Review:  Castle Morihisa Is a Clumsy Copy

Screenshot: Castle Morihisa

Castle Morihisa is a roguelike deckbuilding game with role-playing game elements. If you’re familiar with Slay the Spire, you will know what to expect in Castle Morihisa.  While it utilizes a fairly novel setting–for deckbuilders, at least—most other mechanics match almost identically to Slay the Spire’s. It’s not a direct copy, but it’s pretty damn close. And while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Castle Morihisa is a little blatant with only a few changes—and for someone who loves Slay the Spire, that’s both good and bad.

While Castle Morihisa has a whole bunch in common with Slay the Spire, I figured it would be easier to say what it does differently. Its classic Japanese fantasy setting is markedly different than Slay the Spire’s style of fantasy. And while mechanically Castle Morihisa has many of the same parts, it does change the way the overworld works and adds a skill tree that changes with each playthrough.

Screenshot: Castle Morihisa

I do appreciate that Castle Morihisa changes some things. Its overworld is a step back from Slay the Spire. Instead of branching paths, you are just given an option between different encounters with no idea of what is coming up beyond those. On the other hand, I like the idea of the skill tree—even if it just takes the burden off of the Artifacts, which are Castle of Morihisa’s version of Relics. Another change, and one I like, is how Castle Morihisa deals with vendors—you can buy cards after every encounter, instead of having to stop at a shop.

But other than those changes, Castle Morihisa shares the same style of turn-based card combat. You have a certain number of action points that can be spent to play cards in your hand against your opponent or opponents. Once all of your opponents are defeated, you win that encounter. There are different types of cards you can play, like skill cards, attacks, and defense cards. You can create some pretty powerful synergy, and that’s needed: enemies scale up considerably as you progress through Castle Morihisa, making the deck you’re building sometimes feel weak. Even when some cards (especially starting cards) are upgraded, they seem completely useless near the end of a run. You not only have to build your deck smartly, but you have to build your character using the skill tree to get maximum synergy—and that’s just to survive.

Screenshot: Castle Morihisa

There are four different characters/decks you can play as in Castle Morihisa. Each of these have a unique playstyle, but there is a lot of overlap. I would say that most deckbuilders do a good job of differentiating their characters, but Castle Morihisa tends to feel same-y. Don’t get me wrong, each character definitely skews their own way, and have their own twist on the mechanics—but there are a lot of abilities and cards in each deck that are similar to others. The Monk and Onmyoji are unlocked by default, and you have to complete the game to unlock the Samurai and Ninja. But as far as progression, that’s it.

After my first successful run in Castle of Morihisa, I was almost surprised that was all there was. It doesn’t seem like there’s any sort of meta progression at all. While most deck builders allow you to unlock new cards you can find on later runs, or otherwise incentivize you to keep going, the only carrot that Castle Morihisa dangles are its other playable characters. No extra difficulties or ascension levels, either.

Screenshot: Castle Morihisa

Surprisingly, the presentation in Castle Morihisa is one of its best features. It has decent art and soundtrack, and I really dig its setting.  The card art is pretty good, and the enemies look sufficiently menacing. The animations aren’t too great, but that’s par for the course for most deck builders.

While Castle Morihisa takes a lot from Slay the Spire, it manages to be fun. I mean, Slay the Spire is already fun, and it’s hard to go wrong when you make such a blatant copy. Unfortunately, the things that Castle Morihisa does to differentiate itself—like the skill tree and overworld map—end up feeling clumsy, and half-baked, even if I do like the idea developer Smokingbear Studio was going for. However, Castle Morihisa can’t overcome  the fact that it’s a copy of a superior game. That isn’t’ to say that Castle Morihisa is a bad game, and if you’re a fan of Slay the Spire you might get some amusement from it.

 

Castle Morihisa is available tomorrow for PC on Steam and on Nintendo Switch.

 

 

 

 

A Steam key was provided to us for this review.

Antal Bokor
Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian.
He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.

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