot of attack, but they destroy themselves to do so.
  • Animal Mecha: Replicase-based tech likes to use these. Rhinos, monkeys, bulls, tigers, wolves, bears, and the occasional Xenomorphs all make appearances.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: You can ask the game to automatically calculate a blocking plan when you're attacked. It's not always optimal, though.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Mostly averted in that every unit has a purpose that it fulfills pretty well. However, if you sacrifice too much to tech up to the special 'legendary' units, they become this.
  • Beehive Barrier: Defensive Matrix and Energy Grid look like this.
  • Boring, but Practical: The core units aren't flashy, but they make sure the basics are always covered.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Averted. The in-game currency is used only on cosmetics.
  • Cast from Lifespan: Gaussite tech has several units that damage themselves for additional effects. It helps that Gaussite units have higher health than average (but they don't regenerate at the end of the turn)
  • Charged Attack: Some units 'cost' attack to build and end up functioning like this. You temporarily lower your attack on one turn so that a turn or two later you get a way stronger attacker. Bloodrager and Lancetooth are the earliest examples of this.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The game's 3 tech paths are Behemium, Replicase, and Gaussite. They're blue, red, and green respectively.
  • Combination Attack: It's usually harder to deal with one large attack than several smaller ones, so if you have units with different build or cooldown times, you'll want to set them up to attack at once. This is especially important for the Iso Kronus, because you can't order it to hold fire.
  • Comeback Mechanic: Downplayed. Like chess, it's a perfect information game with no randomness, so it's common for a player to resign once they realize they're in a losing position. That said, comebacks can happen if the other player makes a mistake, and given the complexity and swinginess of the units it's not always clear who's winning until after the game is over.
  • Confusion Fu: Downplayed. Misdirection is possible, but harder to pull off when your opponent sees the exact same thing you do.
  • Construct Additional Pylons: You need to construct specific tech buildings to unlock advanced units: Blastforge for Behemium, Animus for Replicase, and Conduit for Gaussite.
  • Counter-Attack: Attackers like Feral Warden that have both Prompt and Fragile specialize in this. Prompt lets it block the turn that you buy it, but Fragile means it only has the health to block once. The most common way to use them is to block an attack on their first turn, and then switch to attack mode.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Not only do units function perfectly well at 1 HP, most of them also heal at the end of the turn. This means that the optimal defense is usually to have your best defender take enough damage to drop it to 1.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The 'Doomed' units have a limited lifespan, but are way more powerful than their happy non-doomed counterparts.
  • Death or Glory Attack: Tia Thurnax and the Wincer hit incredibly hard, but if you don't cripple your opponent with them, their drawback cripples you.
  • Deliberate Injury Gambit: Sometimes trying to block everything is too costly and is only delaying the inevitable. A common gambit is to let (some) of the enemy attacks through, freeing up precious resources to mount an attack of your own. This is particularly effective if the enemy attackers are bombs, or if your backline units have high health themselves.
  • Desperation Attack: This goes hand in hand with a Desperation Defense: you can tank your economy by sacrificing workers and building forcefields just to keep your attackers alive for a little longer.
  • Energy Weapon: The beasts from the Animus tend to carry laser weaponry somehow strapped to their bodies. One of them even looks a lot like a biped shark.
  • Freeze Ray: Several units can freeze defenders. It's less effective than actually killing them because the freeze only lasts a turn, but it's way easier to stack a large amount of freeze, and you only need one good breach to severely cripple a player.
  • Glass Cannon: Replicase-based combat units like the Tarsier have efficient attack for their cost, but they also have lower health. This means they're usually the first to die if anything breaches your defenses.
  • Googly Eyes: There's an entire skin set based around this. Bonus points when the unit in question shouldn't have eyes.
  • Green Rocks: Gaussite serves that role here. It's the tech tree with the most 'alien' looking machinery, and it does in fact look like a green rock.
  • The Gunslinger: The Wild West skin set is full of these, naturally.
  • Healing Factor: The Xaetron and Innervi Field partially heal themselves every turn. Notable because Gaussite tech normally doesn't regenerate at all.
  • Hero Unit: There are a number of units that you can only make one of per match. They tend to be expensive, high tech, and make a big impact on the board when they're played.
  • Hive Queen: The Lucina Spinos can spawn a Perforator every turn. They even look like red Xenomorphs. On the mecha side of things, the Odin will spawn lesser Steelsplitter mechs but it consumes them to power its own attack.
  • Heads-Up Display: Given that the game borrows concepts from Real-Time Strategy and has the player controlling large numbers of multipurpose units, the UI looks more like one of these than a traditional card game.
  • Humongous Mecha: Behemium-based tech has a lot of these.
  • Instant Militia: You can switch your drones to defense mode any time you need more blockers. There's also the actual Militia unit, which is an attacker that you can switch to gold production if you don't need an attacker that turn.
  • Jack of All Stats: Units that are capable of both attacking and defending but can only do one at a time are usually this. The most common are the base set Steelsplitter and Rhino.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The Centurion carries a massive tower shield, and is a very strong defender.
  • Mighty Glacier: Some units have very good attack for their cost, but have to wait before attacking again. These include the Immolite, Iso Kronus, and Scorchilla.
