App Army Assemble: Black Book - "Is this card-based RPG worth picking up?"
We ask the App Army
Black Book is a card-based RPG that initially launched on Steam in 2021, where it's received plenty of positive reviews. Now it's made the jump to mobile, specifically to iOS. So we were interested to see how the ports hold up on the smaller screen. To test it out, we handed the game over to our App Army.
Here's what they said:Michael Purdy
A story-heavy game that plays like a Lucas Arts point-and-click adventure game but with a card battle system. The voice acting is quite good and I like the stylized graphics. Though I think the character models are a bit odd looking. The protagonist is a witch who controls demons by way of cards. It was mentioned above that the game borrows from Slavic folklore, but I am not very familiar so I cannot say how well the game translates. The gameplay is enjoyable, and the story is engrossing, but I did have some issues moving around in the world. Sometimes the on-screen joystick didn’t seem to respond. I tried it on iPhone and iPad, and I definitely recommend playing on the bigger screen.Adam Rowe
Black Book surprised me with its depth, mechanics, and polish. I love card-based RPGs, but I don’t usually find this much depth on mobile. It is a slow burn though. The game opening took me about an hour with only one card battle during that timeframe. That was in part because I enjoy reading and exploring everything that a game has to offer. After that, the card battles and tough game choices started happening more quickly.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this game for me is how it will offer you choices with rewards for getting the right answer, but you’ll only know the right answer if you spend time reading the encyclopedia entries that you are given occasionally and take the time to talk with people. I really feel like you are exploring a word and having to take your time to understand it. I like that a lot.
I wasn’t sure what to think of this game at first, but it won me over quickly. I want to explore the rest of it, experiment with different deck builds, and see where the main character’s story goes next. If you like card-based RPGs and don’t mind a bit of reading you’ll like this game!Oksana Ryan
This is an enjoyable example of an RPG turn-based game. There is a story to follow, rather than just wandering looking for enemies and there is interaction between characters which is narrated by actors or can be read as subtitles, which is what I did. Battles are easy to play with the card spells being used to destroy enemies. The overall look of the game is pleasant and you get indicators of where to move next, moving you along on your quest. All in all a good game with plenty to keep you happy when you have an hour or so to while away.Jason Rosner
Black Book RPG comes to mobile from PC with a great deal of content. This is a big game with lots to do. Black Book earns some creativity bonus points from me for being a hybrid visual novel mixed into an adventure game, along with card-based battles. You’ll immediately find the story really takes precedence here, based upon Slavic folktales. The game does a great job of setting up the characters you meet along the way, especially Vasilisa, a girl who will go on to sell her soul for that of the one she loves who passes unexpectedly.
I really like how the graphics fit the story’s settings perfectly, with low-lighted, darker-coloured visuals. Everything has an almost depressed feel to it as it should for this sombre yet haunting tale. The pacing of the game is rather slow however, as much of the gameplay is done in a point-and-click fashion, and there’s a lot to explore. From glossary-style background information to visual markers at almost every scene, and that’s on top of numerous optional side quests. Controls can be finicky at times, mainly due to smaller mobile screens, but it never really hindered my enjoyment at all.
The battles are traditional turn-based affairs, but the additional pages/cards you acquire along the way gives you reasons to try out new combinations to see what works best in combat. I was glad to see the option to change difficulties for those who just want to experience the story, as well as an endless battles mode for those who prefer a challenge. The first chapter of the game is free to try out and the full game can be unlocked with a single IAP.
Black Book is a bit of a mash-up of a game. There is the card battle element for fighting demons. The locations and how you move around them are reminiscent of old graphic adventure games and then there is the multiple choice for decisions. You are on a quest to help your novice witch liberate her lover from hell. As with most RPGs, the route to your final confrontation is a convoluted one.
The graphics and sounds are good. I found the voice acting of the characters and narrator to be very hammy, to the point of laughing at some of the terribly performed dialogue. The card battling for fighting demons was too complicated for me and I ended up dying a lot when facing the 13th Brother in the windmill. This is a big game, only people wanting to play for hours at a time need apply.Jojó Reis
Black Book is an impressive turn-playing RPG, both artistically and in the fun part, an extremely well-produced game. The graphics are amazing, with magnificent Sonos effects, great dubbing, and excellent controls, everything flows super well. Because the game is totally in English, it can drive away some people who do not understand this language well because it is extremely necessary to understand the texts, there is a lot of information.
But the game is so well done that you will want to continue, and the battles are great, even though they are in turns, many find it outdated, but this one works super well, it has a kind of cards where you make combinations which always results in a good strategy during the fights. The game world is beautiful and some parts are very exploitable giving an extra tone of freedom. I was impressed with the game and congratulations to the developers. I would only ask for one thing, but translation into Portuguese Brazil and everything will be perfect.Bruno Ramalho
Wow, is this a huge game? There is a lot to go through with this one, and I just barely scratched the surface. Great visuals overall in almost all kinds of scenes. There are fights with demons, where you use your cards to battle them, and this is presented as a scene in 3D in front of you, as well as other 3D scenes where you can explore freely as a point-and-click game or simply using a virtual joystick to go where you want. But when you have people talking on screen, they are all in 2D and just look cartoonish; there is nothing really special about those scenes, visually speaking.
Sound-wise, it's really good, and the voice acting is awesome. I played a little bit in its original language and then switched to English, whose voices are quite good as well. I can see a lot of genres mixed into this game, and I wasn't expecting that. You can explore 3D scenes with your character and search for herbs and other things. You have the fights, where you are presented with a card battler, and you'll learn a lot about Slavic mythology. There's a deck builder and an encyclopedia that you should read, as there are situations where you'll be asked about mythology, and you get points and good stuff for answering them correctly.
And there are your chores—the demons that follow you—as you are now a witch, and you'll have to test your morality and send these demons to curse peasants, or they will be all over you and wasting your energy away. With great power comes great responsibility, I guess. As I said, this is a game that can take up a lot of your free time because there are a lot of side quests and situations that distract you from your path, which is not straightforward. There are puzzles to solve here and there, but it is mainly a narrative game and a card battler at its finest. I quite enjoyed playing it.Brian Wigington
RPGs are my favourite type of game due to the variety and complexity they tend to offer. Black Book is a bit of a hybrid of card battler, point-and-click adventure, and RPG. The graphics are stylized and quite good at setting the mood. I felt really drawn into the game world and its themes in Slavic folklore. The voice acting is very good and the overall sound design is moody and fitting. Essentially your character is wanting to become a witch in order to retrieve a loved one from hell. Yep, there are some dark themes at work but also a good dose of emotion.
As the story progresses you tap to explore areas and move to different locations to fight creatures using cards that act as spells. Comparisons to Slay the Spire are valid but with more exploring in a vibrant world. The spells can be chained or combined to great effect to defend or fights all manner of nasty creatures. I am enjoying the game so far and need to work on learning some of its nuances in combat. Some of the terms used in the Slavic lore are unfamiliar, but it does not hinder me from enjoying this well-made game. It’s definitely worth checking out if you like the genres mentioned.Mark Abukoff
This is a visually striking card-based rpg game. I like the detailed lore and interesting locations and characters. This is similar to Slay the Spire but with more of a sense of actually moving around on a map and to different settings, which makes it more immersive for me. The story is interesting, though the dialogue seemed to stretch out a bit for my taste. Not enough to take away from the story though. The voice acting was good, music was good. The text on the cards seemed a little small but not so much as to be a problem. Overall it’s a pretty good entry in the genre plus you get a good-sized free sample. Happily recommend.What is the App Army?
The App Army is Pocket Gamer's lovely community of mobile game experts. As often as possible, we ask them for their thoughts on the latest games and share them with you.