Updated: Sep 20
Prominence Poker is a 2016 digital-only free-to-play poker game from 505 Games with intuitive controls, a strong emphasis on character creation and charming visuals.
Free-to-play games are strange things to review. Inherently, the review is usually to serve as a guide for a purchasing decision but that is negated when the actual game is completely free for anyone to try out. So, really this will serve as more of a guide to showcase if it is worth your time more than anything.
Before you begin playing you are prompted to create a Sim-like avatar to take into the games. It’s a great feature and there is a decent amount of options in terms of customisable sliders to make your character as well as a fairly interesting set of clothing options for you to switch out (the default Hawaiian shirt perhaps, or the slick-styled Italian three-piece suit may be your thing?). You can even select a personal table item for your character which can range from a bottle of water, beer, shot of vodka, cigarettes to more unusual items like chains, a gold skull or gun and grenades (to intimidate, it would seem).
Some of these items earn you experience points and these points in turn level up your character (which can lead to loot case drops, increased bankroll money or unlockable clothing items). You can increase the amount of experience points you gain by buying Boosters (putting real money in) for the purpose of getting this stuff early but depending on your desire to showcase some expensive looking avatar clothes, it is hard to feel incentivised to throw down real cash for that alone.
The important point is that this element doesn’t affect the actual playing of the game. It is purely cosmetic so a level two player will still have as much of a chance to beat a level 3,008th player (yes, there are players with this amount of score likely due to a known exploit regarding gifting players drink refills, which does sort of reduce the significance of the levelling system).
As for the actual poker and why it has taken over six paragraphs to get to it, it’s a poker game. More specifically, it is strictly Texas Hold’em rules and is overall a great digital version of poker. There is a single player element which serves as a tutorial for those that might want some practice before heading online. There are four affiliations which you can join (the Italian Hearts, Russian Spades, American Clubs or the Japanese Diamonds) and each have their own setting – dive biker bar for the Americans, lavish (probably Yakuza-owned) casino for the Japanese - where you face off against a couple members of the group and then against the mob leader. The AI is mostly pretty decent and can be pretty tricky at times but will never match a human player in the way that human players evolve over the length of a game (it didn’t seem like the AI was changing up too much to my play style).
Online is where the meat of the game is and even two years after launch there is still a considerable player base. Competitors can play in either ring games (six players in total) or head to head and they can be casual games or ranked. The ranked games assign you points which are tallied over a season (a month) and in that month if you can earn enough points (by either winning head to head matches or finishing in the top three of tournaments) you can progress from Bronze level to Silver, Gold and through to Diamond where the entry fee is astronomical and the winnings even more so (I couldn’t surpass silver although it didn’t look like there were many people online playing beyond the Gold tier). However, it’s a fun set-up and adds some extra stakes to the matches.
Thankfully, even with a full table of six players the action is loose and fast. The characters are animated with caricatured silliness and you can even make them celebrate, dance, play with their chips or even perform a magic trick while the others are deliberating. The background music is also suitably bluesy and feels like it wouldn’t be out of place in The Godfather. All of these touches help the game feel more polished than your average digital casino game.
Overall, it’s a great simulation of poker and this free, well produced, still popular version of it on an Xbox One is certainly worth your time. And, with its quirky character creator and unique table items as its pocket aces, this is definitely a strong hand if not a Royal Flush.