Reviews

VOICE OF CARDS: THE ISLE DRAGON ROARS

Yoko Taro is one of the most interesting creative minds in the video game industry. Today this name is synonymous with Drakengard and NieR, two of the most depressing and bizarre series we’ve seen in this century. In this way, it can be intimidating to step into the world that this person with the head of Emil has created for all of us. However, this year something happened that not many believed possible. This developer decided to get away from his most famous properties entirely, and has delivered a JRPG that may well serve as a cover letter for the captivating and disturbing stories that he became famous for.

Announced during this year’s E3, Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars decides to completely move away from the complex and interconnected narrative of NieR and Drakengard, in order to introduce us to a new property that may well become Yoko Taro’s third pillar. Originally developed as a mobile installment while Square Enix was working on Replicant ver. 1.22474487139 … eventually the intentions of this project increased considerably, to the extent that this title was given the opportunity to reach consoles and PCs on the end of October. This should come as no surprise, as some of the team that handled the two previously mentioned series are also involved here.

After only a couple of months of waiting, where the Japanese company did not make any substantial noise to this work, Yoko Taro’s new game has finally reached our hands. Is Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars the next big property from this Japanese developer? Is this title worth it? Why is no one talking about this JRPG? Discover the answers to these and more questions in our Atomix Review.

Prior to the game’s release, Yoko Taro made it clear that Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars has no relationship with Drakengard or NieR. While many expected this to turn out to be just a lie to surprise players with a reference to the adventures of 2B or Caim, this is not the case. This gives developers great freedom to create something completely new, without being tied to a narrative that is almost 20 years old, but retaining several of the elements that have so characterized these works. Although this may disappoint more than one fan, the end result is well worth it.

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars presents us with a medieval world, where magic and creatures like orcs are mundane matters. In this way, the game puts us at the feet of Ash, or whatever you want to call it, who is recruited by a queen with the aim of defeating a dragon that has caused a series of havoc throughout different territories and cities. This is where the adventure begins. With only one monster as a companion, our protagonist embarks on an adventure that seems to be pretty standard from a distance. Along the way it is possible to ally with a dark mage, an archer and a super strong alchemist, who will make this raid easier and more fun for the player. 

Although the premise of the game is very basic, Yoko Taro, in the position of creative director, uses the conventions of this type of story to build an adventure that on more than one occasion plays with our expectations, with the aim of offering disturbing moments, sad and uncomfortable. The journey is not as simple as our protagonists expect. Each town they visit has a haunting aura, where things are not as they seem. Sometimes this is caused by the strange stories that the NPCs tell, and at other times it is the same main raid that makes us face situations that can be controversial for more than one.

By completing certain missions, the game rewards us with additional information about the characters and enemies that inhabit this world. Some of these descriptions are quite basic and substantially expand the way this universe works. On the other hand, there are also a couple that show us a dark side, one where the perversions of a child come to light, where the violence of a marriage torments a woman, where bullying caused a certain creature to mutate from horrifying way, and where the nature of certain allies and opponents really comes to light. 

This is where the true talent of Yoko Taro and Yuki Matsuo, who were in charge of the script, stands out. In most games, a compendium is just a library of information that feels like homework, and does not prompt the player to read everything that is offered. This is not the case in this title. With each new description I couldn’t wait to learn more about everything this world has to offer. They all work as a good complement to the main adventure, and make the world presented here feel more alive and real than many other magical lands.

At the center of the whole adventure are our protagonists. The five characters we can control on this journey feel quite one-dimensional for much of the game. Each one has a little personality and only that. In this entire story, there are only two moments where the game decides to do something interesting with them, but they quickly quickly return to their basic behaviors. It’s somewhat disappointing that this is the case, especially considering that the dialogue they are offered is quite funny at times.

However, don’t expect a depressing ride from start to finish. Voice of Cards is generally quite a friendly game. Even the big reveal that occurs at the end of the adventure is not as disturbing as what we see in NieR Replicant . This is a good introduction to the kinds of stories that Yoko Taro loves to tell. At the end of the day, the work presented here has a more optimistic outlook, leaving enough space for us to return to this world in the future, either for direct continuation, or to experience something different. Not to mention the charismatic Dungeons and Dragon-style presentation, complete with everything and a narrator.

