Dungeon & Dragons TacticsESRB:
Developer – Kuju Entertainment
Publisher - Atari
4 player (Ad-Hoc)
Memory Stick Duo 256 KB
Although I am not a D&D fan but I do like playing any RPG like games that involve some action and strategy. Dungeons and Dragons Tactics for the Sony PSP is a game that seemed to have some of these elements I was looking for. Developed by Kuju Entertainment and published by Atari it was a perfect game to take on the road or to work to explore the almost cultish world of a D&D adventure.
Graphically, the game has a clean and somewhat simple presentation. In battles the map is in 3D with a surprising amount of detail, considering the fact that you can pull your camera away from the main battlefield a fair distance. Light sourcing and shading are very evident throughout the game too but nothing really stands out. Characters are also rendered in 3D and it is pretty easy to tell who's who on-screen, however if the camera is pulled all the way out they tend to pixlize the farther you are away from them. In terms of detail on each character, they all show the proper hand equipment for each class. In addition special icons will appear overhead to show any special statuses or bonuses they currently have. Most of characters will be familiar to D&D fans but a few had me searching the manual to figure out what they were all about. When your character attacks an enemy, or begins some sort of spell casting, nicely rendered animations kick in on the fly. However as with most turn-based RPGs they are pretty much the same every time. Sometimes if you use a different mode of play this will eliminate some of the repeated renderings but it is never anything completely different. I did find on a few occasions that the frame rate would begin to slowdown. This usually happened around some of the bigger boss battles and really didn’t deter me from the game. Overall the visuals were fairly solid and I didn’t have any issues with them.
The music in D&D Tactics is pretty good although the world map music is forever looping. At the forefront there is a well-orchestrated track and it fits in with the game quite well. I found the music really didn’t add anything particularly to the gameplay in terms of dramatic effect, but it is nice to have and it can be turned off if you want to. As for the rest of the sound effects, they were acceptable with your typical hack and slash effects, with the odd grunt and or groan thrown in for good luck. Unfortunately there is no voice acting in D&D Tactics other than the aforementioned grunts. I would think that some voice acting would make this title a little more exciting. Most RPG’s do have some kind of voice acting, making the game way more dramatic and fun to play which can be integral to driving the story. The lack of such was a bit disappointing. I like to hear the difference between the PSP’s external speakers and the headphone option. The headphones always seem to have more clarity and depth, and can add to the game immensely. I would recommend using them.
When you first begin D&D Tactics you will need to create a party to tote around with you. You can create as many characters as you wish with one of them having to be assigned the leader. From there you even have the option of jumping right into the action by opting to use the quick start feature. The game will actually generate an entire party of 6 for you. When trying this option the game created a well rounded party suitable for my ensuing battles. This can be a good thing as setting up your own characters is quite time consuming and may be quite boring for some. However for those wanting to start from scratch creating your own character, the game has a robust system which explains what each of your character and menu choices gets you. I should note though that you should keep the game's manual handy as the game language is in total D&D lingo and deciphering items, icons, and terminology with the manual can be a help. Long time players will immediately be able to navigate the system tools, although there are some minor changes to the D&D rules to accommodate the PSP medium.
After fielding your group you’ll walk around a grid-based terrain attacking and being attacked by your enemies. During battles, you can find money and new equipment in chests scattered around the land and you will be able to sell off extras and up grade anything in your inventory. Missions can be fairly lengthy, and with the default options, you may get frustrated quickly. There are a couple of different modes to run through, including a chess mode. I quite liked that you could save at any point in the game, meaning the hours of progress won’t be lost if you take a wrong turn or your battery just dies on you.
Control is one of the biggest parts to any games playability, and D&D Tactics does a pretty good job of it. After the initial learning curve
I found the game pretty easy to control. The button placements are intuitive and well placed. I did find I forgot some of the complex sequence of buttons to press but with practice it becomes second nature. In terms of difficulty level I found the game not as tough as I thought it could be. I was blasting through levels as if I was a veteran D&D player for many years. I didn’t make it to the later levels, but so far it seems to be an easy affair.
The menu system that can drive the game is more complex than most games. It is here the bulk of your battles is executed. You'll find yourself digging far deeper into menus than you'd like for some things. The game is quite deep and the menus reflect that depth and practice makes perfect.
Finally, D&D Tactics does offer multi-player, but just ad-hoc. Since I didn't have any friends with a copy of the game, I could not try out multiplayer for myself, there are both co-op and death match options available.
While Dungeons and Dragons Tactics is not my cup of tea, any D&D gamer will instantly fall into its deep tactical combat. Though controls hinder the gamer at times you’d be hard pressed to find another comparable translation of the pen and paper game. The user menus and interface are done amazingly well on given the small screen with limited controls. This game is definitely not for the casual gamer but if you give it a chance its merits can be large and rewarding.