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Children of Zodiarcs

Posted by GG Goblin On August - 8 - 2017

Pick a card and roll the dice.

 
Cardboard Utopia’s tactical RPG Children of Zodiarcs, which is available on PS4 and Steam, may seem familiar to TRPG fans, what with all of the taking turns and grid-based movement. But then a deck of cards is thrown into the mix, and dice are being rolled, and all of a sudden things don’t feel all that normal after all.

 
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Set in the city of Torus, Children of Zodiarcs puts the player in control of a group of poverty-stricken youngsters who are striking back against the rich upper class by turning to thievery. Things step up a gear as the story progresses, and the young group will find themselves in all manner of trouble as they work their way across the city, inevitably dealing with everything from the city guards to somewhat worrying cannibals.

 
So far as stories go, Children of Zodiarcs tells a nice tale, and it is easy to invest in the different characters under the players control. That being said, the lack of any voice acting through the game does mean that the player will have to do plenty of reading in order to get the most from the story. Much of the background is found outside of the cut scenes and main story, so it really is worth checking everything to fill out the tale.

 
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Mind you, many players will approach this style of game with a simple goal of enjoying some great turn-based combat encounters, and Children of Zodiarcs does not disappoint. A quick heads up though, this is no cake walk. Children of Zodiarcs comes with two difficulties, and the easier of the two is still damn hard. There is a certain randomness to the encounters that means sometimes failure (or success) can simply come down to luck. But, for the most part, it comes down more to preparation as the player will need to build decks, customize dice and grind their levels up through skirmish matches in order to compete against the overwhelming odds in nearly every campaign battle. So the game will really test even the most veteran tactical RPG fan, but it really is worth it as the new systems in place are very enjoyable.

 
For the most part, encounters will seem familiar to TRPG fans. They take place on grid-based “battlefields” and the player will take their turn to move and act with each of their characters before turning over for the AI to have their turn with the enemies. Due to the city setting, the playing areas tend to be cramped and filled with obstacles, such as being in narrow streets or the rooms and corridors of a castle. Standard concepts such as attacking from higher ground or from behind bring obvious benefits.

 
What makes things different in the first place is that each character has their own deck of cards that represent the different moves they can perform, such as various attacks or healing. The character has a fixed number of cards in their hand, and must draw new cards to replace used ones manually. Progressing through the game will see characters gifted with new cards, and the player can customize their deck between fights. This means that players can focus on a particular type of card in order to specialize their character if they wish.

 
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Then there are dice. Much like the cards, players have their own set of dice that are thrown once the player has chosen their action. These are not ordinary dice, but are covered with different symbols that apply different effects, such as boosting defense, offense or healing, drawing extra cards or even getting another action. Again, players will get more dice as they progress, and they can not only choose which dice to use in battle, but also they can customize the faces on individual dice by sacrificing others.

 
The addition of card decks and collections of dice does bring a randomness to the game, and it can be quite frustrating when luck is not on your side. However, the ability to customize the dice and card decks can minimize the chances of luck being a decider in a battle. It takes a little while to get used to, but it is a great system.

 
Visually, Children of Zodiarcs has a classic JRPG style to it, and it looks great. The character models are quite distinctive and the battle environments are nicely detailed. The cut scenes are lovely to watch. A special mention should be made of the orchestrated soundtrack, which ebbs and flows with the action of the game perfectly.

 
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Children of Zodiarcs is a difficult tactical RPG. There are systems to master, grinding is expected, the AI is brutal and luck can go either way. But if you are up for the challenge and willing to put the time in, there really is a lot to enjoy here. Children of Zodiarcs will offer something a little different, and plenty of challenge to tactical RPG fans.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 



 

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