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Oakenfold Review – Time-Bending Roguelike

Oakenfold is a turn-based strategy roguelike developed by Rutger Van Dijk and published by Studio Taghua. It’s set for a Steam release on November 17, 2022 and features a clever time-reversable mechanic called TimeScrubber where you can reverse your moves and undo mistakes. I have seen other games that allow you to rewind time, such as 2020’s Iron Danger, so I was keen to see how it was implemented in this game. While reusable, TimeScrubber is not just an ez-mode to reset your errors, rather it’s a method to perfect your limited-moves strategies to protect precious crates from alien creatures and bosses in procedurally generated levels. It was quite fun to experiment using skills and different moves knowing you can just rewind time and try other combinations.

Asha is one of the last humans left on Earth. A young woman on the brink of its extinction, she is the final hope for humanity in a world that treats her like a virus. Asha grows up living in defense. With her father by her side, they survive the apocalypse by trekking through the wastelands of the Himalayan region. Ever the mentor, her father injects a final hope for humanity in his daughter: his life’s work, the last human settlement, the biodome called Oakenfold. It will launch into the stars with the last remnants of humanity aboard, ready to start anew. While they embarked on one of their many journeys to the power plant, her father, and the rest of their collection team, perished in a biocide attack, where he protected Asha from getting stabbed by shielding her with his own body. Though the death of her father is painful, Asha must continue the mission the two of them had set out to complete: to retrieve the last of the fuel-packed crates to power up Oakenfold’s systems.

When we start a new game, we must first choose one of three mindsets for Asha – Survival, Agile and Scientific. Each gives a descriptor of the overall skill abilities available for Asha, and you can choose from three difficulties – normal, difficult or insane. Scientific skills have a melee attack, deploy a RoboSweeper to seek out biocide bugs, and a Quantum Switch that will swap positions with a target. The survival mindset gives you a melee power glove to punch bugs, a hook that pulls a monster one tile towards you and a grenade that damages and pushes bugs. Finally, the agile mindset gives you backstab where you jump over your target and push it, flying knee where you jump and damage a target, and void bomb which is similar to grenade but pulls adjacent units along with it. Next you will be faced with an area overview with multiple objectives and several paths leading to a boss encounter. Each point on the path has varying objectives to achieve that will give bonuses, but you need to survive the listed number of waves without losing crates.

Starting with 12 moves, you will have a number of crates and technology you need to protect for a set number of waves. Early on there are just two waves but it depends on the branching path you choose and gets more difficult as you progress through the game. The game prompts you to experiment with your skills, knowing that you can easily reverse time using the scroll mouse wheel or pressing a step on the TimeScrubber bar in the top right of the screen. There is also a Timebank button that you can press to store extra moves. This is useful if you can’t do anything further on your current turn or to store actions to use later or to craft items.

After using your first 12 moves, any biocide bugs that are left will make their attack move, and if you didn’t manage to kill them or at least shunt them out of range of a crate, they will attack. You can only lose a maximum of 6 crates before the game is over and you must restart. If you do kill a monster, they will drop energy orbs that you collect and can then craft upgrades for skills if you are able to move next to a crafting station. The next wave will respawn more bugs which could block you in or Some levels will have fortifying plants or healing plants, and they are worth taking out if you can afford the moves. If a bug gets next to a healing plant when it has full health, it will form into an elite enemy which has modified abilities and is tougher to take out.

If you do get killed by a sandworm or a boss, or lose 6 crates over your gameplay, your run will be over and it’s permadeath – no going back after that. You are given a score summary showing how long you lasted, energy and timebank collected, missions completed as well as energy and timebank unspent. This gives you a final score and will give you your worldwide rank against how other players faired, with leaderboards accessed from the game’s main menu. In addition, there are Weekly Escapes from the game’s menu too. These are weekly updated set playthroughs where all players will be offered the same challenges and choices. This will allow players to repeatedly play through it trying to get the best score to sit top of the leaderboard.

Overall, Oakenfold has a great TimeScrubber mechanic that adds more dynamics to the standard roguelike affair allowing you to tweak your turns for better outcomes. The nature of the bug movements and respawns each wave means you can’t just rewind every mistake and you need to think a few moves ahead. Rather than being caught checkmate, you can just rewind and tweak a few key pieces to alter the outcome of your journey. Asha’s three mindsets allows you to change up your gameplay and replayability is at an all-time high with worldwide leaderboards.

This review utilised a key provided by Pirate PR and Oakenfold is set for a Steam release on November 17, 2022.


Written by: @ChrisJInglis

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