One of the most surprising decks to cut into from 2021
A Dragon’s presence threatens the land after a successful mission to recover a priceless royal artefact while the Queen rallies various bounty hunters to arms in order to vanquish the foe. A trusted organisation is also charged with the same quest. You and your Chewbacca-esque companion go forth through the land on the hunt, to not only search for the beast but also uncover some mysteries of your very own.
Enter Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars
A tale of triumph, mystery, and magic. And… cards. Yes, the game is built solely on cards. Everything is cards. This is a game-within-a-game, you see. Characters, NPCs, Enemies, Special Abilities, Houses, Movement through the maps – all cards. It’s the aesthetic. It’s nearly Paper Mario at this end. Kinda strange at first, but in its design, it’s what sets Voice of Cards apart. It’s still visually beautiful with hand-drawn characters. It mimics the very tabletop feel that Voice of Cards goes for. Each marker move, each dice roll that hits the wood, all to a soothing Keiichi Okabe produced soundtrack. The main cast isn’t without their own personalities because of this. The Games Master expresses them – just in a more bedtime story fashion. Don’t expect Robert Munsch expressive style packaging, though.
The dungeons are also run by cards
Going through a dark dungeon would at times need to be done one step at a time. If a character reveals a step they cannot manoeuvre over, the reveal will push them back. Luckily, there is a bit of fast travel whereas players can select tiles that they can see to speed up movement. Floors that were previously done can be skipped by selecting the very end of the map – which was very handy for backtracking. The objectives are clearly laid out so that there’s no real forgetting what to do. And if the player has had probably an extended leave and forgets what happened before, Voice of Cards’ movie option can get the player back up to speed with ease.
There are no animations that are not dependent on cards in this 7 chapter run. The narrator is a games master, who interjects from time to time to read the action aloud. At times, he also roots for you or states the obvious – all in a near Ben Stein delivery. Voice over of Resident Evil and Genshin Impact fame, Todd Haberkorn, lends his talents in a different form compared to his previous works. The Games Master doesn’t rise too high or low for certain genders. It’s all nearly monotone – which is at times quite hilarious. The game relies on your imagination to a degree while the cards only move around. Battles do take place on a different board. Dice rolls determine effects or parameters to intensify the fights. Stat boosts and calculations are a bit more explicit. There are some special effects, but again, it’s mostly through the cards subtle animations. Encounters on the field can be random, which was welcome. Tied to only three combatants on either side, Voice of Cards does the standard JRPG diligence.
There are some surprises in Voice of Cards which, because of how the story is told, works for its theme. For instance, in the latter end, there is a challenge to escape a dungeon within a certain amount of moves. One shot-ing this was no way possible. As the card moves decreases, the Narrator interjects with his assessment of the situation. At first, rooting for you, then… down the line, asking you to hurry. He even mutters a You’re screwed, at some point.
What should fold in Voice of Cards is probably more minuscule than not. The Games Master’s voice seems to get lower at certain times. There wasn’t really a way to turn this up, which at times can be a bit weird. Thankfully, there are subtitles for help. Some features I had hoped for, such as healing outside of the battles, is not present here – which was daunting enough. In terms of playable characters, the roster is not as grand as other tales in RPGs since the game itself is quite short, but at the same time, the illusion of a higher scale could be ignored. Everyone’s hunting this dragon, but I haven’t seen too many of said everyone else. Just the Team Rocket end of the spectrum who the player mostly interacts with. Maybe it’s the anime feel of the larger quest that brought this on.
There are not too many other tropes such as mini-games. There is one that can help with funds. There is a multiplayer mini-game system, but I didn’t really take too much of that on – even though it is a decent curve. Finding others with the game is scarce within my friend circle as it is local play. At times, the mini-games are the most memorable trinket in a JRPG. As rare as the Joker card is, so are they in Voice of Cards. The difficulty at times felt a bit tame until the final chapter’s ability to give escaping battles more error-prone weight.
Voice of Cards is a different approach for Square Enix’s team and a welcome change into the tabletop-esque territory. It’s definitely a decent, bite-sized adventure that demands some more inputs from the player’s mind in terms of visuals. Ignoring that gave Voice of Cards the shine it deserves to be a distraction from its 100-hour brothers and sisters it sits on digital shelves with. While the multiple endings aspect does add to the value, the only serious crime Voice of Cards commits is the one of being way too charming.
Platform: PC, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 28/10/2021
No. of Players: 1-4
Category: Board Game, RPG, Strategy
Publisher: SQUARE ENIX
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop