Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars
(available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC)
(Nintendo Switch version used for review)
Something that I have a massive amount of love for is tabletop RPG’s (TTRPG), most notably Dungeons and Dragons. I love using my imagination and creativity to create a world and story for my friends to explore and interact with. It’s easily one of my favourite hobbies. So when Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars, was announced in the September 2021 Nintendo Direct, introducing itself as a homage to TTRPG’s and being directed by Nier and Drakengard director Yoko Taro, I was intrigued. Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars was developed by Alim, who before this worked only on mobile games, and published by Square Enix, and was released on 28th October 2021 for Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Microsoft Windows.
The story of the game is nothing you haven’t heard before. A dragon has reawakened and has been deemed as a threat to the world, and thus the queen of the world has called for the heroes of the land to seek out to slay the beast. You play as a self-proclaimed hero named Ash who travels with a monster named Mar, who seeks out to slay the dragon for no other reason than the riches he’ll receive as reward. You meet a witch named Melanie who also wishes to see the dragon dead and thus joins you on your quest. As I said, the story isn’t really anything unique, but it does have a certain charm to it. Besides, the story isn’t the main focus of the game…
…That goes to the presentation. When this game calls itself a homage to TTRPG’s it wasn’t lying. The entire game is shown via cards on a table, from characters to NPC’s to the ground you walk upon, even dialogue and narration is represented using cards. They take full advantage of the cards as well, from things like the cards getting ripped in half when a character dies in a cutscene, to it looking like the card has been damaged with one of the status ailments. It adds a lot of charm to the game that more than makes up for the simplistic story. Speaking of dialogue, everything in the game is told and described to us by someone calling himself the Game Master. He’s pretty much our story teller and thus is the only voice actor in the game. He does a good job at mimicking how a real like Dungeon Master would speak (mind you he mimics the kind that’s constantly bored, but oh well, also he’s one of those lazy Game Masters who doesn’t change his voice at all), there are even a couple of extra details to his lines, like one time when he ended up stumbling on his words or got the pronunciation of something wrong and correct himself, little details like that really add a lot to the feel of the game. As for the soundtrack, it sounds really good. A lot of the songs are somewhat generic fantasy music that a dungeon master may use in their own campaign, while other songs, most notably the game’s main theme, gives off a more epic vibe and wouldn’t be out of place in one of the Nier games.
The gameplay, like the story, is very simplistic. Combat is your standard turn based style that JRPG’s are very well known for. You go into battle with a party of three and use your skills to beat whatever enemies you come across. Each character goes into battle with four skill cards equipped, and they’ll learn more as they level up, you’ll find yourself swapping cards as you unlock more and depending on the weaknesses of the enemies you’ll battle. Most skills will require gems to use. You start off each battle with one gem and gain one at the start of a character’s turn, though you can use skills to gain more. Your party members and your opponents have attack and defence points that can be increased and decreased with skill cards. As you can guess, both of these determine how much damage you’re able to do and how much you can resist. While you can still deal damage if the enemy has higher defence than your attack, the damage you’ll deal will be dismal, so, my advice, don’t make that enemy your main priority, especially if another of the enemies has higher attack.
As mentioned, you and your opponents have the ability to deal status effects of one another. While you do have your basic ones like paralysis and freeze, you also get some really unique ones like curse – moves that will heal you will instead deal damage to you – or seal – you’re unable to use attacks that require gems to use. Inflicting your enemies with status effects requires a dice roll, where if you roll a certain number or higher, the status effect will go through, thus adding more to the TTRPG presentation this game has. Sometimes at the beginning of battles a happenstance card will be drawn. Happenstance cards will add an effect that will last for a single turn or, at times, the entire fight. It will deal more attack to or more defence against a certain attack element, inflict a status ailment to your party, have you start the fight with more gems, amongst other benefits and detriments. While this is a random element that happens during regular fights, in boss fights this is a guaranteed event, and these happenstance cards will only last for a single turn after which a new one will be drawn, and that effect will take place.
You’ll be spending most of the game exploring, wandering the world and exploring dungeons, visiting towns and talking to NPC’s. When you enter the overworld and explore dungeons, most of it will be hidden from you, as unexplored cards will be face down. To flip over a card all you have to do is walk up to it and all cards directly next to you will flip. While this is cool, it can get annoying at times, thinking I’m going the right way or that I’ve found a secret path only to find that I’ve run into a dead end, not to mention the fact that, in my opinion, the animation of the cards being turned over is a little bit too slow, so it does get tiresome after a while.
If you do decide to go off the beaten path however, you have the chance of finding some hidden treasure. These will contain items, both for healing and for dealing damage, equipment for your party, or one of the Mysterious Cards. (SPOILERS IN THIS NEXT BIT!!!) The Mysterious Cards are collectables for you to find in the game, there are ten in total, and you can find them by either finding them in chests or by completing side quests. While these are cool little collectables, something that I absolutely despise is that you need to collect these in order to get the true ending. It is really annoying when games do this, and to make it worse, this game doesn’t even tell you that’s the case, meaning that I went through the entire game only really finding these things when I did, and got a bad ending because I didn’t know they were essential. Seriously, screw that mechanic.
At random moments while exploring, you’ll randomly – and sometimes not so randomly – run into an event card. Event cards can act as a benefit to you or a hindrance. Sometimes you’ll have to roll a dice to avoid taking damage, escort an NPC back to a town and gain a Mysterious Card as a reward, or have to make a choice that could lead to riches, or to a battle. I actually like these, they add more to the overworld than just random battles, and you would find random encounters like these in an actual TTRPG.
Unfortunately, there are a few extra problems with this game. First of all, is the item mechanics, most notably the fact that you can only carry thirty items total. I already don’t like it when you have a limit on how many of a certain item you can carry, but when you can only carry a certain number as a whole, it gets really annoying. Especially because when I find a new item or get to pick a random one from winning a fight (which can’t be refused as well), and I already have the maximum amount I can carry, rather than just denying me the item, it forces me to go into my bag to either use an item or discard one. Whilst this doesn’t sound too bad, when you consider how frequently I had to do this, it gets really annoying really fast. Secondly, the game is really easy. Up until the last dungeon of the game, I didn’t feel as if I was in trouble of dying, hell I don’t even think any of my party members died until the last dungeon. As someone who does like his game to have a decent level of difficulty, I am pretty disappointed. Also, the game is very short, normally RPG’s will pride themselves on being games that you can play for dozens of hours, this one on the other hand only really took me around fourteen hours. While I can kind of see why, seeing the simplicity of the story and game, however, it also leads to a lack of character development for some of the side cast, in fact most of the development with the main characters don’t really happen until the last couple of hours. Speaking of simplicity, that kind of leads to this game’s downfall. While the whole TTRPG aesthetic is really cool, and adds a number of benefits to the game, outside of that there’s not really that much to the game. The game is just too simple, and not in the same way that games like Dragon Quest XI are, where they use that simplicity to its advantage. I can promise you, give it a couple of months and the presentation will be the only thing that I remember about it.
This is definitely one of the more interesting games that I’ve played this year, and while I have complained about a number of factors of the game, I do still recommend it. The game is pretty cheap, at half the price of most games today, and it is worth it. It’s not very grandiose, and it’s not trying to be, it’s just a fun game that’s paying tribute to TTRPG’s, which it does a very good job with. It’s an enjoyable game that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
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