Immediately, Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars draws attention for its artistic direction. When the game was revealed as a JRPG of cards, many of us thought that this was referring to the gameplay, it is its presentation where this description is used in all its glory. The Dungeons and Dragons style offers us a game table, where each available space is represented by a particular card. Some of these are grouped together to create forests, cities, dungeons, and a vast open field. Others are more focused on particular characters and objects that attract attention.

While the decision to create a world made up entirely of cards is an interesting one, it is the work of Kimihiko Fujisaka, the main artist, that truly brings Yoko Taro’s world to life. The designs for the main characters, NPCs and enemies are based on all the traditional elements of the genre. We have Melanie, who is a dark magician, so her outfit represents the classic work that we all recognize from games like Final Fantasy, only with the absence of a pointy hat. The main character is the typical fantasy hero, with a sword in hand and a large coat. On the other hand we have Bruno, an apothecary who breaks with any conception of this position, since his complexion is that of a bodybuilder. 

Along with this, the designs and conventions that Fujisaka presents to us in the game are also used to play with the expectations of the player. For example, the Ivory Order was created like the warriors in white we so associate with these types of adventures, but their motivations couldn’t be further from their color. This is the case with multiple enemies and allies. Things just aren’t what they seem, and the developers use our preconceptions of the genre to play on user emotions. 

Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. Due to the characteristics of the cards, there is no way to express emotions. All the most important cinematics and moments in history are starred by these objects simply moving from one side to another, thus eliminating some of the seriousness and emotion that certain events deserve. Likewise, the same NPCs are always in all towns, and the game will eventually deliver versions of the same enemy with different shades. This isn’t a total disappointment, as Fujisaka’s work is always top-notch, but there was room to create more unique designs for all of the characters. 

One of the aspects that best make the inspiration in Dungeons and Dragons clear is the game’s narrator. Voice of Cards has a Dungeon Master who is in charge of describing all the events, dialogues and actions of the story. This means that for the duration of the entire adventure you will only be able to hear one voice. None of the main characters speak, and this lends a great degree of personality to the entire experience.

The Dungeon Master is an elderly man, who seems to have done this job for a long time. No matter what impressive event happens, the intonation will always be that of someone tired who has done this a million times, and is ready to do it again when the journey comes to an end. One of the funniest details is when the narrator makes a mistake when pronouncing some words, or when he simply does not obey the dialogues established in the letters. Although one could argue that his work does not meet some of the strongest moments in history, this character has a charisma that works in a great way with the presentation of the game, and can elevate the experience depending on the tastes of each one. .

However, the Dungeon Master is only one of the two pillars of Voice of Cards in this section. Keiichi Okabe, a composer who has worked together with Yoko Taro on the Drakengard and NieR series, is also involved in this project. Although his usual orchestral work is not present on this occasion, we do find a healthy number of compositions inspired by Irish folk music. Here the protagonists are the flute, the timpani, the harp and the traditional songs that manage to represent in a great way a classic medieval adventure. 

Okabe has once again done it, and while his compositions lack the grand scale that characterizes NieR or Drakengard’s hearing loss, his work is impeccable this time. The main theme is a clear example of this. This piece not only has its stamp, as it prepares us for a magical journey, but its use throughout history is successful. 

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars may not look as impressive as other Yoko Taro titles in the sound section, but this does not detract from the great work that was carried out this time. The Dungeon Master is a phenomenal companion, which may not be to everyone’s liking, but it is never tiring to listen to. Keiichi Okabe’s compassions are captivating and show us another side of the composer. A great section, without a doubt.

Although Yoko Taro and Square Enix want to sell us Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars as a JRPG that works with cards, the main experience, the gameplay and the combat system, are far from this explanation, and are more attached to the conventions classics of the genre. More than offering an experience that goes the same way as SteamWorld Quest, Slay the Spire or Metal Gear Acid , which do work based on a deck that gives us items, attacks and abilities in a random way, this delivery feels more attached to a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, and at no time do you need to trust the heart of the cards to survive any combat.

