Review: Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars

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RPG 52 cards

It’s really cool to see something engage in a concept like Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is. It’s a role-playing game that’s built on cards, not just in aesthetics or mechanics, but in everything. All in Voice of Cards These are the cards: the dialogue choices, the menus, the shops, even the card itself. It’s a story told as if it’s been dealt from a huge deck, one art-laden card at a time.

Which makes Voice of Cards so fascinating also sometimes ends up being its stumbling block. Where, in some places, its limitations and constraints create incredible moments, in others, it interferes with the current journey. It’s a good adventure, and it feels like it’s the basis of what could be more.

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars (PC, PS4 [reviewed via PS5], Nintendo Switch)
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: October 28, 2021
MSRP: $ 29.99

The configuration of Voice of Cards it’s that you play the main character, whom you name and who generally speaks to “you”. He is joined by Mar, a friendly monster companion, and shortly afterwards Melanie, a vengeful witch, on a quest to hunt an awakened dragon. The queen has offered a bounty to whoever brings her head back, and your trio chase after him, on the heels of another trio of heroes from the Order of Ivory.

It’s really nice to see how you end up playing the underdog of traditional heroes, and the dialogue options really allow you to become the potential Bounty Hunt hero with a heart of gold, in contrast to the stoic paragons of the justice of the Ivory Order. The game master also encourages you a bit; Throughout the story, an invisible narrator walks you through all the action. He lays the cards down, tells all the dialogue (including that of each character), and drops little aside when you land critical hits or take a big hit.

The “everything is cards” approach is really appealing from the start. It’s a unique look for Voice of Cards, reinforced by the excellent art of the characters. The creative team behind Voice of Cards is stellar, and it shows, from the individual character designs like Melanie and Bruno to the monsters you encounter along your journey.

A Body Slam card in Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars

And it would be easy to think that with all the cards, this is a deck building game. It’s absolutely a traditional RPG; Each member of your party has four slots for skills that you can use in battle, either freely or by spending gems you generate each turn. The gems and cards, along with the surprisingly pretty animations of cards flipping and performing stunts in the air, give it a tabletop feel. But it’s closer to Final fantasy than Kill the arrow.

The fight is good, although it has stagnated a bit over time. Initially, there’s a lot to unbox, as you recruit new party members and learn the elemental weaknesses and situational advantages you can use to rout the enemy. However, in some of the newer areas and dungeons, I felt myself falling into a simple, foolproof routine against every encounter.

It was only very, very late battles that caused me to adjust my system and adapt on the fly. Party members also felt they had very distinct and defined roles with only a little leeway and to help in other ways beyond their defined means. The characters will have a few abilities that can serve as healing options, but the limited number of skills I could equip meant that I often found myself sticking with a basic trio that I could really negotiate into a machine. to kill monsters clean and efficient.

The game map, entirely made up of cards

A little boredom in the battles would have been nice, had it not been for the movement on the map. Skipping your marker card by card can start to tire you out for long sessions, and random encounters are quite common. The ability to ‘jump’ or teleport to any map you’ve already flipped is a huge plus here. But even then, I would sometimes use this jump just to cut corners faster in dungeons.

Voice of Cards“The story also has its own peaks and valleys. Art and music carry a large part of the start of the game, as it begins as a simple hero’s journey. Small side stories unfold in the towns, and as they go. As the party grows to encompass five different characters, it starts to sound like the start of a good group of traveling adventurers.

But it’s not long after this group comes together that the story begins to end, and ultimately the length of time. Voice of Cards ends up feeling like a double-edged sword. For one thing, I liked it for being a short and sweet RPG compared to the titanic size of others. I saw the credits roll around 10-11 a.m. and spent about an hour cleaning up a few side quests and lingering secrets. Not all the twists and turns have been overwhelming, but Voice of Cards pulls a few stacks under the player, and some individual moments later in the story have really shone and swept away any boredom.

At the same time, I felt like I barely knew these characters as some of their big emotional moments unfold. And that remains the master of the game, because each character has a very expressive art but the same voice. It’s like playing a one-on-one, player and GM tabletop role-playing game, and as good as the game master’s voice actor is, I wish these characters had their own voices.

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars

I don’t want to stress too much, because there is more that I enjoyed in Voice of Cards than what I did not do. There really is something to be said for a good, solid RPG that you can complete in a weekend, and Voice of Cards is exactly that. You can see the full extent of its history in one go if you like, and there’s a branching ending that feels like it rewards my diligence in exploring the map as much as I can.

That’s good, but too often he lacks his own attributes to feel good. When cards flourish in some areas, they feel awkward or underutilized in others. I’d like that to be explored further, to really see the developers and Square Enix doing more in that kind of space. A late game encounter used the cards both visually and functionally in a way that really surprised me, but it also made me wonder why it took until the end of the story to draw a ride like this.

If you are looking for an enjoyable RPG with new ideas and a solid presentation, Voice of Cards can easily eat a weekend or two. It’s sweet and does not exceed its welcome, even when I would have liked it. While these factors aren’t enough to make it rival the best in its class, there are many worse ways to have a nice fall night than to curl up with it. Voice of Cards.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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