REVIEW: ‘Castle Morihisa’ Delivers a Challenging, Card-Based Experience (PC)

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Castle Morihisa

Castle Morihisa is a card-based roguelike developed by Smokingbear Studio and published by Thermite Games. With concerns of treason occurring in Castle Morihisa, a spy is sent to ascertain the truth. But the path is fraught with peril, and many deadly foes stand between the spy and their destination. Only skill, determination, and a fair measure of luck will see the spy safely through their journey.

With many recent entries in the card-based roguelike style of games, any new entry into the space needs to separate itself from the rest of the crowd. The game needs something that will compel players who may have already played one or more games of its type to dive back into the familiar mechanics again.

For Castle Morihisa, the biggest stand-out feature is the fantastic visual design. The look of a wartorn Japanese landscape and the demon enemies you encounter across it are all wonderfully crafted. Despite all the characters being largely static two-dimensional images, each one has an impressive amount of detail and design worked into their presentations. These wonderfully designed characters serve as an excellent cornerstone to the game’s entire presentation.

Beyond the aforementioned character and world designs, the game’s graphical presentation is simple but effective. Most cards and abilities are accompanied by some form of visual flourish that gives the moment-to-moment gameplay a bit of extra oomph to make up for the still image characters that populate the game.

Before players set out on their quest, they have the option of picking a class for their character. This choice determines which cards will be available to them throughout their game. There are initially two classes to choose from, with two additional classes that can be unlocked.

Here, the gameplay is typical of the card-based gameplay gamers have grown accustomed to in recent years. At the start of each turn, the player draws a hand of cards that comprise attack, defense, and utility cards. Limiting how many cards can be played by the player is a number of action points they have allotted to them. The player must prioritize which cards are most useful to play since they will rarely be able to play all their cards.

Between each battle, players get the opportunity to improve their deck and their character in several ways. After each battle, players will get to choose a card to add to their decks. Also, each victory earns the player gold that can be spent at a shop to purchase new cards. This allows players a bit more opportunity to craft a deck, making the dependence on luck a bit lessened.

Players will also earn ability points after each encounter which can be spent on an upgrade wheel that changes with each new game. These upgrades come in all sorts of focuses and further allow the player to reinforce whichever deck style they find themselves building.

Battling monsters aren’t the only things a player can experience during a game of Castle Morihisa. Random encounters that the player will have the option to select throughout a game can include opportunities to grab relics that can change numerous aspects of the gameplay, campsites that give players the option to heal or upgrade one of their previously acquired cards, or truly random events that can have a large variety of effects.

Despite all the above ways a player can tune, hone, and craft a smooth-running deck, at the end of the day, much of what determines a player’s success or failure comes down to luck. There were multiple times where I had managed to craft a great deck that felt like it could take me through the game, only to have it come crashing down when an inopportune hand left me without defense cards as an enemy swung in for colossal damage. And this isn’t necessarily from bosses either. A typical encounter with random baddies can turn south in the drop of a hat. These turns of fortune will find the player either instantly dead or so battered that the next battle is all but guaranteed to finish them off.

The game’s difficulty isn’t derived purely from high damage attacks that leave players’ defenses wanting. Enemies utilize a plethora of special abilities, each of which is identified by a unique icon under that enemy. Any player hoping to navigate the game’s perils successfully must be sure to keep constant vigilance over all of these icons. The one turn an over-eager player uses to attack with an amazing hand without checking abilities will inevitably be the time an enemy has become ethereal, reducing every attack to one damage and rendering the battle-winning attack useless. Patience and perception are the player’s most critical allies throughout Castle Morihisa. 

While I found the extreme difficulty level often frustrating, it made the hard-fought victories feel that much sweeter. Having the right card in just the right moment felt like a triumph that my shrewd deck-building had enabled. Whether the reward is worth the struggle is a determination only players can make for themselves.

When all is said and done, Castle Morihisa delivers a solid entry in the card-based roguelike genre. The numerous styles of deck you can construct provide a robust variety of play, and the challenges the player is faced with are just as creative and varied. While some losses felt a bit cheap, the triumph of victory always feels sweet.

Castle Morihisa is coming to PC and Nintendo Switch on February 10th.


Castle Morihisa
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Castle Morihisa delivers a solid entry in the card-based roguelike genre. The numerous styles of deck you can construct provide a robust variety of play, and the challenges the player is faced with are just as creative and varied. While some losses felt a bit cheap, the triumph of victory always feels sweet.