Oh roguelike deckbuilders, you are a genre that feels like it’s on the tipping point of becoming oversaturated. For so many years people just wanted Slay the Spire on mobile, and a flood of developers tried to provide just that with their own mobile take on the formula. Then a few years ago we got a real deal Slay the Spire mobile port, and so it kind of seemed like between anyone sticking around with the games inspired by it or those happy with the official port we were pretty satiated with roguelike deckbuilders on mobile. And I probably would have kept thinking that if it wasn’t for Monster Train launching on mobile in October of last year, which showed me that, yes, there was more to be done with this genre.
Mentioning both Slay the Spire and Monster Train was no accident, as those are two of the major influences behind this week’s pick, Gorathar from Guayaba Games, which is more or less just a one person studio. The inspiration for Gorathar came from wanting a mobile game with a fitness component tied in but not being satisfied with the ones that were already out there, and indeed one of the big gimmicks advertised here is that you can connect the game to a Bluetooth stationary bike or cadence sensor and use your exercising to juice up your cards. A cool idea but admittedly a very niche one I’d imagine, and this might be a bigger deal to someone like me if it could somehow hook into Apple’s Fitness app and use data for a variety of activities like simply walking, running, outdoor biking, etc.
Thankfully, though, the fitness component is entirely optional, and the game built around it is absolutely phenomenal on its own merits. One of the things I like most about Gorathar is that it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel as a whole, just maybe bits and pieces of it. It’s very straightforward in a refreshing way compared to some of the pretty complex roguelike deckbuilders out there: Here’s your cards, here’s what they do, here’s the enemies–now go do battle. It shows just enough info to help you make strategic choices without overwhelming you. One of its more unique features is the ability to pay the mana cost to play a card but then turn around and pocket the card for use in the future, be it later in that same battle or an entirely new battle down the line, which opens up some really interesting strategic possibilities.
Not only is Gorathar easy to get into from a gameplay perspective even if you’re a total deckbuilder noob, but it’s also designed extremely well for mobile with one-handed play and mid-game saving in case you need to hop out of the game to answer a call or something. Do people talk on their smartphones? I’m not even sure. Anyway, topping things off Gorathar is entirely free to play with opt-in rewarded ads, and there’s a one-time IAP you can buy to remove those ads, so there’s really no reason not to take this one for a test drive. Gorathar manages to offer a streamlined and approachable roguelike deckbuilding experience built with mobile in mind, but without feeling like yet another in a long line of similar titles from over the years, and given that it’s technically in “early access” release it should only get even better from here on out.