Gaming

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars Review (Switch eShop)

Especially in recent years, the eccentric Yoko Taro from Nier Glory made a name for itself as a game designer who simply had no equal. Any project he works on is bound to be interesting and experimental in a way, and that trend has continued with his latest release, Voice of the Cards: The Roar of the Island Dragon. While this card RPG game turns out to be more traditional than meets the eye, it nonetheless offers a satisfying and enjoyable take on the RPG genre that you won’t want to miss.

Voice of Cards has extremely traditional storytelling, but is also a fantastic example of how delivery is as important as content. This is a story about a community of adventurers who travel across the continent to kill a dragon that threatens the earth. On the way, they stop in different cities and get into any plot that the chapter requires. Sometimes a new party member even joins after that. Chances are you haven’t seen this kind of story before, but the narrative elevates them to something more special.

You see, Voice of Cards is actually a “game within a game,” and the entire dialogue is read to you in the sultry tones of Todd Haberkorn, the game master and storyteller. Game Master is literally the “voice of the cards,” and each line of dialogue has a smooth and relaxing rhythm that really sells the idea of ​​sitting by firelight at a table with a guy who loves telling stories. This effect is only amplified by the fact that the Game Master proves to be a character in his own right. For example, there are times when you can hear his judgment about the character’s actions and words shift into his tone as he reads their lines. Or, there are times when he mispronounces the character’s name and must quickly correct himself before proceeding. Small touches like this go a long way in selling the cozy and creative ambiance they pursue; it’s hard not to get sucked in.

The gameplay follows the pattern of a standard turn-based JRPG, only one set in a surprisingly addictive aesthetic. Obviously, the whole game takes place on an old wooden table in a warm tavern, and the game world consists of a row of cards laid out on the table in the form of a grid. You navigate this grid with a small totem that represents your group, and only the cards directly adjacent to the map that your totem is on are flipped to show the terrain. In practice, it doesn’t seem what different from navigating a typical world in the old Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy games, but there is a delightful thirst for exploration that ties in with the aesthetics of the map.

Most cards simply have various images of the sea, road, or grass to indicate traversable terrain, but from time to time you come across something more interesting, such as a treasure chest, a cave, or another city. So, every time you walk into a new area and explore a whole new sea of ​​face down cards, it’s hard to resist having to flip each one to see what it hides. The environments are also the right size, so flipping each card doesn’t seem too tedious or too fast.

Every few times you move to the next map, you trigger a random encounter, and this is where turn-based combat comes into play. Each character is represented on the playing field by a card on which his key images and main characteristics are displayed, and the battles take place in a simple manner in which everyone takes turns hitting each other until someone dies. Naturally, things get a little more interesting when you consider things like element weaknesses, but otherwise it’s about as easy as fighting in a JRPG.

It is interesting that in the “Voice of Kart” there is no such thing as “MP”, but there is an alternative to it in the form of “Gems”. Each member of the group will generate one gem when it is their turn, and then it will be thrown into the general pool for the entire group. This way, most of the most useful spells and attacks will have the cost of gems added, which can create an interesting level of strategy when planning your moves. If your mage casts a thunder spell, he can probably destroy a couple of enemies, for example, but then your healer will not have enough gems to pull another group member from the brink of death. This limited aspect of resource management adds an amazing amount of combat encounters, and it only gets more interesting as you progress and expand your options.

Character progression initially seems rather limited – there is no quest system or skill trees, but leveling up your party eventually unlocks additional spells and abilities that give you some freedom of action in what role you want each character to play. As such, as each character matures, their potential roles diverge much further from other group members, and this helps add a sense of individualization and autonomy, especially since you can only select three group members at a time to engage in combat. Given the length and complexity of the entire game, it seems like the developers have struck the right balance between simplicity and depth.

Believe it or not, there is also a completely separate mini-game that actually looks like a simpler card game. You can play it in any city in the game room against countless AI opponents and under different sets of rules, and while it’s not the most interesting card mini-game Square has ever come up with, it nonetheless adds a fun extra dimension to Voice cards. Also, this is where the multi-user component comes into play. Unfortunately, you can’t play online against others, but any friends nearby can join their own Switch, or you can only use one console at a time. The rules are simple enough to be learned and taught to others, and we’ve found the competition can get fierce if you have someone on hand who really understands the nuances.

While the presentation is great and the game loop is well thought out, it still feels like Voice of Cards is missing out on some of the potential of its great aesthetic. First, it just feels strange that a game played entirely through playing cards has a simple turn-based combat system rather than deck building. Such solutions emphasize cards not so much as a fascinating deconstruction of the gameplay in an RPG, but as a small decoration that is used to disguise an ordinary game.

Yet there is something uniquely exciting about the way all the disparate parts of the Voice of Cards come together. It can last as little as a dozen hours and include the ambitious combat system you’ve seen in billions of RPGs before, but there’s something powerful about how well it is done towards the end. Simply put, this is a game in which it is incredible full… In an era where RPGs are often bloated and playtime can go up to hundreds of hours just to see the credits, it seems surprisingly refreshing to go through a quick and memorable experience that doesn’t try to aim too high or get in your way before it wakes up. Welcome. Here you will not get bogged down by extraneous characters and little-studied game mechanics; everything in Voice of the Cards exists for a specific purpose.

As you probably already guessed, the presentation is an absolutely essential part of the DNA of Voice of Cards, and the developers are completely nailed the atmosphere they were aiming for. Todd Haberkorn’s enchanting narration is paired with a warm and incendiary soundtrack from Keiichi Okabe to create an utterly superior auditory experience, while all the card images from Kimihiko Fujisaki are impressively detailed. Characters may not have a single frame of animation, but their poses and designs still endow them with different personalities. Most importantly, art does its job of awakening the imagination as your brain comfortably fills in the gaps and creates a world for itself that the images on the screen only hint at.

Conclusion

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is a game that not everyone will definitely enjoy; this is what you must approach with an open mind. It’s rather short compared to most RPGs and doesn’t have much of a chance with gameplay, but the card’s aesthetics remain consistently interesting, supported by an extremely strong presentation, and this gameplay ends up being quite satisfying. For thirty dollars, this card game is one of the best concise RPGs you can buy on Switch, and if any of its illustrations or concepts pique your interest, we highly recommend giving it a try.




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