The video below provides a quick explanation of the game’s basic mechanics.
For a deeper look at the game’s mechanics and strategies, take a look at my full playthrough series here:
The short video above explains the basic mechanics that you need to know to start playing. If you prefer to read instead of watch, here’s a quick run-down.
At the beginning of a run, you choose a ship and 3 crew. More on those below. After choosing your ship and crew, you choose one of three starting bonuses, making every run unique from the start. The three bonuses that you’re offered appear to be chosen at random from a pool, so it won’t be the same three offerings every time.
The ship determines your layout, some very junky starting cards, and your starting artifacts. Artifacts are passive upgrades that change the rules for the run in ways that (usually!) benefit the player.
The crew determine most of your starting deck, as well as what cards you can find during a run. For example, if you choose Dizzy, you will start with some Dizzy cards and can find Dizzy cards during a run. If you don’t choose Dizzy, then Dizzy cards will not be available during the run. Each crew member is also associated with several artifacts that you can find during a run only if you play with that crew member. Most artifacts, however, are “neutral” and can be found during any run.
In combat, you can see the enemy’s intentions, and your goal is to kill the enemy before it kills you. The simple innovation that makes Cobalt Core so magical is that enemy attacks don’t merely hit you in an abstract way. Enemies fire from their cannons, so if you move your ship out of the path of enemy fire, you dodge the attack.
You can move either by playing cards that provide move as en effect—for example, Peri’s starting card Lunge moves you two spaces to the right and then shoots—or by spending Evade. Evade is a consumable resource that you usually acquire by playing cards, and you can spend it any time during your turn to move your ship left or right.
Besides evading attacks, you can mitigate incoming damage through the use of shields. There are two types of shields: regular shields, which are blue, and temporary (temp) shields, which are pink. There is a limit to how many regular shields your ship can store. By contrast, there’s no limit to how many temp shields you can have, but any unused temp shields disappear the start of your turn. (In other words, if you gain temp shields during your turn and they’re not used up by the enemy’s attacks on the enemy’s next turn, then at the start of your next turn those unused temp shields will be lost.)
Outside of combat, you plot a route through each sector by choosing nodes. The node map is randomized in each run. Here’s a summary of the nodes you can encounter:
Blue skulls are basic enemies, which give a choice of 3 cards as a reward. If you’re familiar with deck-building games, you know that having more cards isn’t always a good thing: every card you add to your deck makes your other cards appear less often, possibly diluting the power of your deck. Thankfully, Cobalt Core lets you skip card rewards.
The purple skulls surrounded by triangles are elites, which are harder than basic enemies but give a choice of two artifacts as a reward in addition to a card reward. Artifacts are generally pretty strong, so going after the elite nodes is typically a good idea.
The green nodes are repair yards, which allow you to either heal, upgrade a card, or remove a card from your deck. Each card has an upgrade A and an upgrade B, and you can preview upgrade options when looking at your deck by right-clicking on a card.
The question marks are events, which can do a variety of things. Events generally give rather good rewards, but note that some of those rewards are locked behind a battle, making events slightly risky if you’re close to death.
The circular symbols are artifacts, which as mentioned above, change the rules of the game in some way. They are generally strong. Some of them provide a minor power boost, while others provide a major power boost alongside a drawback.
The final enemy—a pink skull with a sword through it—is the sector’s boss. Killing the boss grants a boss artifact, which is usually stronger than a regular artifact but often comes attached to a more severe drawback. Killing the boss also increases your max hull and heals you for a bunch of hull, making health a usable resource as long as you don’t lose too much of it during the sector. Winning a run requires killing three bosses at the end of three sectors.
Thank you for reading this guide! If you have any questions or notice any mistakes, please let me know. Cobalt Core is a new game, so I will be updating this guide on an ongoing basis to make sure it’s as accurate and helpful as possible. My apologies in advance for any errors or notable omissions, and I wish you many hours of happy gaming with this incredible game.