REVIEW / Acolyte of the Altar (PC)

I seem to have fallen down a weird card-driven rabbit hole lately. I love the CCG genre so I’m not complaining, it’s just odd how these things feel like they run in cycles. The game I’ve been playing most recently is a new PC offering called Acolyte of the Altar. This deck-building adventure has an interesting twist, I’m just not sure how much this adds to the finished product. I’ll explain as we go why this is a treat that I think needed a little bit more time in the oven.

Acolyte of the Altar brings in an element of Shadow of the Colossus, in that you’re going to be going toe to toe with a series of large monsters. This title is basically a card-fuelled boss rush and that in and of itself is a really cool idea. We aren’t thinking about an opponent playing cards against us, but rather one using its abilities to smash us to pieces while we use our cards to try and eliminate it. Each of the enemies you’ll face have vastly different skill sets and you’ll need to approach each match with a different strategy if you’re going to win. On paper this sounds like a really good time, it’s only when you start playing that some cracks begin to show.

None of the beasts should be underestimated, each has wickedly powerful abilities.

I don’t have an issue with Acolyte of the Altar‘s concept. My issue is that it feels like this is an Early Access title that isn’t finished enough to have gotten a full release. If I were playing this as an Early Access game it would have gotten a really good preview with the caveat that more still needed to be done. As a full-release, there isn’t enough present to warrant the rather steep price tag of nearly £17. Please note that I’m not saying £17 is particularly expensive for a game, just that you want your money’s worth and I’m not sure you’re going to be getting it, at least not in the long term.

Gifts are powerful but scarce. You’ll need to choose wisely.

The first problem with Acolyte of the Altar is the story. We are taken to a world where hundreds of gods once ruled. Over time they have been killed off and now only the three most powerful remain. The last three deities, (representing war, nature, and secrets,) are tied in power and this is where you come in. You will take the role of an Acolyte of one of the gods and will have to use the powers and gifts presented to you to tip the scales. You will need to defeat nine great beasts and take an offering from each to the altar where your final battle will take place. I haven’t got any issues with the story, my problem is that there isn’t enough of it. I strongly recommend watching the opening cinematics because this is all the plot you’ll be getting. You’ll learn more about the beasts you’re facing but only after defeating them several times. This is such an interesting world, I just want to immerse myself more in it than I’m currently able. We travel to different locations but aren’t told much about them. More world-building would do Acolye of the Altar a lot of favors.

You’ll encounter a few events, these are limited though. More would be greatly appreciated.

For a roguelite Acolye of the Altar feels very linear. You move from battle to battle with no real agency in your actions. Most games of this type would have a map with branching paths giving you the option to shop for cards, complete events, or battle onwards. This title doesn’t have this and you move from encounter to encounter with the odd event thrown in. The events aren’t numerous so you’ll see the same things cropping up over and over again and they don’t alter the story in any way or change the battles you’re going to face. You’ll get a boon for completing them but it doesn’t feel like there is any real weight to this and it’s just padding the game out as opposed to something that could really change the path ahead of you. You are also granted a choice of two gifts at various junctures. These are very useful artifacts but, (again with the lack of story,) we aren’t told anything about them. The overall lack of substance is noticeable and doesn’t bode well for players who like to invest in a game over time.

You’ll have to think hard about the cards you choose, having a balanced deck is vital.

When you select your allegiance to a deity you are given access to their book of cards, these obviously represent the spells and creatures you’ll be able to collect during play. You’ll select a primary deity and then a secondary one. This means you’ll have access to more of one type of card than another but allows for dynamic play, which is cool. The issue here is that you’ll only come across new cards over a lot of play runs. You’ll gain a new card each time you defeat one of the great beasts and as there is only a maximum of nine of these that you’ll face on a run it doesn’t allow for much experimentation. You will have to play this title multiple times if you’re going to get the chance to use everything. This brings me to the last and possibly most important issue with Acolyte of the Altar.

The bestiary will expand with your victories.

Each run in Acolyte of the Altar isn’t going to be very long because there isn’t much to do in between battles and there will only be a maximum of ten of these. This means that when you’ve completed the game with all of the different factions there isn’t currently a lot to go back for. You’ll want to see as many of the cards as you can and fill the bestiary but as far as the story goes there isn’t much room for expansion in the current build. This is my ultimate argument when it comes down to the price. For £17 I’d want a game that I can go back to for quite a while and still feel like I’m experiencing new things. I’ve done five or six complete runs now and almost completed the game twice. With this in mind, I think I’d complete the main objective pretty quickly and just be going back to fill in bits of lore that I’d missed. With nothing really new to find in-game, I don’t think I’d play much in the long run.

Everything I’ve just mentioned comes with a very important caveat. We’re talking about the current build of a very new game and a lot could change over time. Acolyte of the Altar is fun to play and has some really interesting mechanics; that’s two thirds of the way to being a great game, but it’s being let down by a lack of depth. If they pad out the story and make the experience longer by giving us more to do between encounters it would have a lot more going for it.

The gameplay itself is solid and I really like the fact that each battle feels monumental and different, the art style being used is also gorgeous. If they can make the rest of the experience feel as fulfilling as the gameplay this will be worth every penny, but as it is it’s just not quite hitting the asking price. With more world-building and a better balance of events other than battles, this could be a brilliant entry to the CCG market but at the moment it feels like it could have done with a tad longer in development. If you absolutely must play you aren’t going to have an awful experience but don’t expect miracles. I think, maybe the rest of us would do well to buy this one on sale, at least until things feel more fleshed out.

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

The essence of brilliance

  • Look and feel 8/10
  • Mechanics 8/10
  • Story 6/10
  • Challenge 7/10
  • Replayability 6/10
  • Value for Money 6/10


Fun while it lasts

This is a short burst of fun but over simplified graphics and a short run time won’t offer any more than that. This title is fine for the price but won’t be winning any awards for shooter fans.

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