As I have been a fan of card games since I was pretty young I was intrigued when I first saw Against the Moon. In recent years the video game industry has really started to embrace card games. From games like Hearthstone, Slay the Spire and Hands of Fate there have been quite a few games that have done a great job utilizing video game elements to supplement physical card games. While I hadn’t heard a lot about Against the Moon, from snippets of gameplay it looked like a really interesting take on the digital card game genre. Against the Moon is a fun and challenging digital card game that while not perfect is a game that fans of the genre should enjoy.
Against the Moon takes place in the post-apocalypse. Humanity is on the brink of extinction. Humanity has been ravaged by beasts called Furos which were created by humans but are now controlled by another force. Humanity has one last stronghold, Arx, to protect the last survivors. Things have been somewhat calm for a while as the Ultori (superhumans) protect the citizens from the Furo threats. The Furo threat is growing though and putting all of Arx in danger. Can you successfully lead the Ultori and finally put an end to the Furo threat?
At its core Against the Moon is a deckbuilding game. You don’t technically have cards but instead have various units and magical abilities that you can summon. The gameboard is divided into three lanes with each lane consisting of four spaces. On each turn you will be given an amount of energy which you can spend to summon your units/magic. You can increase this amount by either placing certain units or using magic cards. Magic cards can give you additional energy, help your units, or hurt your opponent’s units. Units will be placed on a spot in one of the lanes and they will attack and defend that lane. Each unit has an attack and a health number. Some of the units also have special abilities. When you have used all of your energy or have chosen not to use the rest of it, the turn ends and the units on both sides attack one another. All units who have run out of health are eliminated from the board. If you or your opponent deal more damage in a lane than the health of the units defending that lane, damage will be dealt directly to the other player’s leader. Whomever’s leader runs out of health first will lose the battle.
After you successfully win a match you will receive rewards. There are a number of different rewards for winning a battle. One is increasing the health of your leader for the rest of the current journey/mission. Others allow you to upgrade various aspects of your team to make it more powerful for your future battles. In each battle the back rows of each of your lanes will be filled with your Ultori. Your Ultori work like normal units except that they are usually more powerful and give your other units other boosts. They also have a special ability which can be used once you acquire enough energy. As you continue your journey you can acquire skill points which upgrade your Ultori. You can also acquire additional cards or remove cards from your deck. Finally each card in your deck can be upgraded which unlocks additional abilities whenever it is played.
On the Steam page the developers say that Against the Moon was inspired by games such as Slay the Spire, Hands of Fate, and Talisman. I personally would include games like Magic the Gathering as it seems to share several mechanics as well. I am not an expert at all on digital card games, so I can’t make specific comparisons. I would say that Against the Moon shares a lot in common with many deckbuilders though. There are some unique tweaks, but if you have ever played one of these type of games before you should have a good idea of whether you will enjoy Against the Moon.
I personally enjoyed playing Against the Moon. For a card game, whether it is digital or physical, to succeed it needs to find the right balance between being easy enough that you can jump into it quickly and having enough strategy that it feels like your actions are having a real impact on the game. For the most part Against the Moon succeeds in this goal. Anyone who has played a similar card game before should be able to jump into Against the Moon quickly. If you have never played one before it may take a little time, but none of the mechanics are too difficult where you can learn them pretty quickly.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward, but there is also plenty of strategy as well. The ultimate goal of most battles is basically the same as you try to defeat the computer’s leader. How you accomplish this will depend on what type of player you are. You can aggressively go after the computer’s leader allowing your own leader to take damage. Otherwise you can play the game more defensively where you try to block the computer’s attacks and focus more on slowly whittling down their leader’s health. You can choose to mostly focus on playing units, or you could spend a lot of time using magic cards. To succeed in the game you need to optimize how you use your cards. The game gives you quite a few different ways to create your preferred deck between choosing which cards to add, upgrade, and remove from your deck. Your fate in each battle really depends on how you play your cards.
