Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars comes packing with a lot of expectations, having Yoko Taro’s name on it and all. I’ll be expecting him to turn Hand of Fate into something horrendously depressing with plenty of existential crises along the way, I suppose. Ahead of its launch on 28 October 2021 for PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam, a demo has been released to sate your curiosity, another piece in the Yoko-verse. You see, dragons totally hint its connection to Drakengard…
Considering its presentation, I didn’t expect any spectacular settings to mess around with. The important text can be either highlighted in red, or underlined, with shadows on and off to help with performance being basically it. You have Japanese, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish text language, with Japanese and English dubbing. Naturally, the weeb will go straight to the Japanese voices. For reference, I played the demo on the Nintendo Switch.
As the title implies, cards are pretty much the name of the game, no pun intended. Characters, monsters, the entire world, are printed on these cards. They’re not completely devoid of expression though, as their cards get “shuffled” around to depict movement or actions. As you walk around the world, the terrain cards will flip over to reveal the, well, terrain you’re on. Your party is represented by a chess (?) piece as you move along. Some cards may be printed with art of NPCs or interactable items, like a chest or a door. There’s a slight golden glow if you’re near a tile to trigger an event, which may benefit from a stronger contrast.
The characters themselves aren’t voiced in the demo, so you’ll mostly be hearing the dulcet tones of your Game Master in your chosen language, reading off the cards. It would have been hilarious if they had put on slightly different accents for the characters, but that’s also a lot of effort for a joke. The music so far is standard fantasy tavern fare to me, but I’ll probably loop some of these in a Work playlist.
In battle, involved parties have a gem for their HP, supplemented by numbers for their other parameters. The cards are pretty easy and clean to read, though I do wonder if they’ll provide alternate colours in the full game. The HP gem gradually gets chipped and dulls as they take more damage, so it’s a nice detail.
It’s not the fastest game, that’s for sure. It’s turn-based, units on the field taking their turn one after another. In place of mana, you have these “gems” in the top left corner, gaining one each time your characters start their turn. Skills may use any number of these gems, and can’t be cast if you don’t have the required gems. Some skills may require an additional dice roll for bonus effects or damage. Escaping also needs you to pass a dice roll. Elemental weaknesses are in the game, so exploit that. Items are in the bottom left corner.
All units have their own defense and attack numbers, with damage deducted accordingly to how much more power you have over their defense. Critical hits are indicated by a quick flash, resulting in an additional attack. The demo lets you start with 3 to a party, presumably with other party members you can shuffle in in the full game, besides setting up their skill cards. Characters can also equip 3 pieces of equipment: weapon, armour and accessory.
You can only have one ailment applied onto you at a time, any new one overwriting the previous. Damage over time is also dependent on a dice roll, occurring in intervals. I assume you similarly can only have a single buff on at a time. Battles are random as you land on a tile, differing from Hand of Fate which represents enemies clearly on cards depending on the event encounter. I feel like this might be annoying to some. I shrug and move on, used to these conventions.
Besides the actual battles themselves, you have a card game you can participate in at the game parlour. You match cards to make sets of 2 or 3 matching or sequential and score points totalled from the numbers. You may only have 3 sets of cards at a time, and you’re forced to discard any sets you’ve already made. This can be further spiced up with other game rules. The demo’s multiplayer parlour opens up to other local players, with the AI filling in if you’re playing solo.
One feature I like is that you can “teleport” to a previously discovered tile, even in dungeons (though visibility is limited). It reduces the tedium of any required backtracking, as regular travel can feel slow, and there’s terrain you can’t travel across.
Being a demo, I can’t really pick at the story much. There’s a queen who totally isn’t quaffing some immortality potion. Ivory Order’s pure, kind, righteous and whatever, so god knows what Church Bad tropes will happen. The various NPCs you can encounter have their own blurbs with requirements to unlock their stories for you to view in your Collection. Events on the overworld may also occur, as is usually the case.
As it turns out, Dragons haven’t been a thing in this land for a while now, so it must be a bad omen…
I myself am a fan of Hand of Fate, feeling the similar droning vibe of the Game Master, the ever omniscient, as he watches over his table. I’m slightly intrigued about what I’ve seen so far, and I’ve always been a sucker for this kind of theme and turn-based games anyway.
The demo is about an hour long, so pick it up and try it for yourself. Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars will be available 28 October 2021 for PS4, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.