Goblinz Publishing has been well-known for releasing tactical games such as Hero’s Hour and Banners of Ruin. Let’s take a deep dive into what this game offers in our Oaken beginner’s guide to save you the headache of suffering from unnecessary deaths.
Game Mechanics In A Nutshell
For a turn-based hex tactical strategy game, I am surprised with the content that this early access offers. If you’ve played card games such as Hearthstone or Legends of Runeterra, then Oaken is pretty easy to pick up. But don’t get fooled by its simple mechanics because it also involves long-term strategy.
The game reminds us of Wizard’s Chess from a Harry Potter scene so it’s no surprise that we got hooked on the gameplay.
Explore story chapters with different paths while building your deck. Once your hero dies during a level, you only have one chance to try again. Die a second time and you start from the beginning so this is where the roguelike elements come into play.
This chess game feels repetitive but you’re always introduced to different scenarios keeping the game fresh. Mastering how the Line of Sight (LoS) works in Oaken will give you the upper hand in playing through its levels.
Getting Familiar With Your Deck
Assuming you’ve completed the tutorial after dying a couple of times, the game actually starts off with you playing as The Lady who is the main Hero of the game. As you progress in Oaken, you’ll have the chance to meet other guides who can change the way you strategize every time you venture to a new playthrough.
After playing the tutorial, you’ll get introduced to Aya as your first guide which gives you one unique buff and skill that your hero can use. In this case, you’ll receive the following:
- Aya’s Spiky Seeds – Enemies on green hexagons take one damage at the end of your turn.
- Piercing Thorn – Deal one damage to an enemy in your LoS.
I like how the exploration is implemented in Oaken because you get to familiarize yourself with the cards the longer you immerse in the mystical forests. But we’re not gonna tackle every spirit, spell, or guide that you pick up in Oaken. We want you to experience it yourself.
Take time to familiarize yourself with the Deck section as this will serve as your “war room” for planning your next strategies, especially with the Trinkets and Wisps that you’ll be picking up along your playthrough which we’ll discuss later.
The World Map
Oaken offers a unique twist to your deck-building adventure through its tree-like world map. The art style looks minimalistic and decent for my taste. Here’s a summary of possible scenarios that you can play inside each chapter.
- Event – This is a level where you’re given a list of choices depending on a certain event. See this example below.
- Refuge – This is a scenario where you can either receive a wisp, heal some fatigue, or spend your Lumi Dust to get either a spell, a spirit card, or a wisp.
- Secret – This is a special level that gives you the chance to get a new guide which gives a new set of cards and abilities at your disposal once you complete the objectives.
- Battle – If you want to build your spirit deck (or chess pieces as I would like to call them), then picking Battle levels is a quick way to train your army.
- Encounter – This is a level where you get rewarded with a Wisp if you fulfill its objectives. Bonus objectives usually involve defending a spirit or structure.
- Elite – Defeat a hero or take on hard objectives and get a Trinket as a reward.
- Boss – This is the final level of a chapter in Oaken where you get two rewards once you’ve defeated the boss.
Card Enhancements You Need To Know
Oaken has this unique mechanic for upgrading your cards making deck experimenting fun. Here’s a list of terminologies that you need to take note of.
- Wisps are enhancements that can help your spirits in surviving longer. Effects vary from giving your spirits traits such as Elusive or Defender to providing buffs and debuffs to both allies and enemies.
- Trinkets give your hero passive buffs to make your battles easier. That’s why you would only get them in Elite and Boss levels (or sometimes in Events if you get lucky).
- Lumi Globes are used to upgrade deck spells and hero spells. Take note that upgrading hero spells are more expensive.
- Lumi Dust is Oaken’s in-game currency (no microtransactions here) that you can use to upgrade your spirit cards. You can even spend this during certain events too so sometimes I save up all of this dust to get better cards.
Tips & Tricks For A Zen Playthrough
Oaken takes us to a mythical world where we test our wits in beating the threats that are upon us through tactical hex-grid action.
The game is very dynamic with every story cycle feeling different once you finish a chapter plus the roguelike elements keep you playing for more. Unlocking new cards also keeps the game’s loop fresh, presenting you with new strategies to beat your enemies.
We know that roguelikes can get irritating especially if you’re new to this genre and you’re not used to dying frequently. So here are some tips and tricks to at least help you die less and keep you playing for hours without the risk of rage quitting.
- Don’t exhaust your cards too early. If you’re starting out in the first half of the provided chapter, do not attempt to play unstable cards. The best way to go all out is if you’re at the Boss level. All your cards replenish to the next chapter once you’ve defeated the boss.
Exhaust cards if your World Map path presents Refuge levels. That way, even if you restore your deck, you can also recover your hero’s fatigue as if nothing happened.
- Upgrade your cards if your current deck is getting fatigued. I actually figured this out late after playing over 10 hours of Oaken. There are cases where Refuge levels don’t pop out often. So an alternative solution is upgrading your cards by spending Lumi Dust. Also, your hero only recovers fatigue in a Refuge event while spirits don’t. Keep that in mind.
- Check your spirit’s LoS. Placing your spirit (or “chess”) pieces properly can greatly turn the tide of battle. Try to think where the enemy will move and strike next. Take note that your spirits can fight back when it’s the enemy’s turn already.
- You can undo your moves during your turn. There’s no shame in reversing your decision in a tactical strategy game. We all make mistakes. But if you want an added challenge, you can choose not to do this.
- Hover your mouse in the End Turn icon. Doing this simple action will give you an idea of which enemies are going to get cleared from the board improving your decision making if it’s even necessary to take a strike at the expense of your health.
- Pick the path of least resistance. This tip is subjective depending on the strength of your deck. Sometimes, you don’t need to overpower your spirits too much if you’ve gotten good Wisps during your explorations.
- Don’t get disheartened if you die. That’s the point of roguelike games. You get better the longer you play.
And that about wraps up our Oaken beginner’s guide! Feel free to bookmark this or leave your other tips in the comment section. We’d love to hear from you.
If you’re into hex-based strategy games such as this one, then you might be interested in taking a look at our Dorfromantik review.