Developed and published by Studio 90, deck-building dungeon-crawler Baby Goat Billy brings to mind the dark fantasy films from the ’80s and ’90s. The Dark Crystal and Warriors of Virtue both fall in line with the aesthetics the game portrays.
With its anthropomorphic characters and deck-based combat, Baby Goat Billy encourages extrospection. While light-hearted and seemingly innocent, a sense of true darkness looms about the world. Even the story and dungeon crawling aspects echo back to Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.
In many ways, Baby Goat Billy can be mildly unsettling. The village that you call home is a ghostly place where tumbleweeds greatly outnumber the apparent population. This could be a symptom of an early version of the game, but it sets the tone quite nicely. Even the title and rambunctious young goat you embody betray the dangers of the world around you. While the village is safe, it struggles to provide for itself.
“Traps rest between stationary overworld encounters and lootable items, raising the stakes for leaving no stone unturned.”
The journey begins as you receive news of your brother, Billy, being “goatnapped”. The bravest of goats often leave to procure supplies outside the village. This latest trip results in the group being attacked. Billy ends up abducted by members of a corrupt tribe of goats. With no other option, you take to the dungeons in search of answers. As you explore, you come across monoliths that share parts of the tale of this corrupted tribe. Each one fuels the question of how the world came to be in its current state.
The two dungeons I had access to were simple to navigate. Traps rest between stationary overworld encounters and lootable items, raising the stakes for leaving no stone unturned. New cards can be found in pots or purchased with gold at chests, while monoliths can provide health, and other items are used to reach dungeons or assist villagers. You can freely switch between grid and free movement with each having its advantages for dealing with certain traps. Avoidance of traps mostly comes down to timing, which is a nice break from the turn-based battles.
“Fights boil down to effective deck building and the ability to read the enemy’s strategy.”
Combat in Baby Goat Billy is surprisingly deep. Each turn you draw four cards from your deck. You are capable of playing one card for each point of mana you spend. Cards are divided into colour-coded groups that dictate different playstyles. For instance, Wrath cards prioritise dealing damage, Wisdom Defence, Holy deals with support abilities, while Evil utilizes status effects. Each group has its own skill tree that unlocks new abilities and allows for higher-ranked cards. Of course, damage persists throughout a dungeon, and health restoration is sparse.
Fights boil down to effective deck building and the ability to read the enemy’s strategy. You take on one opponent at a time, with enemy attacks telegraphed a turn in advance. This allows you to adapt your strategy based on the limited resources. A small deck is obviously more effective as it greatly improves the chance of drawing a viable strategy each turn. From mitigating damage by raising and extending the duration of shields, to buffs that improve damage output and crit chance; there are numerous options for building an effective deck over a run. Some cards even operate as side quests, improving their effect after you fulfil their requirements.
Replayability is a key component in what makes both card games and dungeon crawlers appealing, and Baby Goat Billy hits the mark. If the rest of the game continues to build upon what I experienced then it promises to deliver an intriguing mystery and nail-biting strategic suspense. I’m excited to see not only where Baby Goat Billy takes its combat, but also its story.
The game will release for Early Access on November 4th. You can head over to the Baby Goat Billy Steam store page to wishlist to get notifications for future updates.