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Hex Gambit: Respawned

Hex Gambit: Respawned

Written by Jason Dailey on 3/6/2024 for PC   PS5   SWI   XSX  
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I don’t know if younger generations are growing up nowadays with the all-time classic strategy games of chess and checkers, but they were seminal gaming experiences during my childhood. I recall learning some sly chess openings that would result in checkmate in a matter of seconds if my opponent didn’t know what to look for. Let’s just say that I frustrated friends more than a few times to the point of flipping the board over. Hex Gambit: Respawned is a video game cocktail of both chess and checkers, and while it is fun to play in spurts, it simply doesn’t come close to putting either of those classics in check.

The setup for Hex Gambit: Respawned is simple – defeat your opponent by notching 10 victory points or eliminating all their minions (pieces) on the board. It offers both single and multiplayer options to test your skills, with a campaign mode that consists of 21 stages against AI opponents called the Hex Royale. You can also fire up a local multiplayer match against the AI in either a 1v1 or 2v2 format, with customizable options and difficulty levels. Additionally, Hex Gambit does include online multiplayer with cross-platform matchmaking and friend code private lobbies, if you want to see how you fair against humans. I mainly stuck to the campaign mode because I prefer structure, having never been drawn to the “custom scenarios” in strategy games.

Matches in Hex Gambit last between 15-25 minutes, depending on how well you play, making it a good title to play in short bursts on handheld devices. In fact, all my time with it was on the PlayStation Portal. In the campaign, each challenge match pits you against another captain and his minions. You can choose your own captain, with each having a special ability – a gambit – that can be activated a limited number of times per patch to help turn the tide. Minions are pre-selected for you regardless of game mode, with more added to the mix as you progress. While the lack of choice was annoying, there is a nice variety of minions, including a standard Soldier, a nimble Runner, a damage-dealing Brute, and many others. Each one has its own movement pattern, range, attacks, and abilities, which opens the door for a variety of strategies depending on your opponent.

The gameplay itself is somewhat inspired by the classics, with minions moving across hexagonal tiles to attack enemy minions or their pillar. Both teams have a pillar, or pillars, that they must protect. Performing a pillar tap (attacking it) will net you one victory point, as will defeating an enemy minion. 10 is the magic number to win a match, but you can also win by knockout, which means eliminating all enemy minions on the board. I appreciated the strategic element that pillars brought to matches. If I was against the ropes, moving one of my minions in position to pillar tap was a great distraction to draw the enemy’s attention. You alternate turns with your opponent(s), each receiving three action points per turn to move, attack, or spawn a new minion. Thankfully, if you make a mistake, you also get three undo actions per turn to, say, rollback accidentally moving a minion into harm’s way.

Each minion has a varying amount of health points, which generally corresponds with their stature. This means that the heavy Brutes have eight health points, while the puny Runners have only three. Along those lines, each one’s attacks have different damage ratings, charge times, and cooldowns. All of which is to say that you must be judicious with your three action points each turn. One turn of bad decisions can spell disaster so quickly that you’ll be smashing that “replay level” button. Minions also have an ability that requires charging – usually just a turn or two – and if used wisely, these abilities can be game changers. For example, the Brute has a smash ability that will kill most enemies in a single hit. Your captain’s gambit can also be a life saver. I often rolled with a captain named Abacus because his ability allowed me to reset a minion to a brand-new state. So, if I was able to get in position next to the enemy pillar, I could use Abacus’ gambit to get two pillar taps from the same minion in one turn.

Unfortunately, your captain is the only part of your team you can choose, which is a larger issue I have with the game – you cannot select your own minions under any circumstances. In the campaign mode I understand this; It’s a curated experience that the developers want you to experience in the way they intended. But not being able to choose your own roster for the other modes was a head scratcher, even if there were limits on how many of each minion you could choose. I did not appreciate that I was unable to develop my own style of play as I learned the intricacies of the game. There is no equivalent of The Queen’s Gambit here, for instance, because you have no idea which minions you’re going to be playing with from match to match.

The issue is exacerbated a bit by the difficulty balancing of the game, namely the fact that your campaign opponents will always have a minion type that you don’t. It’s nothing insurmountable, but it did feel a bit unfair at times. Sticking with difficulty for a moment, the normal difficulty can present quite a challenge. It got the better of me on several occasions, forcing me to replay levels, which I wouldn’t have had an issue with necessarily, so long as easy mode didn’t often feel too easy. The result was that normal was a hair too tough to be consistently fun, while I could sleepwalk through easy difficulty.

The bottom line is that Hex Gambit: Respawned does enough to hold its water. It’s a good game to fire up on your favorite gaming handheld for a quick match before bed. The lack of customizable minion rosters feels like an oversight, especially outside the campaign, while the roster inconsistency sadly doesn’t allow for personal playstyle development. It’s a serviceable homage to some of the most beloved games ever made, but when you aim for the king, you better not miss.

Hex Gambit: Respawned tries to view chess and checkers through the lens of a modern video game. It succeeds in some ways, but falls well short of taking down the kings.

Rating: 7.5 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

Jason has been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2022. Some of his favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports, RPGs, shooters, and simulators. His favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2, logging nearly 1,000 hours in Rockstar's Wild West epic. Jason's first video game system was the NES, but the original PlayStation is his first true video game love affair. Once upon a time, he was the co-host of a PlayStation news podcast, as well as a basketball podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @TheDualSensePod, or check out my YouTube channel.

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