Lies of Astaroth takes the popular card battle formula and pumps it full of anime "charm". Unfortunately, while adding a healthy dollop of style to proceedings, its take on the card collection mechanics simplifies things to the point of patronization.
House of cards
Lies of Astaroth has a simple story. You play as a skilled, but down on your luck, mercenary whose fortunes change upon meeting the envoy to The God of Prophesy.
It is a straightforward tale that wastes no time in getting you into the thick of the action to learn the game's various systems.
That said, Lies of Astaroth has the kind of script that you only find in anime. While in theory this may appeal, in this case the constant non sequiturs and unnecessary interruptions only manage to frustrate and confound your progress as you fight through the world.
As with all collectible card games, Lies of Astaroth’s premise of facing off against wolves, pirates, and monsters with just a flimsy set of cards to defend yourself seems like madness. Luckily, your deck is weaponized.
With the ability to miraculously summon creatures into battle when played, each card is imbued with its own skills and powers. Collecting more cards allows you to build hands to complement one another, utilizing each one´s unique attributes to their best advantage.
Though this is all familiar for fans of the genre, the implementation of the combat may prove a little more surprising as it automates the action to the point that you feel almost redundant. You draw cards from your deck one at a time. As you only ever have one card in hand, there is never a reason not to play it the moment you are able, and when you do it simply fits into the only available slot. It then attacks the other player, dealing damage to them if they have no blockers or reducing the power of their defenders.
This, combined with the fact all of your card and rune abilities activate automatically, left me feeling like a spare part in battles.
Lies of Astaroth is clearly aware of its simplicity. Rather than forcing you to pay attention and tap to place each character on the field (which is an option), it includes an auto button. Once hit, the rest of the fight plays out with no further input.
This moves the focus of the game on to collecting, and selecting, the best cards and runes to make up your deck. Thanks to the touch interface this is a simple process, with a few taps enabling you to add and remove cards.
With a limited number of card slots and resource points available, careful selection can affect your results. Selecting a Flower Fairy for your deck, for example, takes up one of your valuable slots and costs three points. This is quite costly for her low attack and health stats, however, her ability to heal the most damaged member of your team each turn can prove massively beneficial. Later in the game though that same role, and card slot, can be better filled by the far higher cost Saint Hindin.
It’s a satisfying system, especially when you manage to build a powerful deck, but you can never shake the feeling that you would do better by buying more cards.
Two of a kind
There is little technically impressive about Lies of Astaroth’s presentation. With no need for flashy animation, adding razzmatazz is left to the 2D art of the card arts. Individually each is well designed, while also managing to hold together as a part of the whole, with the desperate unit types sitting well together.
The game’s constant background music starts off quite charmingly, but leave any screen idling for too long and you quickly find that it becomes quite insipid. This, combined with the repetitive attack sounds, make this one game where nothing is lost by turning the volume all the way down.
You can choose how to view Lies of Astaroth. On one hand, it is an overly simple card battler that lacks the complexity of games like Heathstone, or even the moment to moment interaction of WWE Supercard. On the other hand, it’s a reasonable team management game that will have you constantly pondering whether or not to invest in new team members when you lose a battle.
Lies of Astaroth is far from perfect, indeed I certainly will not be revisiting it ever again. But, if you want a less involved card battler with some anime window dressing, it is certainly worth a look.