Against the Moon
Developer: Code Heretic
Publisher: Black Tower
Genre: Roguelike, Deckbuilder
Age Rating: N/A
Release Date: 24/09/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Against the Moon is a turn-based roguelike deck builder with gameplay being a blend of Plants vs Zombies and Slay the Spire. As a big fan of Slay the Spire, what did I think? Find out in this Rapid Review.
The Moon is Bad (I Think?)
Against the Moon has detailed and complex lore which, to be quite honest, I struggled to comprehend. From what I could grasp, the moon is against you and some of the moon’s friends also stand in your way. To aid in the battle against the moon (see what I did there), there are some powerful heroes called “Ultori” who offer unique abilities and are the last line of defence.
Although I couldn’t understand much of the story, it didn’t detract from my gameplay experience at all. In-game, the opposing teams are easy to distinguish so I always knew who my opponents were despite never truly understanding why I was fighting them.
It All Adds Up in the End
Combat in Against the Moon can initially seem complicated but the core gameplay is simple. The grid offers 12 spaces where character cards can be placed. With unique abilities, health and attack power, the squad members can be arranged to attack the enemies as well as absorb damage to stop the Arx from being damaged.
So, what’s the Arx? The Arx is essentially the life force of the squad. When the damage reaches the Arx, the health points will go down and if it reaches 0 then it’s a game over. The enemy team also has an Arx-figure and when that reaches 0 (thanks to a successful attack routine) the enemy loses and a win is declared!
Like in Slay the Spire, there’s a limited amount of “mana” that can be used in each round. Because of this, gameplay becomes a careful balance between attacking the enemy whilst also ensuring the Arx is protected. The reduced mana meant that there were times when my only option was to be damaged if I wanted to attack the enemy. Overall, the combat in Against the Moon shaped up to be excellent, requiring forward-thinking and careful planning.
Against the Moon features three different “missions”: Prologue, Monstro and Luma Run. The prologue serves as a voice-acted tutorial with cutscenes and an introduction to the world. Monstro serves as a standard linear campaign where progress is saved and the Arx resets to full health in each level. Monstro was my favourite mode of Against the Moon as I’m not a massive fan of roguelikes.
I must say that I spent ten hours on the Monstro mode, restarting battles to try and defeat the enemy. Once the 10-hour mark was hit, although I was on the final level, I did have to leave so I could check out the main roguelike mode of Against the Moon. Nevertheless, the time I did have with Monstro was fun with its unique abilities and cards.
The main mode of Against the Moon is Luna Run: a roguelike with difficulty selection, permadeath and a randomised layout. I managed to complete a full Luna Run on the easiest difficulty and enjoyed my time despite not usually being a fan of roguelikes. I fought several levels of enemies with Arx damage being carried over until the end. This added a level of tension to the game, making me especially careful with my moves. An incorrect move would not only result in a level failure but my entire run would also be ruined. In between levels I could add new cards to my deck or upgrade a card or two from my current deck. As far as a roguelike mode goes, I think Against the Moon has perfected it; there’s a fine balance between having control of your deck but also a level of uncertainty as to what foes will lie in the next stage.
Against the Moon features post-apocalyptic environments with a pastel design. I very much enjoyed these backgrounds with each one providing a unique atmosphere despite the gameplay itself being very similar throughout.
In the two-story parts of the game, cutscenes are also prevalent with beautiful hand-drawn designs and although there is not much in the way of animation, the storybook quality it provides is great.
Sound and Speech
The game’s music was a pleasant surprise with a techno style which sounds wholly cinematic. In terms of speech, the best I can say is that the voice actors had a lot of enthusiasm for this project. Lines are presented in an incredibly exaggerated way that just did not sound right to me. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your take) the voice acting only occurs in the prologue and the opening cinematic. Although it would have been nice to see voice acting in the Monstro campaign, the text still delivers a narrative.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Against the Moon. The deckbuilding elements work well alongside the point-based combat system. My favourite mode was Monstro and with more content promised for the future, I’m excited to see what the new campaigns will deliver. That’s not to say the main roguelike mode is bad. Far from terrible, Luna offers genuine tension when choosing which moves to perform. Ultimately, Against the Moon is an easy recommendation I can give for those who enjoy deck builders and rich lore.