Mahokenshi is in an interesting position because it’s coming out in an era where popularizing digital card games seems to be all the rage. That is to say, it’s not the only fish in the sea presently but that’s not a bad thing. You see, Mahokenshi aims to separate itself from the lot by focusing on its own elements and philosophies that grant it a lot of depth to work with. To put it simply: you’re not just collecting cards here.
Announced last year, Game Source Studio’s Mahokenshi is currently making the rounds through the press preview circuit as it looks to combine Japanese aesthetics and mythologies with Western game design. We recently had a go at it, and really had a chance to dig into this apparent blend of adventure, strategy, and deck building as we discover what becoming a samurai mage is all about.
Booting up Mahokenshi throws you right into the midst of your first mission, or the main strategy content you’ll be playing through as you explore the Celestial Islands. These missions have stories of their own – the first one opens with rumors of rebels and uprisings and darker forces leading to the disappearance of villagers. Naturally, it’s up to you to go and investigate.
From the start, Mahokenshi’s colorful visuals open up a hexagonal map of sorts. Simply move about each tile as you mark your travel path, planning as you go before confirming your trail. You have to be careful, however, as each action consumes an Energy cost. The amount of energy you have per turn is displayed at the bottom of the screen. In this case, we’re started out with four. Ending the turn by way of an hourglass icon on the opposite end of the screen will then refill said energy and you can go again.
Whilst many of the tiles consist of terrain, there are some labeled as Event tiles marked with a glowing scroll. Going here will offer up unique stories that net rewards and even allow you to make choices that give you certain benefits over others. The events are interesting because they paint the picture of individuals, adding to the lore of the world and ultimately gifting you items (usually cards) to use later on. Because this is a strategy game that uses said cards, they’re going to be important going forward.
In Mahokenshi, the cards you have in your deck will display at the bottom of the screen. Simply drag and drop whichever card you’d like to use on any given tile and it’s good to go. Cards come equipped with an Energy, a Discard or a Gold cost so you’ll have to consider which card to use in the right situation. For example, a Safe Travel card will get you across some rocky terrain while Strike cards can be used in combat.
Enemies will appear on the map and can be approached using your turns. Once a battle is initiated, you’ll pull out your deck and keep mindful of how many turns you have in play. Each card is marked with an energy cost and once you hit zero, you’ll have to end your turn and wait for the enemy to make their move.
Other things of note include landmarks, which can be found around each map. By interacting with a landmark, you have the ability to buy new cards to your advantage. Deck building is the main draw of the game, aside from the adventure aspect so you’ll spend a good amount of time doing just that. Just remember, your deck will reset at the start of each mission.
In addition to building your deck, Mahokenshi allows you to craft your samurai mage. You’ll be able to choose one of four samurai houses to build up different abilities and strengths. They’re color-coded but also adhere to specific attributes. The House of Ruby, for example, favors offensive over defense while the House of Topaz values knowledge and powerful spells. On the other hand, the House of Jade favors lethal traps like poison while the House of Sapphire relies on heavy armor and brutal strength. It’s an interesting feature set that adds to the overall character-building experience. You’re not just playing a card game, Mahokenshi wants you to go on an adventure.
There’s still a lot to unpack with Mahokenshi because it’s more than just a basic card game. The first several missions serve up a full experience, not only in the amount of customization from your character to the deck building itself, but also the overall presentation. Mahokenshi has no shortage of color and the detailed painted artwork along with the 3D world makes it easy on the eyes. It’s clear there’s a lot of love going in here as we approach the full January 2023 release, and it’ll be interesting to see how the final version improves and stands out.
TechRaptor previewed Mahokenshi on PC using a preview code provided by the publisher.