Alina! Here we go again.

Alina of the Arena is an action-packed, roguelike, deck builder where you fight for your freedom (and money, of course) in a giant arena filled with spectators. I’ve always been an avid enjoyer of roguelike games, and while I mainly play multiplayer, this one was a nice refresher on how enjoyable single-player roguelikes can be.

At the beginning of the game, Alina of the Arena gives you the option to play on rookie mode (easy) or veteran mode (medium). Once you beat the game, you’ll unlock warlord mode (hard), as well as a hardcore mode which you can have active on top of whatever mode you play on.

Once the game actually begins, you get thrown head-first into combat. There, the game goes over the basics of how to play within an easy encounter. After every fight, you return to this sort of hub area where there are three columns with different tabs: Fight, Elite, Event, Shop, Rest, and Meditate. Each of these tabs allow you to do something different, ranging from a randomized event from the Event tab to a semi-difficult miniboss from the Elite tab. After you complete five Fight tabs, Elite tabs, or a combination of the two, you can fight the boss of the stage.

After every Fight or Elite tab, you will gain one card from a selection of three or four cards you’ve unlocked. You can unlock more cards by beating Elite tabs for the first time and beating bosses for the first time. Cards will either be red, blue, or gray. Red and blue cards will scale off what weapons you are holding in the hands’ respective color (left being red and right being blue). Gray cards don’t scale off of your weapons; they’re mostly status cards such as buffs or other means of movement. I really liked how the game allows you to pick and choose which cards you want in your deck for each run, and unlocking new cards by beating certain things makes you want to play more so you can collect new cards.

There are currently only three stages in the game, each with its own unique bosses and enemies. As you move through stages, the difficulty ramps up a lot, so make sure you’re prepared before fighting each boss and moving stages. Each stage also has its unique events in its respective Event tabs, ranging from obtaining cursed weapons to making bets with the mafia.

Once you finish a run by beating the third stage (or die while trying) you will unlock different starting classes. Once you unlock them all, you can choose from one of the eight starter classes at the start of each run. Each class has unique starting cards, weapons, and abilities.

Visual and aurally, the game is also pretty good. Alina of the Arena is in an 8-bit art style which is amazingly done. It’s also surprisingly gory, which definitely fits the game’s theme. The visuals even go into extra detail with Alina’s sprite by showing what type of weapons she has equipped.

The music, while different for each stage and boss fight, gets a little repetitive after a couple of playthroughs, but it sounds good nonetheless.

I didn’t encounter any gameplay or visual bugs while playing through the game, but there are a lot of balancing issues. You are given different cards from which to choose throughout each run. This would be fine if certain builds were better than others by just a little bit, but some allow you to do an infinite amount of damage while others give you infinite health. I don’t think I really need to say why these would be a bad thing, especially in a roguelike game.

Besides balancing, Alina of the Arena is really good. It does an excellent job of introducing each mechanic of the game to the player, and each run can infinitely be different from any other run you’ve done before. The art is very creative, and they do a really good job of depicting the whole game as a brutal and bloody arena. The music, while a little repetitive, also fits the theme of being in a brutal and bloody arena very well.