Acolyte of the Altar (PC) Review

I seem to have fallen down a peculiar card-driven rabbit hole recently. As a fan of the CCG genre, I’m not complaining, but it’s interesting how these interests can cycle. My latest obsession is a new PC game called Acolyte of the Altar. This deck-building adventure offers an intriguing twist, though it feels like it needed a bit more development time. Let me explain why this title, despite its potential, feels like a treat that needed a little more time in the oven.

A Colossal Card-Fueled Adventure

Acolyte of the Altar combines elements reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, presenting a series of large monsters for you to face. The game is essentially a card-fueled boss rush, a unique and compelling concept. Unlike traditional CCGs where you face an opponent playing cards against you, here you are up against formidable beasts using their abilities to crush you, while you deploy your deck to take them down. Each enemy boasts a distinct skill set, requiring different strategies to overcome. On paper, this sounds fantastic, but the cracks begin to show once you start playing.

Concept vs. Execution

The idea behind Acolyte of the Altar is solid. The main issue is that it feels like an Early Access title that wasn’t quite ready for full release. If it were still in Early Access, I’d be singing its praises with the caveat that it needs more polish. However, at its current full-release price of nearly £17, it feels lacking. This isn’t to say £17 is a high price for a game, but players expect value for their money, and Acolyte of the Altar currently falls short in the long run.

An Underdeveloped Story

The game’s story introduces a world once ruled by hundreds of gods, now reduced to three deities representing war, nature, and secrets. As an acolyte of one of these gods, your mission is to defeat nine great beasts and make offerings at the altar for the final battle. While the narrative premise is intriguing, there’s not enough of it. The opening cinematics provide the bulk of the story, leaving the rich world underexplored. More world-building and background on the various locations would significantly enhance the game’s depth and immersion.

Linear Progression and Limited Events

For a roguelite, Acolyte of the Altar feels surprisingly linear. You move from battle to battle with limited agency. Unlike other games in the genre that offer branching paths and various activities between encounters, this game offers a straightforward progression with the occasional event. These events, however, are few and repetitive, adding little to the overall experience. The artifacts, or gifts, you receive lack narrative context, further highlighting the game’s underdeveloped elements.

Deck-Building Dynamics

Choosing your allegiance to a deity grants access to their book of cards, representing the spells and creatures you can collect. You select a primary and secondary deity, allowing for dynamic play. However, new cards are scarce, unlocked gradually over many playthroughs. With a maximum of nine beasts per run, experimentation is limited, requiring multiple playthroughs to access all cards. This repetition highlights the game’s limited replayability.

Shortcomings and Potential

Each run in Acolyte of the Altar is short, with a maximum of ten battles. Once you’ve completed the game with all factions, there’s little incentive to return, aside from filling in bits of lore. This lack of long-term engagement is a major drawback, especially given the game’s price. For £17, players expect a game they can revisit repeatedly, discovering new elements each time.

Future Prospects

It’s important to note that Acolyte of the Altar is a new game, and much can change over time. The core gameplay is solid, with monumental and varied battles complemented by a beautiful art style. If the developers expand the story and introduce more activities between encounters, the game could reach its full potential. With more world-building and better event integration, Acolyte of the Altar could become a standout in the CCG market.

For now, if you’re eager to try it, you won’t have a terrible experience, but temper your expectations. For the rest of us, it might be wise to wait for a sale or further updates that flesh out this promising adventure.

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