Dawncaster review
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Dawncaster review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on August 30th, 2023
Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: A NEW DAWN
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This game is nothing new in more ways than one, but it is now bursting with variety and is perhaps the most mobile friendly way to deckbuild around.

Developer: Wanderlost Games

Price: $4.99
Version: 1.10.04
App Reviewed on: iPhone SE

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

Dawncaster is a deck-building roguelite that released for mobile devices back in March of 2021. Why am I writing about it now, then? Well, for starters, I somehow only recently became aware of it. Secondly, the game recently updated to add over 160 new cards for free for all players, making it basically a new game. And finally, I am taking it upon myself to write this not-so-timely review of Dawncaster because for the past two weeks it has been basically the only thing I've been playing and I'm still blown away by the things I am discovering and its ability to bring me back in for another run.

Classy combat

Conceptually, Dawncaster is nothing new. It's a fantasy roguelite deckbuilder where you play as a hero who fights all manner of evil creatures to level up and fine-tune a deck of combat abilities that thwart even the most powerful demons. Along the way, a quest unfolds and there are also other random events outside of combat that can help or hinder you all along the way.

To help guide your deck-building choices, you start each run by choosing a class along with some starting cards and abilities. At first, these class distinctions don't feel super different, but the further you get into a run and gain access to more cards, equipment, talents, etc. the way you play each class (and even the different deck types within a single class) varies quite dramatically.

Perfectly portable

Reading this, you may be asking yourself what makes the different than just playing deck-building heavy hitters like Slay the Spire or Monster Train? The answer for me lies in Dawncaster being a mobile-first title. This game packs all of the same punch of its higher profile competition, but it does so in a portrait-mode package that reads and plays beautifully and smoothly at 60 frames per second while also being easy on your phone's battery.

In addition to its technical performance and presentation, Dawncaster is designed to have combat encounters that take just few minutes while still retaining the depth and strategy of other games it takes inspiration from. This makes it a game you can dip in and out of throughout the day as you creep your way through a grand adventure, but also one that plays fabulously for long stretches.

Draw and redraw

I am not sure how Dawncaster felt before it dumped 160 cards into its library recently, but playing it now I've gone on at least 30 runs and have seen about 75% of the cards it has to offer and only scratched the surface of its more challenging content like the Sunforge. Every new game still feels like a world of possibility, and that's just from playing the game's base quest (you can bolt on three expansions to for $4.99 each).

As high as I am on Dawncaster, though, I do have to acknowledge some of its shortcomings. The first is that--as far as its roguelite design goes--you can screw over your run very easily and you might have to play for upwards of an hour from that point to even realize it. Dawncaster can also really feel like a game where your success is extremely luck dependent, though I fully acknowledge that some of that feeling may fade as my skills at the game develop over time. In either case, though, my overall feelings are ok with these design choices simply because of how easy it is to dive back in to Dawncaster to try and master the game all over again.

The bottom line

I won't try to sit here and tell you that Dawncaster is better than whatever your favorite roguelite deck-builder is, but I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that Dawncaster is the most mobile-friendly one I've played. It feels just as robust and varied as other games like it, but done in a way that makes it so easy to hop into no matter where you are or what you are doing.

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