through the obelisk is a cooperative deck-building roguelite from developer Dreamsite Games and publisher Paradox Arc. Although it has been available in early access for some time, its 1.0 release has finally rolled out, representing a finished base product. What’s here is a solid experience for fans of the genre, although there are a few caveats – namely, Dungeons & Dragons Fans shouldn’t expect a lot of story, while deck-building veterans shouldn’t expect the same depth of strategy found in titles like kill the arrow or even monster train.
through the obelisk initially follows four generic adventures aimed at unraveling an equally archetypal fantasy plot, complete with tropes like the kidnapped princess and the power-hungry mage. It’s, generously, the most basic of stories, with room for player interpretation which I have to imagine was intended for cooperative role-playing to expand on the events unfolding on screen. In practice, however, the the story is never that deep or interesting that it is imperative to try to extend it with the contribution of the players. While the narrative is never outright bad, it’s definitely forgettable, which hampers the appeal of the multiple choices and characters available to play through.
Luckily, while the playable heroes aren’t that great in terms of their personalities, their uniqueness comes through in their bonuses and deck-building options. The four classes – warrior, ranger, wizard, cleric, basically – each feature unlockable heroes that completely change the way teams can be put together. It’s often the most fun to have in through the obeliskputting together puzzle pieces across multiple classes to finally find a build that works.
Working versions aren’t easy to find at first either. through the obelisk also nails one of the trickiest elements of roguelite deckbuilders, creating a good sense of scaling power balanced with content difficult enough to stop early attempts and force players to learn the intricacies and to acquire starting bonuses. It is a testimony to the accessibility of through the obelisk that multiple tries blocked by the same boss always result in a desire to beat them, equipped with more knowledge and fewer errors in deck building next time around.
During the fight in through the obelisk it’s good and varied, it’s not that innovative either. The cards don’t leave much to the imagination, there’s really only a limited number of archetypes per role once a player has sunk half a dozen hours into the game, and the battles themselves tend to take an inordinate amount of time as a player’s journey progresses. It’s not uncommon for battles to be decided in the early turns, but because through the obelisk really wants his heroes to heal before a battle ends, they can continue until the turn cycle ends favorably. Battles are also a little too squishy right now, with high HP enemies and not enough ways to drop their health quickly.
through the obelisk also has a few versions that work perfectly, and the rest just don’t compare. It’s fun to find them, but once they’re apparent, there’s no reason to do anything else. In fact, as the game gets harder and harder and players increase the difficulty of their runs, the scope of available builds narrows so much that it starts to feel unproductive. Mid-game tweaks just don’t happen enough compared to other titles in the genre – legendary items are either obviously great with themed strategy or unnecessary, and there’s not enough incentive to swing. This can be a blessing – knowing that a race won’t be at the mercy of finding a great weapon for a build – but also makes things much less exciting, with too much drop in the realm of certainty and too little tension. in battles as a result.
All that said, however, there is something at the heart of through the obelisk it makes it fun, which is the main goal of any replayable title like this. Sure, the strategies can shrink and the battles can drag on forever, but finding the perfect combination of party members and wiping out everyone in the way of heroes is always fun. Unlockables like new skins for each hero and skill trees that get upgraded as they travel keep things interesting long enough that multiple playthroughs in a day don’t seem glaring, but there are also a caveat – through the obelisk races take forever, especially in co-op. In single-player mode, a thorough race can take hours, while in multiplayer mode, it can take even longer as people chat and take time to grab their turn.
Globally, through the obelisk is a fun deck-building roguelite that’s no match for the greats of the genre. Its innovations aren’t exactly exciting and the rest is pretty standard, which isn’t a huge blow to the game, as it executes that vanilla approach well. It means that through the obelisk is less likely to suck players into dozens of hours of gameplay, but it’s worth a try for fans of the deck-building roguelite genre. I can’t see myself coming back now when kill the arrow and Roguebook offer much more depthbut I enjoyed my stay with through the obeliskand if there are any major updates, I’ll get my group together for another trip.
through the obelisk is now available on PC. Screen Rant received a PC code for the purposes of this review.
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