Good Morning, good afternoon, or good evening, and welcome to yet another ABG review. Today, we’re taking a look at Oakenfold from developer Rutger van Dijk, published by Studio Taghua. A solo developer project originating on Kickstarter, this strategy roguelike has a unique time-based twist. Read on to learn more as we review Oakenfold.
How one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s analyze Oakenfold, through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters/story, content/length, controls & gameplay, and then finally, sound design & cinematics. This product was played on a 3080 10GB, 32GB Ram, with an i9-11900KF 3.5GHz. For full transparency: this content was reviewed using a copy of the game graciously provided by the developer.
Visually, well – you can see for yourself. While it’s nothing to write home about, (running Unity Engine) Oakenfold’s visuals are adequate. No fancy ray tracing or complex shading here, just good ol’ tabletop-looking grids.
Oakenfold utilizes a simple and clean art style. Rocks are rocks, crates are crates. If one has any doubt hover the mouse, but game systems are later. Everything appears clear and concise and the UI elements are nicely presented. It’s easy to see your health and enemies, cooldowns, and the rest – once players have their heads wrapped around the basics.
Settings are quite minimal, though that’s to be expected with a game of this caliber. It all works as it should though, and performs rather nicely. This isn’t the kind of game we count frames on unless we notice hard dips, and all seems well and good in that regard.
Characters & Story
For the most part, there isn’t a whole lot to this aspect. There’s an opening cinematic before the menu that gives us the plot, who(ish) we are, and what we’re doing. Do we need to get fuel for a big fly-away domey-dome ship thing? Simple, easy. Done, son. There are three ‘mindsets’ for a lady-woman named Asha, but these are really just movesets with little-to-no varying characterization to them.
With all that in mind, Oakenfold doesn’t pretend to have a deep or complex story either, nor does it present or advertise as such. It’s a premise as to why you’re here doing what you’re doing, and not much more. Maybe a cool, yet unexplored concept. But moving on.
Content & Length
As with most roguelikes, Oakenfold is designed to be highly replayable. Each run is broken up into three Areas with a variety of sequential encounters. Runs may take players as little as it takes them to die or as long as fifty minutes to an hour and a half. While there is a tutorial in the form of a YouTube video, I’m a firm believer in a game’s resources being in-game. A short little optional demo level would suffice nicely for most players.
There’s no multiplayer aspect, nor would it really fit this game’s design. Oakenfold is a single-player experience with its focus placed on diversifying the gameplay experience in levels and item varieties between runs. The permutations start to grow, but their limitations, in turn, become the game’s limitations which we’ll explain in the next segment. However, once the player begins to notice this, I think their enjoyment may start to diminish.
Controls & Gameplay
Oakenfold has a fairly standard gameplay loop enhanced by their Timebank mechanic. This allows players to bank one or all of their twelve turns for later use. Additionally, players may redo and undo any of their twelve turns until their hearts content with the exception of coming bsck from death. These otherwise banked turns are used to “craft items and upgrades” and “Quick Escape difficult situations” – a runaway-I’m-scared-please-help me button that costs lots of that sweet banked time.
Controls are pick up and go, mouse to point and click, and Q-W-E (or click) for abilities.
Players make their way through levels, each “mindset” for Asha with three abilities each, generally complimenting the overall build. The three are Survival, sporting a punchy face glove/fist, a hook, and a grenade. Agile, with a jumpy-backstab, ‘flying’ (running) knee, and succ bomb. Lastly, we have Scientific, with a straight-up tazer, a RoboSweeper (I honestly feel like such an idiot, what does this even do?!), and an enemy teleport swap. While the first one is generally usable, the other can be fun but situational. I understand some people may enjoy brutally tactical exchanges, so I won’t hold that against it. But It’s really hard to play scientific with the overall lower possible DPS. OR maybe RoboSweeper is actually OP and I missed out.
So as previously mentioned the gameplay varieties’ combinations, while initially expansive are limiting to the game design, or the unapologetic difficulty/number of enemies is restrictive to it. In other words: the game doesn’t give you the tools required to deal with certain situations. While I understand random generation plays a hand in some of the level designs, there were a few times when I was put in impossible situations even with Timebank/scrubber.
This is, in its own way a roguelike in true form. There is no saving here, those who enjoy the ruthlessness of a game such as FTL may find some love in Oakenfold’s punishing (yet forgiving) ways.
Sound Design & Cinematics
Generally speaking, the audio is passable but nothing great. There’s no dialogue in-game, but in many of these cases – none is better than bad. Enemies make funky sounds during actions, and that aspect is all well and good.
Partway through testing, a patch added an introductory cinematic to help establish and contextualize the players’ excursions. I enjoyed how this presented the game’s story, although it does have the jarring mistake of misspelling recipe as “recipy”.
Wrapping things up, while Oakenfold probably won’t be GOTY it does have some alluring aspects for hardcore strategy players who love a good challenge. Or even board-gamey roguelike fans (is that a thing?). Regardless Oakenfold requires some minor tuning, though nothing patches couldn’t sort out. This is a game of perfecting and maximizing the efficiency of a 10-move play against all odds. Sometimes though, RNG just stacks those odds too damn high. 6.8/10 Fun concept, polished with few/no bugs, won’t be for everyone.
Oakenfold is available on Steam. Well, that’s a wrap for our review, what did you think of this strategy-roguelike? Let us know in the comments, we’d be glad to hear from you! And if you enjoyed this content, check out our God of War Ragnarok Review! Thanks for reading.
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A Particular Experience, For a Particular Type of Player
- Score - 6.8/106.8/10
+ Trial and Error With Time Is Fun
– No Win Situations
– Sharp/Potentially ffputting Learning Curve
Just a Canadian dude who’s passionate about gaming, and the industry as a whole.