Storybook Brawl is an autobattler, meaning that you just manage a team and the system handles the actual battling for you according to some randomness and rules to guide that randomness. It’s still in early access and is free-to-play, but it doesn’t feel like pay-to-win at all, even though spending money does make it more fun.
As the name suggests, it’s based on fairytales, but with puns like Snow Wight and little twists like the prince turning into a frog (or Snow Wight, who basically collects dwarves to sacrifice them). I haven’t played other autobattlers, but from what I’ve heard, a major difference is two rows of characters that have somewhat different functions.
Each tournament starts with choosing a hero you play with. Here’s where the monetization comes in. You get a choice of four random heros, but two of them are locked unless you buy or have bought them previously. So, paying for the game just gives you more options at this point, but you can still get any of the heros in the game. I did pay for the starting package, so I was able to buy some of the heros and since the starting package is only five dollars, I felt I could and should support the game a little. You can also accumulate fairydust to buy heros occasionally.
The heros are fun. Some designs are very simple and beginner-friendly by just telling you how you should play them (you can buy evil characters cheaper or you can get free good characters when you buy enough good characters), while others are more complicated to play, but a new player would probably stay away from them specifically because of the clear complexity of playing them. While some of the heros have more potential, the randomness of the game does keep them all in line.
At the beginning of each round, you manage your team by buying and selling characters. Each round you get more money and the number of options in the shop grows and become more powerful. You can also buy one spell each round and buying three of the same character combines them into one (which is good, since you only have seven positions in your team) and gives you a treasure, which gives you bonuses. This is the portion of the game where you actually have control over the game, but this is also very random.
That’s my core critique of the game. It’s just a little bit too random for my taste. You often end up in a situation where you just keep rerolling the shop, but don’t find anything meaningful. It does seem like in each tournament someone just rolls over everyone else by having the best luck. You can and should have a plan, but you should also be willing to forsake your plan when opportunities rise or you see that your team is falling behind. There are points where you just ditch members of your team, who were key to your strategy just a little earlier.
All in all, it’s a fun game, but I also have a tendency to play it without paying much attention. I probably make a lot of mistakes because of this (and my progression has stalled for quite a while now). You mileage may vary based on your ability to take the RNG. In my mind, the chaos in a game should be inversely relative to the length of the game. Each tournament takes something like 20 to 25 minutes to finish, in which case I feel the RNG should be a little more friendly.
I do like the art and the feel of the game and despite that criticism above, Steam claims I have racked over 100 hours in the game (although often its just there sitting in the background). What I actually enjoyed was the learning curve. You get to test out various combinations and plans. Now that I understand how things work, my patience with the game has lowered quite a bit. So, I think you should at least give it a try and even though your first few tournaments might be a bit rough, just stick with it at least a little while.