Review: Mahokenshi – Destructoid

Magic sword warrior

I haven’t done much diving into deck-builders, which seems to be riding the trend wave in the indie market. I’m honestly not sure why, since every time I’ve interacted with one, I’ve enjoyed it. Take, for example, Mahokenshi.

I tried the demo of Mahokenshi a long while back and came away impressed, yet somehow the final release still snuck up on me. Its mix of board-game style, turn-based, card-centric gameplay felt rather powerful in my first experience, so I was excited to see how the whole package turned out.

Mahokenshi - Card Battle
Screenshot by Destructoid

Mahokenshi (PC)
Developer: Game Source Studio
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Released: January 24, 2023
MSRP: $24.99

Mahokenshi depicts the Celestial Islands, a series of landmasses floating above the world. They’re places where the Oni have never set foot, but when that changes, the people call on the titular samurai, the “Mahokenshi”, to aid them. Each of the Mahokenshi is aligned to a creature from Japanese folklore, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, they all have a different playstyle and deck of cards, which allows you to find one that suits you best.

Your Mahokenshi is frequently solo but often outnumbered. Starting out, your main goal is to gather up your deck by landing on various towns, shrines, castles, and statues. Your starter deck is usually underpowered, and a lot of the gameplay revolves around picking up cards and creating your strategy. You can also upgrade your cards and remove your weaker ones, turning yourself into a tower of card-slinging power.

It actually feels great when you get your deck together. Combining cards that increase the number of moves you can make in your turn, playing ones that let you draw further, and using cards to buff your strength to the moon can have you dropping baddies in quick succession. When the draw works in your favor, it makes you feel powerful, which I didn’t expect from a deck builder.

Stack the deck

There’s a decent amount of variety to the missions, but a lot of them can be solved using nothing but a lot of violence. However, building your strength to take on towering monsters doesn’t get old. Well, it does, but Mahokenshi stops well before it gets to that point.

While it does last — around 15-18 hours, depending on whether or not you take your time — it’s well-paced and engaging. To improve your chances of success, you can complete side quests and spend points to buy upgrades. These improve the effects of things on the board and buff your base stats, turning your deck into a lean, mean, paper-cutting machine.

The Mahokenshi unlock as you proceed through the game, and each levels up separately, which encourages you to try them all out and extends gameplay. By the end of the game, I mostly settled on just two of the four characters that I preferred to play. If you’re feeling frisky, though, the characters unlock extra gear that can be used by any of the characters. Along with side missions, there are a lot of excuses to retry levels.

Cards for magic samurai
Screenshot by Destructoid


It, unfortunately, has some performance issues. Mahokenshi is a decent-looking game, but it’s not that amazing. Thankfully, it’s not the most action-packed title, so a choppy framerate isn’t going to torpedo things, but it’s not something you like to see.

It didn’t bother me enough to ruin my fun. Mahokenshi is an inventive little deck-builder that lets you build some powerful combos that help you live out your magical samurai fantasies. On the other hand, while it definitely doused my curiosity about the genre in kerosene, it didn’t light my jimmies on fire. Instead, it was just an enjoyable experience. It kept me interested throughout its runtime, and that’s about all I can ask for.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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