Title: The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: En Masse Entertainment
Genre: Tactical RPG
If you told me 20 years ago that that old muppets movie from the ’80s called The Dark Crystal would one day become a tactics RPG, I would probably laugh while walking out of the room. Well, here we are, and here we have The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics. The game aims to capture the series in new and exciting ways. However, there are a few missed opportunities that I felt could have made this an enduring adventure.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is very much a tactics game, but it also has a story to tell. The story follows Rian, who has just witnessed a terrible act committed by the Skeksis, which sparks a war. The story led the first few battles of the game as Rian gains allies and spread the word of what happened.
While there is the primary mission, players can also take on sub-missions, which open up smaller pockets of narrative and gives insights to the other characters. For example, some tasks are locked until you have a specific character that the side mission focuses on. Fans the series will know these characters well as they are each from the series.
What this game gets right is the fan service, it’s a shame they couldn’t also get the voice actors to reprise their roles as cutscenes are simply auto-played text boxes that make the more emotional moments feel extremely weak. Interestingly, things move incredibly fast for this adventure, as players make their way across Thra and re-experience the events from the Netflix series.
The list of playable units grows as the narrative progresses. Depending on the race of the unit, you’ll have access to a job class tree unique to that race. As units participate in battles, they’ll gain experience for the primary job class they have equipped, with a secondary job class available for a variety of different possible units. Interestingly, these units are meant to work together, with a scout being able to Mark enemies, which opens up more robust skills to be used by the more offensive characters.
However, the menus can be pretty confusing to find your way around. It seems they’ve spread character features across multiple menus, which I would have preferred one screen containing a character’s equipment and skills instead of having to go back and forth between various screens just to customize a unit. This is something that has to be done a lot since characters seem to learn new skills after every few battles.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics has some thoughtful and well-designed environments that can even be used against your opponents. Players can do actions like knock back enemies into poison plants or rely on environmental opticals that can change the layout of the battle. The game attempts to mix things up during missions and not just have players clear the screen of enemies. Objectives such as interacting with several switches or leading three units to a point, make battles a bit more interesting.
Typically during fights, units gain experience by taking down enemies. However, in this title, the experience is given after the battle takes place. I would have preferred the former means of gaining experience because units increasing level during a difficult fight always makes for an excellent strategy. Still, this design choice never hindered my overall experience with the game.
Levels are kept relatively small, which makes the battles go back a lot quicker. This makes sense, given that this is a game for Dark Crystal fans, but those fans might not all be fans of tactical RPGs. The developers keep this in mind in many aspects of the game’s mechanics. There’s some deep strategy to be found during encounters, and after clearing the story, you unlock a higher difficulty. I appreciated this approach and applauded the developer for creating a title that is as accessible as it is entertaining, no matter what kind of fan you are going into it.
My issues with the game are minor and revolve around the general pacing of the story. Everything feels like it’s on speed here, and for a tactical adventure, I wish more time was spent on either the story or the actual fights, but it always felt like I was being rushed through to a new point. This makes it difficult to feel attached to the characters or their adventure, which turns out to be a substantial set back for the enjoyment of this game. This hurts a game that features some emotional moments of storytelling.
The soundtrack for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is impressive and features many of the songs that fans will recognize. It ends up being the fuel for many of the later battles in this adventure. However, the noises that characters make when they get hit can get rather annoying and repetitive. I still wish that the voice actors were able to reprise their roles. I found most of the character animations to be decent and felt that it fit the budget of the title. However, I was surprised by the little touches included, such as the unique animations for status effects and individual moves.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics ends up doing just enough for fans of both The Dark Crystal and fans of tactical RPGs. It has enough features that allow it to stand out when compared to other titles available. Sadly, the pacing of the story and battles are relatively fast, which means that you’ll continually feel rewarded, but you won’t have an attachment to the characters. While I wasn’t a fan of the menu system, I did find an appreciation for the unique character customization options across each class. This is a quick and easy tactical RPG to satisfy any of those cravings you might be having.
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