Your party consists of four heroes, each with their own starting deck and different level-up talents. Each hero has their own deck, you can change however you like. Your goal is to fight through three acts, each with its boss to defeat. If all of your heroes die within a battle, your run is over.
Every character has speed amongst many other stats like energy. Speed decides in which order characters take their turn and energy is required to play cards. Heroes start with four energy and every turn they gain three more. You can save energy for your next turn, which is a nice tactical addition compared to other deckbuilders.
There are many buffs and debuffs, different kinds of damages (piercing, blunt, etc.), and mage. Just looking at the possible buffs and debuffs (armor, shield, thorns, fire-, water-, light-, shadow-charges, bleed, poison, regeneration, evasion and so much more) will make sure, that battles are as tactical as it gets in the genre.
Because of that, Across the Obelisk is easy to learn but hard to master. I know this sentence is marketing “blablabla” used by PR people all the time – but in AtO it’s true. It takes some time to get how all these small nuances work but once you do, it is much more rewarding.
Thanks to how the map is constructed, they support you in learning the game. First, you’ll meet some weaker encounters, where every enemy plays one card a turn, not using many buffs or debuffs. A few encounters later, this will completely change. Enemies will get stronger, using sometimes three or more buffs/debuffs and playing two cards a turn.
One map is one act. The game consists of four acts, whereas the last one isn’t available yet. However, Maps are not procedurally generated like in most roguelike deckbuilders. Across the Obelisk takes a different approach, allowing you to plan ahead from the very beginning.
You can see every encounter you met by hovering over a node.
Usually, there are two different encounters on the map: monsters and events. Events are small pieces of stories and you have to decide what to do. Most of the events need a test like in a D&D game. The difference is that you don’t have a dice and stats but cards with energy cost.
The game will tell you beforehand what you need (e.g. your group needs to be lower than 5 in total). If you decide to try it, the game will automatically draw a card from each hero the task requires. If you succeed the reward is yours, and if you fail, something bad will happen. This can be a battle or cards (like a curse) going into your heroes’ decks.
Your heroes HP will carry over from battle to battle. There are some possibilities to heal HP (during fights, events, or resting places on the map). If a hero dies in a battle, he will be resurrected afterward with a penalty. After every act, all heroes recover completely and level up. Each level gives you the possibility to choose one of two bonuses.
Every act starts with a town. In this town, you can go into a shop buying equipment for your heroes or craft, upgrade or remove cards. You need gold or shards to do so. Both you will get by beating enemies or find in events.
The town can be upgraded with supplies you can get during your adventure. Upgrades stay even if you start a new run, making every future run easier.
You can craft every card you unlocked during a run. You unlock cards by choosing them after a battle as a reward (you can choose one of four cards for each hero) or buy a divination round for gold in a town.
This allows you to start your run with strong cards and supports the thought of planning your run ahead.
There are several saving slots for decks, making it easier and faster to get your dream deck.
Aside from the town upgrades and unlocking cards, you can unlock heroes. There are 10 in the game right now but at least four more will join the roster during early access.
Also, heroes will gain EXP after every journey. With that, their rank will get higher (NOT LEVEL!). Each rank gives you talent points you can spend however you like (e.g. +10 health, +1 starting energy, etc.).
Every run also gives you gold and shards for the next run. You can take these additional gold and shards in the starting town or save up to three treasures to take them all at once.
Across the Obelisk is in early access but offers content (over 1000 cards and 250 items) some other deckbuilders have after years of being in early access and there is even more to come.
Many roguelikes advertise their game with procedurally generated content and there are many pros about it for sure but also cons, like having to rely on luck. In AtO you don’t have to rely on that.
But this also brings a negative aspect to the game. Do you know the feeling of “just one more run”? In AtO I didn’t have that. Every run is engaging and takes time, especially to plan your run in the starting town. I needed a break after every run but came back even more motivated. Over the next few days, I constantly had the game in my mind. Asking myself which strategy may work the best and when to play again.
The difficulty is high enough to warrant it being a roguelite. During my playtime before release, I was in heavy contact with the devs. I thought there were some problems balance-wise and we talked about it. In the end, they changed a bit, making it fairer overall. This shows, that the devs listen to every feedback they get and this is what early access is for.
They listen to their community and this is what devs need to do to make a good game fantastic.
AtO is fully playable in coop with up to three friends. Each of you taking control over one hero. Together you need to decide what to do in events and how to win against enemies. You need to fight, plan and decide together.
Across the Obelisk awakens a different kind of addiction compared to other deckbuilders. It’s fun to plan your run, try out new strategies, master your favorite one, discover secrets and get behind the weaknesses of a boss. All of this is playable in coop, which is a very nice addition to an already great game.
If you are into deckbuilders, I 100% recommend buying Across the Obelisk!