Within the phrases of aggressive baking present judges in all places: if you are going to go for one thing easy, it’s a must to execute it completely. With its small ranges, tight scope and visible polish, Oaken is—or is on its technique to be—that idealised Victoria sponge of tactical roguelikes.
Oaken is an easy recreation. You management your items on a hexagonal grid representing a bit of a spirit-infested tree, the Nice Oak. Every unit takes one motion and strikes one tile per flip. They’ll assault—and counterattack—any unit of their handily highlighted frontal arc, and putting items, casting spells, and utilizing abilities all burns a turn-limited useful resource. That is it: that is the sport. OK, there’s just a little extra to it than that, but it surely’s all supplemental to those core fundamentals.
Throughout three acts, and that acquainted roguelike branching route map, Oaken teaches you the way to consider taking part in it. It retains a robust give attention to satisfying short-term tactical considering, whereas protecting long-term choices quietly on the backburner, and strips out a whole lot of the frustration of death-by-randomisation.
A powerful, easy focus should not be mistaken for being overly straightforward, although. Within the first act, as an illustration, every stage is a race towards time. After a sure variety of rounds, toxic fog will fill the zone: recreation over. Carelessly aggressive play will solely sacrifice your items, however being too treasured will let newly spawning enemies overwhelm you till that fog cloud comes.
You begin with a small deck and may solely play every card as soon as earlier than it turns into ‘unstable’. Taking part in that card once more will exhaust it both completely or till the top of the act, relying in your problem setting. There aren’t alternatives so as to add new playing cards to your deck outdoors of fights, so all of it ties collectively into an emphasis on exact, good play. Your well being resets in every stage, so each is about fixing it appropriately, not compensating for previous errors.
This steadiness is not excellent, and I had a whole lot of early recreation false begins. Your construct is admittedly outlined by your first trinket, that are boons rewarded by bosses and elites. Earlier than then, customary fights could be fairly swingy when it comes to problem, and a few elective goals (which reward you with the Lumi Mud used to improve playing cards) are logistically unimaginable. As soon as I might staked any type of construct, although, progress was right down to my very own good or dangerous choices.
Most of your long-term tactical choice making is completed round upgrades, and with regards to upgrading your items in additional significant methods than well being and injury, there are just a few totally different trade-offs you can also make. You truly make upgrades with bodily assets—with wisps or Lumi Globes—and you may find yourself buying and selling most well being, abilities, or completely shedding your guardian to get them. Upon getting them, there’s a further choice about when and the best way to use them: ought to I apply this wisp that expands the frontal arc to at least one unit, or put it aside in case I’ve a greater unit later? Do I spend a globe upgrading this spell earlier than a boss combat, or wait till after the boss combat so I can attempt to synergise with the ensuing trinket?
Oaken leans into the puzzle-like, significantly with its elective stage goals. One elite combat I significantly favored had two overindulged monsters the place one was asleep whereas the opposite was awake—and also you acquired bonus rewards for defeating each in the identical flip. Some encounters aren’t fights in any respect, however pure puzzles—simply difficult the way in which you concentrate on your items, and what they will do. By the point I reached the ultimate boss of the third act, I felt like the whole recreation had been coaching me for it.
I attempt to not let a visually polished recreation sway me if the underlying stuff is not all there, however having established that its stuff is usually strong, I might be remiss to not level out that Oaken is admittedly, very good to take a look at, and it is happy with it too. Whereas your deck, you may select to see full-size renders of your items in all their glory.
Even the small measurement variations that scoot to-and-fro throughout the board are charmingly illustrative of what they do: your massive tanky defender that retains different items from shifting away from its frontal arc has big picket palms; your ideally motionless long-distance shooter a tall, grounded plant; your excessive injury unit a lithe predator.
It will be good if it have been simpler to visually inform when a unit’s actions have been ‘spent’ although – at any time when I had quite a lot of items on the board and turns have been taking longer, I did find yourself simply grabbing at them to examine if anybody was nonetheless moveable earlier than ending my flip, which is not the most refined choice.
The early entry model of Oaken has all three acts of the sport playable, one Hero, and 4 Guardians, which all include their very own card and trinket swimming pools. It is a playable recreation from begin to end, and bugs have been largely pretty minor. I discovered it pretty straightforward to by accident ‘break’ stage transitions (like by checking my deck when provided a trinket), however in all however one case, reloading my save fastened the issue with none lack of progress. The one exception was inconvenient—a secret stage, that I believe unlocks the epilogue, besides I could not progress previous it—however I used to be a minimum of capable of route round it in later playthroughs, and I can not think about it staying a recognized bug for lengthy.
The present plan is so as to add one other Hero and one other world map, in addition to ironing out any steadiness points, within the subsequent 5-7 months. I ponder about that scope and timeline—however largely as a result of what’s already out is already good. I do not know that it wants massively increasing on a lot because it wants refining. I can see the components in Oaken for a ways recreation I can pour hours into and revel in. Its puzzle-like strategy to stage design. The sense of development via a construct. Synergising upgrades. Possibly it wants extra time within the oven earlier than it is that excellent cake, however I am forgiving of Oaken’s faults as a result of I believe it’s going to all work out ultimately.