Bite-sized Review:
Acolyte of the Altar

Developer: Black Kite Games

Release Date: 25 March, 2024

Platform: Windows

Genre: Card Battler

By Chris Picone, 14 March 2024

Acolyte of the Altar is an interesting take on the deck-building card battler genre in that while everything is "normal" on the player's side, the monsters you're battling don't use a card system at all and there a small range of other unusual mechanics. It's generic enough to feel comfortable and familiar but innovative enough to be interesting and engaging.


Most of the special effects were fairly minimal, the typical sort of "slash attack" animation, but some - the mushroom's spore attack, for example, is fantastic.  I love the card art too; lovely and detailed but with an aesthetic that really feels unique to this game. More importantly for this sort of game, the UI is really clean and easy to read.  The text on the cards could maybe use a little more polish but it's easy to understand and otherwise all the information you need is available at a glance.


You start with a hand of cards and draw a new card every turn - if there's no cards to draw, it's game over.  In your turn you can play as many cards as you like (as long as you have the mana) and you get one chance to attack.  Unusually, you gain one mana each turn, stacking (so 2 mana in turn 2, 3 mana in turn 3, etc.).  Even more unusually, most cards are creatures, but they usually come with some sort of passive ability.  This is the key to success; after each battle you gain a new card which replaces an old card, but it's more about creating synergy with your abilities rather than just gaining more powerful cards.  There are three core "decks" to play with, and they attract significantly different play styles.  However, where this game really separates itself from others in the genre, is in how the monsters play their turns.  They don't have a card system at all; instead, they fight back at you with a range of traits and set abilities that activate based on a set of timer and rage system that tick up as you deal damage or each time you attack. Sometimes they're attacks on you or your creatures, other times you're punished for certain actions, and plenty of variety otherwise. It's a really cool system that forces you to continuously adapt your playstyle each battle which is super cool. Oh and if the game's somehow too easy for you there are a bunch of handicaps you can activate. 



Acolyte of the Altar could use a touch more variety in the monsters you face as you progress through each run for more playability but there's already plenty there.  That's about the only fault I can pick; otherwise, this is a very strong new entry to the genre, and the unusual monster rage system is a very cool new mechanic.  I can't think of a good reason why any deck builder / card battler fan wouldn't love Acolyte of the Altar.