Review – Oaken

Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. As someone that wants to fully complete games, and sets a higher number of games finished each year for themselves, I play a lot of live service and roguelike/lite games. While there are a few that you can “beat”, like Hades, those are few and far between. However, a recent game, Oaken, caught my interest because it reminded me a bit of Slay the Spire and Monster Train. Oaken is a tactical turn-based roguelite that’s grid-based, mixed with some card-style gameplay. In theory, it’s an interesting blend of gameplay styles, but how does it stack up in its actual application?

Oaken Starting Board

Let’s get this party started.

The base concept of the game is simple. You’re given a “hero” character that starts on the board. This character must survive, or else you lose. Each turn you have energy to use on cards or abilities, and energy rolls over to the next turn. Just like other games that are card-based, after each battle you are given an option of cards to add to your deck. Cards can offer either minions or spells. Minions generally have abilities, like turn spaces into a green space, a purple space, etc., or deal damage to all characters adjacent. Unlike most other games, each space instead of being square, is hexagonal.

The different coloured spaces are essentially pointless, in a sense. Save for a few abilities that are “this character has +1/+1 on a green space” or getting a trinket that gives a buff or debuff, there’s no real detriment or advantage to being on one space over another. The idea of moving with a hexagonal space doesn’t change too much. Although, it can make it feel like it takes a bit longer to get from one side of the board to the other. The main way the tile shape comes into effect and really matters is with any spell or ability that attacks in a straight line. It’s no longer just forward, backward, left, and right. This can make lining spells up a bit frustrating.

One of the biggest issues is the fact that every enemy tends to have an ability as well. A lot of them are something along the lines of “deal 1 damage to adjacent creatures” when defeated, which is cool since it can damage enemies as well, but there are very few ways to not be next to an enemy when you defeat them. I’m not opposed to enemies having abilities as well, but right from the start, Oaken essentially forces you to take damage constantly, creating a real issue.

Oaken Rewards

These are useful, but not THAT useful.

The main reason that this is an issue is if a minion you play is defeated, you are forced to battle as your hero. Otherwise, you can’t truly win. If a minion is defeated, the other option is playing a minion again, but if you do you’ll lose that minion for the rest of the chapter, or at least until you beat the area boss. The other issue is that your hero’s damage progresses from battle to battle, just like other games of this style. Your hero doesn’t start with much health as it is, and taking little ticks of damage stacks up very quickly.

Chapters are organised similar to that of Slay the Spire, where you’re given a long page with a lot of branching paths. Every chapter ends with a boss; they tend to have a lot of health and are quite brutal. In all honesty, based on my experience, it’s a bit unbalanced. Other deck-building games, unless you have absolutely terrible luck, can generally still be won with a bit of good planning. Getting an “overpowered” build was always just a bonus.

In the case of Oaken, though, you need to have a really good build to be able to make it to the boss alone, let alone beat the boss and move onto the next chapter. Most levels have simple conditions, like defeat all enemies or just survive turns. They also have an additional challenge like finish within a certain amount of turns or have a certain amount of coloured spaces. These provide upgraded cards, usually minions with an extra attack and health, a little useful, but not massively.

Oaken Board

It kind of just looks like a mess of colour.

Looking just at the visuals, Oaken is clearly a bit rough. Outside of bosses, which are generally large, it’s really hard to distinguish what the enemies and characters are even suppose to be. There was clearly a lot of time and effort put into these 3D models, but at the same time you will never properly see them, which is disappointing. On the other hand, the music is a bit more 2D. What I mean by that is it’s all rather dull. There’s not much interesting going on in terms of ambient noise or background music. It’s almost better to just play in silence.


Come play Oaken, where we have way more keywords than you.

Oaken looked interesting from the get-go, but unfortunately falls flat with limited ability to change how each run feels. After one or two runs, you’ll have a very good idea of exactly what this game is. If you’re hoping for a new Slay The Spire, keep looking as this likely won’t hit the spot. It definitely didn’t for me, and I gave it a very fair chance, probably a few more runs than I needed to do to make sure I wasn’t missing something.


Graphics: 3.5

The colour in Oaken is vibrant, but the characters are poorly designed. Not being able to even make out what majority of creatures are is a big downside to the overall look of Oaken.

Gameplay: 4.0

Oaken follows the tried and true deck-building rogue-lite formula and adds a tactical turn based element. The issue is the pacing and difficulty curve is incredibly messy.

Sound: 2.0

It’s hard to find any real good for the sound in Oaken outside of it exists, but that could be a negative for how boring and monotonous it all is.

Fun Factor: 3.0

Every once in a while you MIGHT get good RNG and have a decent run. Although, every other run will feel almost the same since there’s a distinct lack of card variety.

Final Verdict: 3.5

Oaken is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Oaken was provided by the publisher.