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need to know

What is it? Part card game, part strategy game, and part postcard from Japanese mythology.
Expect to pay:
release date: January 24, 2023
Developer: game source studio
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
commented on: Windows 10, Ryzen 9 5900X, 32GB memory, RTX 3080
multiplayer game? No
Association: Official Website(opens in a new tab)

Mahokenshi basically slays the Spire with the Warrior Wizard, which is a solid selling point. It’s a deck-building game where you start with a bad set of cards and build up better cards as you work your way toward a goal, but it tweaks genre conventions in some unusual ways . Plus, you get a katana sword.

The theme turns out to be the least influential part of Mahokenshi, a thin layer of second-hand Japanese folklore on top of familiar elements. The Mahokenshi are mystical warriors who traded with the gods for power, and there are four unlockables, each with their own deck. Those who make a deal with the spider get cards with poison and invisibility effects, while those who gain power through the spirit of the turtle get a defense boost and damaging spikes. In between battles with goblins, bandits, and cultists, the four occasionally encounter oni, and the item that gets them rid of useless cards is somehow a kimono. Japanese people are superficial in character, that’s what I mean.

(Image source: Iceberg)

Structure is what really sets Mahokenshi apart from other deck games. You play on a hexagonal grid, spending action points to steer your samurai across floating celestial islands in search of treasure, quests, power-ups, and more. Instead of random spires or mash-up monster train hells, all 18 of its missions have pre-determined layouts and objectives, each telling a small story. It started off as a tense chase, with four wild ghosts chasing me through the forest towards a castle. This affects the deck decisions I make, makes move cards more valuable than normal, and changes the way I play the game.

In other deck builders, you just want to find a strong combo, and remove every card from your deck that doesn’t help you complete that combo. Tasks in Mahokenshi, whether it’s protecting villagers or sealing portals, require an extra layer of consideration than finding the worst cards to pair with.

Another difference is that Mahokenshi is easier. There was only one quest that gave me trouble that turned out to be my own fault. Four cultists buff a ghost king in the center of the map, seemingly racing against time, but it is actually much simpler. I should have followed Gui Ling’s path, steadily and steadily, instead of rushing in rashly.

(Image source: Iceberg)

Since Oni King won’t attack until you kill all four cultists, or like I did once by misclicking and standing on a hex too close to him, the best way to do that is to kill three hooded ones Bastards then explore every corner of the map for enhancing altars, the marketplace for buying cards, the dojo for upgrading cards, and gold coins for paying for purchases and upgrades. After cranking up every stat and building the perfect deck, he didn’t stand a chance, even though he was clumsy while taking magic steroids. Even though missions have explicit time limits, in Mahokenshi it’s best to spend as much time as possible building up your power.

The mahokenshi earn xp and level up individually, which really encourages you to stick with one character. That said, you’ll reach max level pretty quickly, and every story mission you unlock comes with a side quest or two that’s easier and can probably be tackled with the level 1 fox-powered lady you just unlocked. Plus, you can use the crystals you earn from completing optional challenges to pay for buffs — like meditating on every altar on the map, or winning before three peasants you’re supposed to protect die — and this applies to every character .

(Image source: Iceberg)

I had a lot of fun playing Mahokenshi, but I can’t imagine ever thinking about it again. It’s a small game, and I finished it in 20+ hours without really thinking about it between sessions. Backstory is pretty much non-existent, there’s a magical sword that needs to be reforged, a cultist planning to open a portal to the underworld, and basically nothing that you can’t replace with completely different fantasy heroes and monsters. Coupled with lightheartedness and lack of challenge, it’s as full as a Pocky stick. Still, for those 20 hours, it really forced me.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.