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

In recent years in particular, the eccentric Yoko Taro von Nier has made a name for himself as a game designer that is second to none. Every project he’s working on is certainly interesting and experimental in some ways, and that trend continues with his latest release: Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars. Although this card-based RPG turns out to be more traditional than it first appears, it still offers a satisfying and fun take on the RPG genre that you won’t want to miss.

Voice of Cards has an extremely traditional narrative but is also a fantastic example of the importance of content delivery. This is a story that is “only” about a community of adventurers who travel across the continent to slay a dragon that threatens the land. On their journey they stop in different cities and get into every subplot the chapter calls for. Sometimes there is even a new party member. This type of story is probably not something you’ve never seen before, but the narrative elevates it to something very special.

You see, Voice of Cards really is a “game within a game” and all dialogue is read to you by the sultry tones of Todd Haberkorn – the game master and narrator. The Game Master is the literal “voice of the cards,” and every line of dialogue has a smooth and relaxing cadence that really sells the idea of ​​you being at a table with a guy who is by the firelight loves Tell stories. This effect is only reinforced by the fact that the Game Master proves to be an independent character. For example, there are moments when you can hear his judgment on a character’s actions and his words that slip into his tone as he reads her lines aloud. Or there are times when he mispronounces a character’s name and needs to correct himself quickly before moving on. Small details like this go a long way in selling the kind of cozy and fanciful atmosphere that is haunted; it’s hard not to get drawn into it.

The gameplay follows the template of a standard turn-based JRPG, just one with a remarkably intriguing aesthetic. The whole game apparently takes place somewhere on an old wooden table in a warmly lit tavern, and the game world consists of a series of cards laid out in a grid on the table. You navigate through this grid with a small totem that represents your group, and only the cards immediately adjacent to the map your totem is on are flipped over to reveal the terrain. In practice, it doesn’t feel like it the unlike navigating a typical overworld in an old Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy game, but there’s a delicious allure here that is uniquely linked to the map aesthetic.

Most maps only have different images of the sea, road or grass to represent passable terrain, but every now and then you come across something more interesting like a treasure chest, a cave or another city. So every time you come to a new area and look at a brand new sea of ​​face-down maps, it’s hard to resist the need to turn each one over to see what it’s hiding. The environments are also just the right size so flipping each card isn’t too tedious or too quick.

Every few times when you jump to the next map you trigger a random encounter and this is where the game’s turn-based combat comes in. Each character is represented on the game board by a map that shows their main graphics and main statistics. Things get a little more interesting when you factor in things like elemental weaknesses, of course, but that’s about as easy as fighting in a JRPG otherwise.

Interestingly, there is no “MP” in Voice of Cards, but there is an alternative to it in the form of “Gems”. Each group member generates a gem when it is their turn, and it is then thrown into a pool shared by the entire group. Most of the more useful spells and attacks therefore come with a gem cost, which can create an interesting layer of strategy when planning your moves. For example, if your mage casts a thunderstorm spell, you can certainly wipe out a few enemies, but then your healer won’t have enough gems to rescue another party member from the brink of death. This aspect of limited resource management adds a surprising amount to combat encounters, and only gets more interesting as you progress and expand your options.

Character progress seems to be rather limited at first – there is no job system or skill tree to be seen here – but leveling up your party eventually unlocks additional spells and skills that you can use some Scope in what kind of role each character should play. So as each character matures, their potential roles continue to diverge from the other party members, which adds to the feeling of adjustment and autonomy, especially since you can only choose three party members at a time to be in combat. Given the length and difficulty of the entire game, it seems like the developers struck just the right balance between simplicity and depth.

Believe it or not, there is also an entirely separate mini-game that actually plays like a simpler card game. You can play this in a game room in any town against tons of AI opponents and under different rules, and while it isn’t the most compelling card mini-game Square has ever made, it still adds a fun extra dimension to Voice of Cards. This is also where the multiplayer component comes into play. Unfortunately, you cannot play against others online, but all nearby friends can participate in their own switch, or you can take turns on just one console. The rules are simple enough to learn and teach others, and we’ve found that having someone on hand who really understands the nuances can be competitive.

While the presentation is standout and the gameplay loop is well designed, there is still a feeling that Voice of Cards misses out on some of the potential of its distinctive aesthetic. For one thing, it feels simple strange that a game that is communicated solely through playing cards has a simple turn-based combat system and not one that focuses on some kind of deck building. Choices like these make the unique focus on maps seem less like an intriguing deconstruction of RPG gameplay and more like a flat decoration used to disguise an otherwise ordinary game.

Yet there is something uniquely fascinating about how all the different parts of Voice of Cards come together. It may only be a dozen hours long and features an undemanding combat system that you’ve seen in a billion RPGs before, but there’s something powerful about how well it shows up in the end. Simply put, this is a game that feels enormous Completely. At a time when role-playing games are often bloated and playtime can reach a hundred hours just to see credits, it feels remarkably refreshing to play through a quick and memorable experience that doesn’t try to aim too high and get you out of it Walk away before it takes too long welcome. You won’t get stuck here by strange characters and poorly researched game mechanics; everything in Voice of Cards exists for a purpose.

As you’ve probably heard by now, presentation is an absolutely critical part of the Voice of Cards DNA, and the developers have it all nailed the atmosphere they were aiming for. Todd Haberkorn’s enchanting narrative, paired with a warm and rousing soundtrack by Keiichi Okabe, makes for a consistently excellent listening experience, while all of Kimihiko Fujisaka’s map art is impressively detailed. Characters may not have a single animation frame, but their poses and designs still give them different personalities. Most importantly, the art serves its purpose of stimulating 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.

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Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is a game that certainly not everyone will enjoy; This is one that you need to respond to with an open mind. It’s quite short compared to most RPGs and doesn’t take many risks with its gameplay, yet the card aesthetics remain interesting throughout, it’s supported by an extremely powerful presentation, and this gameplay ultimately proves to be quite satisfactory. For thirty dollars, this card game is one of the best incisive role-playing games you can buy on the Switch, and if any of its artworks or concepts pique your interest we strongly encourage you to try it out.



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