Review: Children of Zodiarcs (PS4)

Review: Children of Zodiarcs (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Children of Zodiarcs
Format: PSN (1.3 GB)
Release Date: July 18, 2017
Publisher: Square Enix Collective
Developer: Cardboard Utopia
Original MSRP: $17.99 (US), €17.99 (EU), £14.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Children of Zodiarcs is a single-player tactical JRPG that also features collectible cards and craftable dice. It begins with a tutorial level that also acts as an introduction to the story and cast of characters.

The game does a good job of slowly revealing its mechanics over the first few missions and before long you will be adept at sifting through the cards of your characters, knowing what is best to use against a particular enemy, and choosing what dice to reroll.

You can freely pan around the play area and select and move any available character within their travelling range or pick a card and see its area of effect. If it isn’t what you wanted just back out and try something different. It’s only when you select an enemy with an attack that you are locked into the battle.

This is where the dice come into play and depending on what you roll, they give advantages and even extra abilities to that attack. Some dice might land on an extra card, some health, an additional turn, and increased defense for example. A little later in the game, you get some red dice that are often detrimental to your encounter, although I have seen some good sides to them too.

It’s not all luck as you build the deck of cards that’s taken on a mission. You know what you will get, you just don’t know when you’ll get it. Same goes with the dice, and apart from some enemy attacks that burden you with a red die or two for a few turns, you will know what to expect.

Part of the strategy is the movement of your characters as you must be careful not to leave them open to attack from behind since you cannot counter those sneaky advances. Being weary of projectile attacks and getting to know the enemy types is of the utmost importance.

Progression through the strategic game slowly levels up the characters and their cards. Rewarding extra bonuses to certain cards makes them even more useful and powerful. A few story missions have been slightly problematic but after fighting some optional skirmishes, my characters were strong enough to try again.

Replaying the same missions allowed me to see the dynamic nature of each battle. While the placement and type of enemies remain the same, the randomness of the dealt cards and roll of the dice mixes up the missions rather nicely. This could have also been why a troublesome encounter was not as bad the second time round.

The game doesn’t bombard you with the story at every turn and only interjects the odd scene here and there. You can however select the team in the menu and read their conversations as the game progresses. If you keep up with it then you get an insight into the characters after some story missions and more of their backstory.

Visuals:
This is a pretty game with lovely character and art design. You can freely rotate the map when not rolling that dice to get a better vantage of the ensuing battle. Some of the buildings and objects obscure the action and make me long for some contextual transparency or another viewing angle, maybe from above.

Death animations turn the enemies into ragdolls so their lifeless corpses slump and sometimes fall off rooftops or into your character’s crotch, which always makes my childish side giggle. There doesn’t seem to be any action animation for the diagonal axis so when a character shoots their gun it doesn’t always line up with the enemy.

These are minor niggles that do little to hinder my enjoyment and the overall beauty of the game. Lighting and particle effects add to the quaint levels to give them a polished look. The cards and dice are nice to look at too, with some excellent realism to the bounce and roll allowing for a natural and random feel.

Audio:
For fans of the JRPG genre this game will probably evoke some fond memories and both the music and sound effects fit perfectly with the experience. There is no real voice acting in this game and aside from a few yells and grunts, you will just hear the sound effects of guns and magic spells.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I did not expect to be a fan of a game with cards and dice rolls determining the outcome of each move and mission but Children of Zodiarcs has won me over. The fact that I can pick which cards are in my deck and the type of dice I roll makes it more about the difficulty I want to face.

Building up my characters with skirmishes and a forgiving autosave means I never really got into too much trouble and therefore, have enjoyed every moment of the game. Getting to know the characters and learning what cards I prefer has made it quite a personal experience, so much so that I reload my save should any character die, even if the level requirements allow it.

This is a great beginning to what I hope becomes a much-loved series of games. It’s an unexpected surprise that could do with some minor tweaking here and there but it’s well worth checking out, even if you don’t think it’ll be your kind of game.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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