[PlayStation 5] Oaken Review

by EdEN, Owner

Oaken from Red Art Games, Laki Studio, and Goblinz Publishing is a challenging roguelike hero-oriented deck-building experience on PlayStation 5. Learn more in our Oaken review!

Oaken from Red Art Games, Laki Studios, and Goblinz Publishing is a challenging roguelike hero-oriented deck-building experience on PlayStation 5. The mythical world of Oaken is inhabited by spirits who all listen to the same voice: the Oak Song. Unfortunately, the loss of that voice starts a series of events that leads to a struggle that could lead toward healing or destroying the Great Oak, which serves as their home. What will you do? Will you be the savior or the villain of this story?

For every run you start during your time with Oaken, you’ll be taking on a randomly generated world map with a variety of Events, enemies, and bosses to take on. Battles will take place over a hexagonal grid, which means you’ll need to always keep in mind how to position each character on the grid since position – and the direction in which each unit is facing – will matter. It makes for an easy-to-learn but hard-to-master gameplay loop that will challenge your skills and expertise along the way.

You can choose to play Oaken in one of two modes: Journey or Relaxed. If you choose Journey, you’ll be aiming to unlock higher difficulty levels to boost the challenge. Select Relaxed, and you’ll get a chance to take on a less stressful experience so that you can get a chance to try again when you fail. Once you’re ready to begin, you’ll be taking on the mandatory tutorial segment that will teach you the basics.

Oaken Review

The first character that you’ll get to play as will be the Lady, a mighty Hero that will be tasked with defeating the wild spirits on the hex playing field. You’ll notice a pair of icons below her figurine, which represent her health – within a leaf icon – and her health – within a red heart icon. As you can probably imagine, if your Hero’s health reaches zero, then you’re done and will lose. Along with choosing a Hero for subsequent runs, you’ll also be able to choose a Guide to help you on your journey.

Each unit can move once per turn, and you’ll need to choose the tile they will move to as well as the direction they will face. Units can also attack once per turn, but if they do so, they won’t be able to move afterward. You can move a cursor around the playing field with the left analog stick or the D-Pad and then choose a unit with the X button. If you want to cancel an action before committing to it, you can do so with the Circle button. Not leaving your back exposed will leave you at a disadvantage because then a unit won’t be able to counterattack.

Below the playing field, you’ll be able to see the cards in your hand. These cards include spells that you can cast based on your character’s Line of Sight (LoS), which extends for 3 hexes in the frontal arc and is blocked by non-allies. Other cards include allies that you can summon into action on nearby hexes, up to two hexes away from your Hero. Using cards and skills will drain your Lumi, but its pool will refill and grow larger every turn. You can select between the cards on your hand by using the L1 and R1 buttons as needed.

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Your deck will contain all the cards you’ve managed to collect during your current run, and it is from where you’ll be drawing cards during battle. You will draw cards at the start of a turn until you have four cards in your hand. Before a battle, you can manage your inventory and upgrade your cards, as well as preview units before adding them to your deck. You could, for example, use a Diligent Wisp to upgrade a Stalker so that it gains additional attack and health while also gaining a new ability.

By completing battle objectives and collecting Lumi Crystals, you’ll be able to obtain Lumi Dust. This can be used to upgrade units to increase their level. You can also obtain a Lumi Globe, which can be used to upgrade a spell card. If you use two Lumi Globe, you can even upgrade a skill! Say you use a Lumi Globe to upgrade a spell, such as Impale. You’ll have three different upgrade options to choose from: having the spell deal damage and inflict drain, push the target away, or ensnare the target.

As you progress through your run, you might end up running into special nones known as Events. During Events, you’ll have a chance to select the outcome you like the most… with a price. If you choose the better rewards, that usually means you’ll end up receiving some Fatigue! Fatigue is dangerous since it can temporarily lower a unit’s HP and it can remove a unit from play for the rest of a chapter. The good news is that you can spend some Lumi Dust to remove some Fatigue. If a card becomes Exhausted and is removed, then you can spend more Lumi Dust to bring it back into action. If you’re short on Lumi Dust and desperately need some, you have the option of using Destroy to remove unwanted cards from your deck.

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For each run, you’ll be taking on set chapters that must be completed to progress further in the story. Each of these chapters will be split into different nodes that you can choose from as you take on the branching paths on offer. You could find the aforementioned Event nodes, and there are also Battle nodes where you’ll fight against enemies, Elite Battle nodes where you will run into more powerful enemies, Treasure nodes where you can be rewarded, Healing nodes where you can find try to find a stray Wisp, heal some fatigue, or spend some Lumi Dust to obtain a reward, and Boss nodes where, well, you’ll run into the Boss that you need to beat to complete each chapter.

Speaking of which, if you defeat a Boss – or survive through an Elite battle – you’ll be rewarded with the chance of selecting from one of the Trinkets that will be presented to you. Trinkets are special items that will provide your Hero with passive buffs that can make it a lot easier to survive during the more challenging fights you’ll run into, where you might feel a bit overwhelmed. Think of them as the Relics you might find in other deck-building games you might have played.

Oaken has a full trophy list with a Platinum trophy to add to your collection. And since it’s a Cross-Buy title, if you have a PlayStation 5 console, you can download the PS4 and PS5 versions of Oaken, with each one having its own separate trophy list. It’s a long list that is split into 48 Bronze trophies, 5 Silver trophies, and a lone Gold trophy. What will you need to do for that Platinum trophy? First up will be completing the game’s tutorial. After that, there will be trophies for finishing each chapter, as well as for beating the game with the different Heroes to choose from.

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Along the way, you’ll also have to defeat 20 enemies while playing as Lady, defeating 30 enemies with Blaze in a single playthrough while playing as Kidu, unlock all cards and items in Oaken, keeping an enemy ensnared for two consecutive turns, beating the Boss in Oak’s Crown after defeating 10 of its minions, defeating 3 targets at the same time with Aya’s ability, push an enemy to another hex 3 times in a single turn, defeating a boss while having 8 or less max health, to name some examples.

Oaken is a challenging roguelike hero-oriented deck-building experience on PlayStation. As you try to progress further and further in the game’s story and try to complete each of the chapters, you’ll unlock additional cards for your current run, as well as increase your hero’s level to unlock new cards for subsequent runs. This will open the way for you to be able to increase the length of future runs by gaining access to new cards that can be more powerful than your current set, all while upgrading units, upgrading spell cards, and equipping powerful Wisps that can add bonus stats or features to your units. Oaken is available as a Cross-Buy title, so your $19.99 purchase will allow you to download both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 versions of the game at no extra cost.

Oaken Review - 5

This Oaken review is based on a PlayStation 5 copy provided by Red Art Games.

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