Alina of the Arena Review - Fleeting Fight
Updated: Jul 7
Alina of the Arena
Alina of the Arena is a roguelite that is both a deck builder, like Slay the Spire, and a tactics game, like Duelyst. You control a character I assume is the titular Alina and (usually) need to kill everything else in the arena before any of it manages to kill you instead. You'll do that by playing cards and paying energy just like you would in Spire, but you also need to pay attention to movement and enemy placement to make sure your attacks hit and that you don't trap yourself in a corner.
Alina is absolutely brilliant for the first few times you play it. Each fight basically becomes a puzzle where you're constantly trying to figure out how you can dodge or block damage while still getting off enough attacks to eventually win the fight, and there's a steady flow of new cards and enemies to keep you interested throughout the run. After you inevitably lose your first run, you'll find that you've earned a special currency that lets you buy new starting equipment for your next run and maybe you've even unlocked a new class to shake up your playstyle. Further runs will get you deeper into the arena to fight more challenging and interesting enemies, and eventually you'll bring down a big bad act 3 boss and beat the game.
...And that's where it stops coming together, unfortunately. A game like Spire or Monster Train would introduce an ascension mode or radically different new class here that would make it worth continuing to play the game, but Alina simply doesn't have anything comparable. You do get a higher difficulty that makes enemy numbers in an uninteresting way, but that's it. Playing again would just be the same game with a few different encounters and bosses. You do have the different classes I mentioned, but where most roguelites have a few classes that all play totally differently, Alina's classes are actually just sets of starting cards and equipment that really aren't that different. You could make any two classes just about converge to the same state within the first chapter, and even if you're not trying to do that, they really don't feel meaningfully different.
I thought Alina was going to be a shoo-in for a high spot on my yearly top 10 list after my first run. It might still make the list in some capacity now that I've finished it, but the lack of longevity really drags the game down. It's exciting and different when it's new. Unfortunately, that newness is gone now, and I'm left with a game I've seen all of in a third of the time that most roguelites keep me occupied for. Even if I still enjoyed my brief time with it, it's impossible not to be disappointed with the lack of an endgame.
Time to beat: 10 hours.
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