Oakenfold review

2022-11-17 by George P

  • Reviewed on

  • Platforms


  • Developer
    Rutger van Dijk

  • Publisher
    Studio Taghua

Planning, Scavenging, Fighting

Oakenfold is a tactical turn-based roguelike game set in a post-apocalyptic world that incorporates both sci-fi and dieselpunk elements. In Oakenfold, you assume the role of Asha, one of the last surviving humans on Earth and a young but highly skilled fighter, scavenger, and hunter. In a world ravaged by an intrusive and unstoppable biological virus that has altered the entire ecosystem, Asha will have to carefully navigate her surrounding environment to not only ensure her own survival, but also the survival of all that remains of humanity. The Biocides, a deadly type of invasive species that have emerged due to the virus, act as the game’s main antagonists and as the main obstacle in Asha’s endeavors to save her fellow survivors. Without any way to reverse the plague that has consumed Earth and repel the Biocides, Asha will have to find and scavenge sufficient fuel packages scattered around the region to power up the Oakenfold, a biodome-spaceship built for human inhabitancy that will act as humanity’s core settlement after escaping to space. And while the game’s overall premise is interesting, the story never fully develops into a fleshed-out adventure and is not a particularly significant element of the greater gameplay loop. This is of course not in any way uncommon in most roguelikes which usually prioritize mechanics and general setting over detailed lore, and is therefore not a large issue in Oakenfold as well.

The gameplay is Oakenfold’s bread and butter and takes the form of a procedurally-generated roguelike journey with each level providing a difficult challenge that will test even experienced players. The goal of most levels is to simply survive while also protecting the precious crates of Dilithium, the necessary fuel to power up the Oakenfold spacecraft. On each level, you will have to survive multiple waves of Biocides by understanding mechanical nuances and successfully utilizing your abilities, movement, and the game’s interactive objects to counter the enemy’s charge. And while Oakenfold’s principal mechanics appear simple at first, the game cleverly reveals a much greater level of depth and complexity that becomes apparent as you advance forward.

Rewinding and Replaying

Oakenfold describes itself as a “time-reversible strategy game” and through its distinct and notably confident design vision, it manages to blur the lines between genres by combing the more traditional tactical turn-based formula that we are used to with puzzle elements. In-game you are equipped with the “TimeScrubber”, a device that allows you to rewind time and gives you the opportunity to discover the ideal method of “solving” each level. The game even expands on that concept of optimal paths by introducing side-objectives specific to each level that upon completion will reward the player with bonuses such as additional energy points. These range from simple tasks of gathering specific items to more challenging ones such as protecting your robot allies or making Biocide enemies hit each other. While playing, I found that these side objectives not only provided an additional layer of depth but also helped me better understand the game’s foundational mechanics and refine my approaches to strategy.

Oakenfold features the classic roguelike overworld map which connects individual levels together and through it, you will have the opportunity to pave a route between nodes each with its own unique characteristics and level-specific properties. At the end of each overworld map you will also face off against a gigantic Biocide boss monster and if you manage to survive its attacks and protect your cargo you will be able to travel to the next area. Much of the game’s roguelike essence and foundations are based on the mechanic of the crafting station, an object found within levels that the player can interact with by spending energy points. Through the crafting station, the player will be able to acquire new skills, upgrade abilities, discover synergies, and construct a highly diverse range of character builds. At the beginning of each run, you also get to choose between three “mindsets” for the character of Asha that will determine her starting skills and capabilities. These are survival which focuses on straightforward resolutions and a balanced skillset; Agile which focuses on movement, mobility, and smart positioning; and scientific which focuses on advanced combos and more experimental abilities and is arguably the hardest to use effectively out of the three options. And while these mindset pre-sets are certainly beneficial additions that increase both depth and complexity, some additional elements to increase replayability would be very much welcome in the future as the game can feel slightly repetitive after a while.

Tactical Clarity and Strategical Cohesion

What becomes immediately obvious even within the first run in the game is just how polished, well-thought-out, consistent, and cleverly planned Oakenfold is on multiple levels. First of all, the game’s visual presentation is refined and mechanically well-coordinated with clean graphics, smooth animations, and responsive interactions. The design of the UI is especially brilliant. It is modern, slick, and minimalist while always providing a clear and comprehensive overview of every single mechanic and gameplay element that the player needs to be aware of. And in a game all about strategy and optimization, great UI design is absolutely a giant bonus that makes the overall experience less frustrating and more fluid. Even the tutorial, which is incorporated into the game’s UI, is very well-thought-out and provides a very smooth learning curve. I never felt overwhelmed with the amount of new information that I had to consider and every time Oakenfold introduced a new mechanic it felt like a nice addition rather than a troublesome worry.

Similarly to the visual presentation, the game’s sound design is also polished and well-coordinated with the tactical gameplay elements, and once again helps make the experience feel more snappy and responsive. Beyond visual and auditory cohesion, Oakenfold is also highly competent when it comes to technical execution and I personally never encountered any bugs or issues even while playing a pre-release version of the game. And while Oakenfold manages to reach a high level of polish and competence that is unfortunately where the game's ceiling of quality also stops. The visual presentation, for example, is as previously mentioned good and well-integrated into the gameplay itself but there is nothing really special about it. On many occasions, it can even feel very generic and repetitive. The same goes for the audio and music which once again are adequate and decent in quality but not special in any form. The same can be said for many other elements within the game both in regard to presentation and gameplay: they are competent but not special. While Oakenfold is smart, well-designed, and proficiently executed it lacks dynamic charm or a strong personality. The game, therefore, produces an experience that, while certainly fun and complex, is not as engaging, memorable, and exceptional as it could truly be.


Oakenfold is a cleverly designed and very competently executed turn-based strategy/puzzle roguelike that is both enjoyable and replayable, but unfortunately lacks any sense of strong charisma and is less engaging than it could truly be