Castle Morihisa • The Review

Castle Morihisa is a brand new strategic deck-building roguelite from Smokingbear Studio (published by Thermite Games). The game features some classic tabletop deck-building mechanics: Start off with a basic deck and build it up as you progress.

The story takes place in a dark fantasy feudal Japan. Castle Morihisa has gone silent following a military decree by the shogunate. It’s your job to reach the castle by investigating the mysterious unease spreading across the land. Do not fear failure, because with each new run comes new randomly generated encounters, keeping each attempt fresh and exciting.


Castle Morihisa • Battle Gameplay (Victory)

Castle Morihisa’s hundreds of cards, unique character-specific abilities, and folklore-inspired world combine for a delightfully challenged and utterly rewarding experience. By blending both deckbuilding systems and roguelike design elements, we believe players will be eagerly awaiting their chance to march toward Castle Morihisa.”

•Zhenghang Cai, Game Producer, Smokingbear Studio

Pre-Game

Classes

Each quest begins with choosing a class. There are four classes, but to start you can only pick two: Monk or Onmyoji. The Monk uses meditation and mantra systems, while the Onmyoji is a blood magic wielder. The Samurai class is unlocked once you beat the game with one of the starting classes. To unlock the final class, Ninja, you must complete the journey with the Samurai class.

Deck & Cards

Castle Morihisa • Starter Deck

Your deck starts off with five basic attacks and five basic defense cards.

There are several types of cards to unlock as you play: Attack, Defense, Skill, Tactic, Item, Disrupt, Curse. As you make your way through different encounters you will have the chance to pick up new cards for your deck, gain talents, upgrade cards, find items and more.

Talent Wheel & Artifacts

Castle Morihisa • Talent Wheel

The talent wheel is important to pay attention to. As you explore more of the map you will add up action points used to purchase new talents. Don’t let them go to waste (as I often did, by forgetting to check the talent wheel between encounters).

Artifacts can also be collected each round. These feature character upgrades, damage increases, card boosts, new skills and more.


What’s Good?

In recent years, I’ve noticed a spike in card-based battle systems in video games. Even with the oversaturation of card-based games there are some that stand out by using the system in new and exciting ways. In Castle Morihisa, I notice the influence from certain deck-building tabletop games.

Ascension (tabletop game) was one of the first deck-building games I remember playing. After that I started noticing how deck-building works in many tabletop and card games. There’s just something fun about everyone starting off with the same simple deck, but slowly upgrading and editing their way to a personalized deck. It’s what makes every run in Castle Morihisa unique and exciting.

Castle Morihisa • Battle Victory II

The game does a great job of explaining the benefits of each card, skill and talent. For instance, when a card mentions a specific mechanic (like Mantra or Meditation) it is explained in its own separate box. No matter how much knowledge you have in card or tabletop gaming, you should know that the same concept can have multiple meanings across different games. So, it is important to get these little refreshers along the journey.

The more you play the more you know. In my first attempts I felt lost, and like I would never make it to the first boss. After multiple runs you start learning which card combinations to play, your favorite talents and how to unlock certain skills in battle.


Problems?

While Castle Morihisa’s menu, layout and mechanics are pretty simple, there is still a lot going on at its core. There were times where I found myself trying to speed through a battle, only to lose and realize I had wasted points and money by not using them. I kept needing to remind myself of these two key words, tactical and strategy, so I would slow down and take my time.

One small UI (User Interface) problem I ran into was in battle. At times, when choosing your next card, the enemies HP and shield points would be blocked by the card, making it hard to know which to pick. I would end up attacking one enemy, then realizing that I could have taken the other one out of the match, I just didn’t notice.


Verdict

I really like Castle Morihisa, mainly because it reminds me of playing those classic tabletop deck-building games. It’s a good way to play a deck-building type game without having to bring together a whole crew. I love that this is a roguelite, since you are attempting the same run over and over. With all of the roguelikes and roguelites I’ve played lately, it’s nice to see a different version.

It’s a simple game with a simple goal, what’s hard is coming up with a strategy to reach that goal. Plus, once you do beat the game, you’ll probably want to try it out again with the new unlocked classes (Samurai and Ninja).

Castle Morihisa • Losing to the Boss

I plan on continuing to play this game, at least until I unlock at least one new class. I finally made it past the first boss and I can’t wait to see what comes next.


Castle Morihisa releases today (February 10, 2022) on Nintendo Switch and PC (via Steam).

*myVGBC.com was provided a review code by the publisher, Thermite Games.

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