Turn-based roguelike Zoeti from Akupara Games and Dusklight Games brings us an interesting twist to the usual formula. Find out if it works in our Zoeti review!
Turn-based roguelike Zoeti from Akupara Games and Dusklight Games brings us an interesting twist to the usual formula. The story goes like this: many moons ago, two Goddesses existed. There was Zoeti, the virtuous Goddess who presided over the motion of the sun, moon, and stars. And then there was Nesis, an evil Goddess who ruled over all of demonkind. You probably know where this is going. One day, a war broke out between the two. In the end, Nesis was defeated, and her body was transformed into scarlet Soulstone Fragments.
Unfortunately, the Soulstone Fragments fell into the mortal world, attaching themselves to creatures, thus changing them into deadly Fiends. This turned the mortal world into a living nightmare, which required help from Zoeti. Heavily wounded from the final battle with Nesis, she converted her remaining energy into 22 rays of light that she scattered throughout the mortal world. Those that were blessed by them were known as Astral Envoys, special individuals who were able to stand against the Fiends.
With the Goddess Zoeti no more, the mortal world gradually lost its piety. And since the power of the aforementioned Astral Envoys was tied to the faith in the Goddess Zoeti, the world was in trouble. To keep the Fiends sealed, one of the Astral Envoys gathered the astral energy to create the Four Gods: Batons, God of passion and creation, brandishing the Scepter of Fire; Coupes, God of inspiration and emotion, possessing the Holy Grail of Water; Epées, Goddess of wisdom and conflict, wielding the mighty Sword of Wind; and Denieres, Goddess of matters and harvests, who held the Coins of Earth.
A new kingdom was thus born: Arcania, a land that thrived on worshiping Goddess Zoeti and the Four Gods. Your journey begins as one young member of Arcania who has been sent on a sacred pilgrimage to the four Origin Temples. Joined by a Griffian guide, your task is to receive the baptism of the Four Gods by completing a series of trials. For each of the Origin Temples, a different Astral Envoy will act as an examiner to oversee your performance. First up is Rabelle, the Astral Devil and examiner for the Goddess Denieres.
You get to choose items before the first trial, one from each set of three. In my case, the options for the first group were the Ring of Stone (+1 defense performance at the start of battle), Knight’s Pauldrons (after using a defense skill for the first time, get a +2 temporary defense performance each turn), and a Broadsword (after the first use of a 3-card or greater attack skill, deal 10 damage to the nearest enemy each turn). From the second group, the options were a blue Mini Flush (+1 defense performance), Two Pairs (temporary +3 strength and draw two cards), and a red Mini Flush (+1 strength). The third group had a pair of skills tied to a straight, one that would deal 6 damage 5 times and inflict frail for one turn, and the other one would deal 14 damage 3 times, with the last two attacks targeting random enemies.
And now, to the gameplay basics! Each deck of cards represents a skill. Select cards to form a hand. The effect of a skill will be displayed above the hand. Once a hand has been formed, press the ZR button to put it into play. You can switch between available hands by using the Quick Pick at the bottom of the screen. You can play cards every turn until your hand is empty. You can also keep your hand and play on your next turn. You need to keep an eye on how many cards are in your hand and what the limit is. If the number of cards in your hand is red, that means you will exceed your hand limit when you draw on your next turn.
What hands do you need to form to be able to activate skills as you progress through each trial and take on the different enemies you’ll battle against? You’ll have to work on different poker hands to which each of your skills will be equipped. These will be for a single random card, one pair of cards of the same value, two pairs of cards of the same value, a mini flush with three cards of the same suit, three cards of the same value, a straight with five cards in sequence, a full house with three of a kind and one pair, and a straight flush, which is five cards of the same suit in sequence.
As you clear each mission and conquer battles, you will be rewarded with money, extra skills for your deck, and Soul Fragments. To survive, you need to adjust your equipment as you gain new skills. You must also keep an eye on the intent of each enemy you battle. An enemy will attack you, use a defensive skill, use an enhancement skill, or use a skill to weaken your character. Your opponents and yourself can add armor points to block incoming attacks. These will drop to zero at the start of the next turn. Using an item at the right time can help you offset some of the effects of an enemy’s actions.
Something else to keep an eye out for is when an enemy’s intent glows purple. That means the action is a chanted spell. When an enemy uses a chanted spell, a chant value will pop over them. Whenever their HP is reduced, the chant value will also be reduced. Manage to get the chant value down to zero, and the action will be canceled. Since an enemy’s chanted spell is usually their most powerful move, being quick to interrupt it should be your top priority.
When you visit a campfire or return to your room, you will get a chance to meditate. This allows you to use Soul Fragments to level up skills and character abilities. Skills will be easier to upgrade since their costs are not that high. Increase the level of your shield skill by spending 5 Soul Fragments, and it will go from adding +3 armor per activation to adding +4 armor. If you decide to boost an ability, then more Soul Fragments will be needed. Say you want to upgrade your character’s bravery to boost its strength. That is going to cost you 15 Soul Fragments. There’s also the option of deciding to rest in order to heal your wounds and recover some HP.
As for the Sand Coins that you collect during your adventure, they can be spent at the shop back in town or with the traveling merchant you can find during a mission. I found some of the items at the shop to be of a… questionable build. Sure, a whetstone that grants you +2 strength at the start of battle sounds good, but since it’s an old one, it will break after 5 battles. Emergency rations are good to have since they will heal 4 HP at the end of combat, but they will only last you for 5 activations. After that, they will be destroyed. The traveling merchant seemed to have a more durable set of items for sale, but since the traveling merchant node is randomized for each run, you never know if you’ll be able to find it just in time to save you.
As a fan of roguelike deck-builders, I was looking forward to checking out Zoeti since it set out to do things a bit differently. Instead of building a deck of cards with new abilities and items, items are added separately as cards, while skills are tied to the different poker hands you can create with a single card, two pairs, two pairs, and so on. It offers a familiar gameplay loop with a solid art style and fun gameplay mechanics that will keep you coming back for more. Zoeti is out on Nintendo Switch at a $19.99 asking price.
This Zoeti review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Akupara Games.