As I already mentioned, the card element is just a pretty unique artistic decision, but this does not carry any weight in the gameplay. Being a traditional JRPG, Voice of Cardspresents us with a vast world with diverse towns and dungeons that we can explore whenever enough progress is made in the story. Each section is built by a letter. These are usually hidden and you need to move your character on a board to reveal part of the map. This is quite interesting, since you never know exactly what is in front of you. It may be an enchanted forest that houses a fairy, perhaps a stone path will guide you to someone’s house, or an unexpected mountain will block your path. Exploration is one of the most important elements of the game, and there is not a single moment where you can feel lost.

The use of cards makes everything easy to identify and, although when exploring you need to move your character one square at a time, when you manage to identify any part of the map, it is possible to immediately jump to the area you want, eliminating thus the tedious process of returning to a particular area. However, if you decide to travel in a more traditional way, prepare to have many random confrontations, and run into a series of unexpected events. 

Like any other traditional JRPG, the game features random confrontations against small enemies. Within combat, you will have a very basic combat system, but with a particularly interesting idea. Each fight is made up of three members of your team, which you can choose to your liking. At the beginning of a turn you will receive a special crystal, which can be used to activate certain abilities. In the event that you decide to use an item, use your basic attack, or simply take no action, you can save this special item to use it at another time.

Crystals can be considered your MP bar. Certain attacks, usually all but the basic ones, need at least one of these items. It will be up to you to manage all these objects in an appropriate way for each fight, since when a fight ends, they will disappear. In the same way, you also need to consider the abilities, strengths and weaknesses of each enemy, something that will lead you to victory in a simpler way. Lastly, each character on your team can equip a special weapon, armor, and ring. Each element will improve your performance in certain areas, thus increasing the life, defense and attack of each team member.

As each character levels up, he will gain passive abilities and powers that serve to win each battle. However, you cannot use all of this at the same time, as it is only possible to select four different types of actions, so you need to build a team that has the necessary tools to survive each confrontation. As you have probably already realized, this is extremely basic. Voice of Cards is not breaking new ground, nor is it taking charge of bringing these concepts to perfection. Yoko Taro and her team set out to create a fun, simple system that anyone can understand, something they accomplished. 

To reinforce the idea of ​​a Dungeons and Dragons game, the game has a number of elements that are typically associated with these types of experiences. The first is directly related to the fighting, since some attacks require rolling a virtual dice to calculate the damage that the enemies will suffer. On the other hand, we also find a series of unexpected events that happen on the main map, which range from simple encounters with an NPC in the middle of nowhere, to moments where your life will depend on rolling the dice and waiting for the number represented. be beneficial. 

If combat is not your thing, then you can also enjoy a Spanish deck style card game, where you have to collect a certain amount of points to win. The interesting thing about this is that you can implement a series of rules that make this section more complicated, since additional elements are added such as the use of special abilities, or an additional deck. To top it off, this is an item that can be played online against real people, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it as a mobile title in the future.

Although the adventure is not as extensive as one might think, it lacks any real challenge, and its combat system is simple, the experience that Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is a quality one from start to finish. Every confrontation is fun and all bosses always offer the best of the game. The exploration is greatly complemented by the card presentation, and the elements of Dungeons and Dragons give this JRPG a personality that is hard to find today.

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is phenomenal. Yoko Taro and her team are clearly a group of passionate developers, artists and songwriters who are constantly trying to offer the public something worthwhile, no matter how extensive the experience in question. The story is straightforward for much of its length, and the main characters are fairly flat, but the adventure is fun and full of the trademark narrative style with haunting moments that we associate so much with this developer.

The visual presentation is unique, making great use of the card style to create a world that feels like a board game, which is reinforced by a fantastic storyteller who manages to encapsulate the role of the Dungeon Master for a fun journey. . The combat and gameplay system, as simple as they are, are well built, and will manage to trap the player for hours and hours.

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars can be considered a cover letter, not only for the turn-based JRPG genre, but for Yoko Taro’s work. If the world that Drakengard and NieR present interests you, but the depressing themes that these works offer do not convince you, you can enjoy this new work and find out if the style of this Japanese developer is for you or not. 

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars can be considered a cover letter, not only for the turn-based JRPG genre, but for Yoko Taro’s work. If the world that Drakengard and NieR present interests you, but the depressing themes that these works offer do not convince you, you can enjoy this new work and find out if the style of this Japanese developer is for you or not. 

8.5/10

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