  • Mook Maker: Lucina Spinos, Asteri Cannon, Corpus, Endotherm Kit, and Gauss Fabricator are all capable of spawning additional units.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Grimbotches are efficient attackers but only last a few turns before they literally fall apart.
  • Regenerating Health: Most units have this, but averted by Gaussite-based units, which have above average health but all damage taken is permanent. Averted again by the Gaussite legendary Xaetron, which heals itself every turn.
  • Shield Bash: The Xeno Guardian has a shield with buzzsaw blades embedded in it. This enables it to attack and defend on the same turn.
  • Shout-Out: There's a unit called Tyranno Smorcus. Fittingly enough, it's strongest in low economy games where your main goal is to hit your oppponent's face as soon as possible.
  • Sniper Rifle: The Deadeye is able to snipe enemy workers directly, ignoring all defenses. The Apollo takes this up to eleven, being able to snipe anything with 3 health or less. For reference, only one unit in the core set has more than 3 health.
  • Stone Wall: Behemium tech specializes in these, but all tech trees are capable of making units that are only for blocking and can't attack.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: If your attack is greater than your opponent's defense, you'll get a breach, which means that you get to decide where the leftover damage goes instead of the defender. This makes overkill very good.
  • We Have Reserves: This is usually averted, because you have a limited supply of defensive fodder and most attackers will attack continuously once they're purchased. However, this can actually be a valid tactic against units with a limited number of attacks like Tia Thurnax.
  • Worker Unit: The drone produces one gold per turn. There's also the Wild Drone, Vivid Drone, Trinity Drone, Ossified Drone, Mega Drone, and Doomed Drone.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Despite all the fancy tech floating around, 'gold' is still the staple resource of the game.
  • Zerg Rush: This can be viable depending on how many aggressive units are in the match's random set.

Prismata's story mode contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Mine: Mahar is one of these.
  • The Ageless: There's technology available to stop the outward appearances of aging. This also explains why Anya's mother looks nearly the same age as her.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Zigzagged. The game's backstory has a war between humans and AI, but by the time the game begins the two sides live together peacefully. Then the events of the game call that into question again, but it's unclear how much of it is really the AI's fault.
  • The Alliance: Downplayed. The ruling government is called The Alliance, but since there's no Empire counterpart and their main role seems to be to get in Swade's way, they're closer to a vast bureaucracy with some hints of government conspiracy.
  • Black Market: The Black Lab is the main source for black market blueprints. In-game, it's also a place where you can acquire rare skins.
  • Clown-Car Base: The research facility holds a truly absurd number of deadly genetically engineered animals with lasers strapped to their backs.
  • Computer Virus: It's the main plot point.
  • Cool Ship: The Jumpster is a personal aircraft that's also capable of producing its own Behemium.
  • Disposable Intern: An unnamed intern is the first person to die to the VILE-infected animals. Veera blames her for the eccentric designs.
  • Escort Mission: A couple of missions have you fighting alongside an AI. It manages to avoid most of the frustrations associated with this trope because you have control of their units and they tell you exactly what they'll be building, as well as drop hints of what you should be building to support them.
  • Fantastic Slurs: "Wafer-brain" is this for sentient robots.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The virus is called Viral Internal Logic Exploit, or VILE.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: The game's user interface is referred to in-universe as a Prismata Slate. It's an optical visor that lets Swarmwielders control their units and is considered a deadly weapon. You can see your character putting it on right before every mission.
  • Hold the Line: An early mission has you building walls to defend against waves of attackers.
  • Insanely International Ancestry: Justified in-universe. It's far enough into the future that each character's 'Terrestrial Genomic Ancestry' is fairly diluted and mapped to the percentage point. Even the Asian-sounding Swade Wong is only 47% East Asian.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: The 'peace' that the humans reached with the AI is revealed to be based on this.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The upper-level alliance officials communicate in one of these, complete with blurred body outlines and no nameplates. They're called the 'Luminaries'.
  • Previously on…: You have the option to watch a recap at the start of each episode.
  • Puzzle Boss: Pretty much any mission on expert mode qualifies, because the margin of error becomes very thin and you need to plan and optimize carefully. Thankfully, puzzles also have a very generous rewind feature. There's also a set of puzzle missions that are separate from the main story.
  • Sensual Spandex: Anya Iravani's Latex Space Suit fits her so tightly it could almost pass for body paint.
  • Take That!: An infected robot tells the player to enter your credit card information to make your units better. It is immediately berated by the rest of the characters.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: As per RTS tradition, the new units are typically introduced during a mission that is particularly well suited to them.
  • Tidally Locked Planet: The story takes place on one. Humans live on the day side, while the robots have claimed the night side. Fittingly, the game opens in a solar power generation outpost.
  • Timed Mission: Several missions require you to break through defenses to destroy a bomb before it explodes.
  • Visual Novel: The story interludes look like they're straight out of Ren'Py.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Discussed. Anya is repulsed by the suggestion to deactivate sentient machines, calling it murder. However, she's perfectly OK with sending laser monkeys to their deaths because they're not sentient and are genetically engineered to feel no pain. Meanwhile, neither Swade nor Anya are particularly bothered by disposing of non-sentient robots, although Logan seems a bit more reluctant.
  • World of Snark: Even when characters are fighting for their lives, they still have time to make quips and marvel at the absurdity of the situation.