Title: Children of Zodiarcs
Platform: PC | PS4 (reviewed)
Developer: Carboard Utopia
Publisher: Square Enix Collective
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: A Strategy RPG with the elements of board game mechanics blended with amazing story telling.
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Children of Zodiarcs is definitely a traditional SRPG, but with a gripping story and an interesting twist on the genre, it’s a truly unique experience. The strategy role playing game genre is a genre that hasn’t changed much since the days of Final Fantasy Tactics and that’s totally fine as it works.
Cardboard Utopia used the Square Enix Collective initiative, where indie developers can demonstrate their ideas to the gamers of the world. Back in January 2016, Cardboard Utopia pitched their idea to the internet via Kickstarter, where it became an incredibly successful project, surpassing many goals.
From the moment you click new game, you are presented with a little bit of lore, then thrown straight into the action. Over the course of the next couple of battles, Cardboard Utopia sets up the plot and characters, whilst teaching you the mechanics of the game in a short amount of time. The plot follows a bunch of orphans from the slums, led by an intimidating bloke called Zirchhoff, in your fight against the imperial government, which is described as corrupt and unfair to those of the lower social class (sounds familiar).
Throughout the game, you will experience a majority of the story as Nahmi, a young and strong willed thief who excels at using a knife. From the moment you meet Nahmi, she is established as playing the impulsive leader when our resident giant, Zirchhoff isn’t around. Being the typical protagonist, she tends to rush into situations without thinking them through, but always has the groups’ best intentions in mind. During the first few hours, I cared about each of the main characters, it felt like you had been childhood friends with these characters, which shows how much care the developers put into writing these characters to give them this sense of familiarity.
The battle system is definitely the traditional SRPG system, with the grid based map allowing your character to move, use a command such as an attack, heal or buff/debuff, then the turn shifts to the enemy phase. Children of Zodiarcs uses this system, but adds a card system to perform attacks and the such; each character has their own unique decks, which can be fully customised, as well as level up alongside the characters to increase the cards base stats and attributes. After choosing your card during the attack phase, you roll a set of dice which either buff the attack, heal you, or allow you use an extra card.
I think Children of Zodiarcs is the right direction for the SRPG genre, as it adds a new level of skill. The fully customisable card and dice system give you tough choices to make during battle, as you need to make sure you bring along enough healing cards as well as attack cards, whilst taking into consideration what dice you want to roll. You also have to choose the right time to draw more cards from your deck into your hand, as drawing cards use up a players phase.
The AI can be brutal and is definitely out to see your party dead. They will hit you with statuses like Bleed, or they will buff their team with Regen, add extra turns, or even give their party members extra dice to make sure their next attack has you clutching your mother’s apron screaming, “They’re picking on me!” Although after a few defeats you learn from your mistakes and win the battle.
The game never gets repetitive or tiresome, as the maps rarely repeat, only really in skirmishes, and the conditions for battle isn’t always “defeat all enemies.” The game mixes it up with objectives like “survive for x amount of turns,” or get from point A to point B. The map design is definitely great, too, adding an amazing amount of intuitive thinking into your battle plan. For example, Nahmi was perched on a ledge above an enemy, and she was still able to land the killing blow on the enemy by throwing her knife. Little details like that make me happy.
Overall, Children of Zodiarcs is a great addition to the SRPG genre, and gives it a fresh lick of paint with the customisable deck of cards and dice systems. I’ve never been hooked on an SRPG like this since Final Fantasy Tactics Advance on the Game Boy Advance back in 2003. Children of Zodiarcs is looking like the prime candidate for the Indie Game of the Year at this year’s game awards.
- Great story and characters.
- Beautiful soundtrack.
- Unique gameplay.
- A fast forward button would be nice for repeating failed battles.
- AI can be a little too unforgiving.
- No Switch release… so far.
Family Focus: Children of Zodiarcs
Children of Zodiarcs is rated T for Teen and PEGI 12.
This review is based on a review code of the game provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.