Dungeon & Goddess, a manga-style card-collecting strategy game from developer Nadiasoft, is made up of familiar parts, and anybody who’s played a CCG on mobile will immediately know their way around its systems.

But even experienced players may find the difficulty curve bracing. Whereas most free-to-play mobile RPGs are content to let you cruise along for a couple of hours, accumulating XP and gear in copious quantities before eventually hitting a wall, Dungeon & Goddess is demanding from the outset.

In principle, that’s a good thing. Dungeon & Goddess is a lot less flabby than most of its rivals, and it forces you to think carefully about your decisions – and cross your fingers for certain summons – right out of the gate.

The setup is as familiar as they come. Set in a fantasy world full of gods and heroes (and dungeons, obviously), it sees you building up a collection of polished, convincingly animated manga heroes and sorting them into decks. 

Full spectrum warriors

These heroes belong to a wide range of traditions. There are numerous young women, of course, most (but not all) of them in refreshingly modest attire. But there’s also a dwarf, an old English knight, and dozens of other engaging and surprising characters. 

In battle, your heroes all have two skills to choose from per move. Fights are turn-based, with your heroes each getting an attack in before absorbing attacks from each of the monsters in front of you. 

Your skills can be offensive, such as magical storms, fire attacks, and that sort of thing. Or they can be defensive, healing your other party members to keep them in the fight. 

And there’s another variable to consider. Each hero has an elemental affinity, from Fire, Water, Earth, Wind, and Lightning. These elements act more powerfully on some elements and less powerfully on others, meaning your skills and heroes can be seriously limited when up against a mismatched opponent. You need to go into every battle with the right deck. 

As you’d expect, everything is upgradeable. You level up passively by gaining XP, but you can also tier up and level up your heroes using Soul Stones and EXP potions respectively. You can upgrade your gear, too, but for that you need Upgrade Stones. 

The trouble is, all of these resources are in short supply, as are the tickets you need to summon new heroes, equipment, accessories, and items. 

Grind for your supper

You get rewards for logging in, Soul Stones for fighting in the Tower of Infinity, and odds and ends for levelling up, completing the daily dungeons, completing boss battles, and so on. But it’s never enough for you to truly take flight. 

That means Dungeon & Goddess is a struggle, right from the start. You’ll find yourself tweaking your deck, going into battle, losing, and tweaking your deck again to chisel out any small advantage you can. At least you level up fairly rapidly.

The effect of all this is to make the little triumphs in Dungeon & Goddess – the level 9 Cerberus summon, the close call against the Lava Golem – all the more satisfying and meaningful. 

Dungeon & Goddess isn’t for the faint-hearted, and if poor localisation is an issue for you then you probably won’t get on with the game. But if you consider yourself a serious CCG fan you’ll get a lot of play out of this good-looking, challenging new addition to the genre.