As for the game’s difficulty I would say that it can be surprisingly challenging. This can somewhat depend on the battle as some can be quite easy while others can be quite challenging. A lot of this seems to depend on your playstyle. In some battles it is beneficial to play defensively and in others you need to be aggressive. As more of a defensive player I did best in battles that benefited from a defensive approach. Battles that required aggressiveness were a little more challenging for me. In some battles you need to leave your leader somewhat exposed as it is better to target weak lanes of your opponent so you can take their leader out quicker. Your success sometimes depends on some luck due to what cards you draw early and the positioning of the special units in the battle. Usually if you are able to find a way to adjust your strategy though you can overcome this.
Against the Moon has two main gameplay modes at this point. The game has both the main campaign as well as a mode called Luma Run. The campaign is broken down into 6 different missions/adventures. That might not sound like a lot, but each adventure is broken down into a map which features a number of different battles that you have to win. Throughout the journey you will be presented with a number of different paths which alters how many battles you have to win and what rewards you will receive when you succeed. The ultimate goal is to reach the end and beat the final mission in order to complete the adventure. When you complete a mission you unlock the next and so on.
In many ways Luma Run is very similar to the main missions. It features the same map where you get to choose which battles you want to fight. The main difference is that each adventure is not predetemined like the story missions. Before you start you can choose which Ultori you want to use (that you have already unlocked). The layout of the map and battles you will encounter also seem to be randomly generated. Basically Luma Run feels like your typical exhibition mode where you can use the characters and other things that you have unlocked playing through the main story.
Of the two I spent quite a bit more time with the main campaign missions. While I didn’t get through a lot of the campaign, I was pretty impressed with what I have played through so far. I mostly say this because the campaign battles do a good job mixing things up. The main mechanics never really change outside of getting access to new cards. What the campaign missions do a good job with though is adding little twists that keep things fresh. Most of the story battles have a little extra element that you have to deal with. In some battles you may be forced to just survive for a given number of turns, and in others you need to eliminate your opponent within a certain number of turns. Some even give you and/or your opponent other special abilities that have an impact on the battle. I don’t know if this will hold up throughout the entire campaign, but the early missions are well constructed.
As for the overall atmosphere I have some mixed feelings. I thought the visuals were pretty impressive. The designs of the different units and the overall visual style fits the game really well. The main problem that I had with the atmosphere is that the story could have been better. There are parts of the story that I thought were intriguing as the game has a larger backstory than you would expect from this type of game. It might just have been me, but I found the story to be a little hard to follow at times. The game throws out a lot of terms and names which make it kind of hard to follow at times. I think the story could have benefited from either moving a little slower or cutting out some of the detail. The story is not bad, but I would say that it is one of the game’s weaker links.
As for Against the Moon’s length it has a lot of potential, but there isn’t a ton of content in the game at this point. If you are the type of player to play card games for a long time as you try to craft new strategies, the game has the potential to give you many hours of gameplay. The campaign itself appears to only be six missions long. These missions are pretty long though as each features at least five to ten battles that you have to win. I would expect each mission to take at least an hour if not a decent amount more. Unfortunately only two of the six missions appear to be available at this point as the others currently display as coming soon. Several of the Ultori are also locked at this point. At this time most of your time will come from the Luna Run mode. As elements of it are randomized you could theoretically play it endlessly. It is a little disappointing that the game doesn’t have any multiplayer, but the AI can pull its weight so you should be able to play quite a few games before you start to tire of the game. I hope the additional content gets added to the game soon though as in many ways the game feels like it should have started in Early Access.
In many ways Against the Moon is exactly what you would expect it to be. The game shares a lot in common with digital as well as physical card games. You will play cards from your hand to summon units as well as provide other benefits that will help you defeat your enemy’s units. People familiar with the genre should be able to jump in right away while new players to the genre should be able to pick it up pretty quickly as well. The game still features quite a bit of strategy though. How you build your deck and how you use your cards’ special abilities plays a big role in how well you will do. The AI can be pretty challenging at times forcing you to adopt different strategies to approach your current situation. The game does rely on a little luck at times, but it feels fair most of the time. Arguably the game’s weakest element is its story which is pretty average.
My recommendation for Against the Moon comes down to your opinion of digital card games. If you like the genre I think you will enjoy Against the Moon and should consider picking it up.
Buy Against the Moon online: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Code Heretic, and Black Tower for the review copy of Against the Moon used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.