Children of Zodiarcs (PC) Preview

By Ofisil 14.05.2017

Review for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

If there's one thing that every gamer should be thankful about independent developers, that would be that they are their main source of old-school goodness, because, yeah, while this part of the industry is responsible for lots of pseudo-old-school titles, those that are not "faking" it, are simply great - and the throwback to those PlayStation-era, tactical-RPGs, Children of Zodiarcs is probably one of those too…

The adventure starts very close to the end of a break-in into the chambers of a noble, by a team of young criminals who have set their eyes upon a powerful artefact, one of the many available in this world, with them and their history being the central focus of this tale; a tale that has a strong old-school Final Fantasy VI and VII vibe. Sure, the current preview only provides the first "chapter," but everything offered so far looks quite promising, with likable and distinctive characters (already a fan of the feisty Nahmi), an interesting plot, and good writing that never gets the wall-of-text treatment of many recent RPGs.

Screenshot for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

While the story feels like Final Fantasy, however, the actual gameplay is, without a doubt, Final Fantasy Tactics-inspired - grid battleground, turn-based, and all, but, luckily, with a twist of its own. Instead of simply choosing abilities from a list or something, characters have a limited number of cards on their hands which represent a variety of skills, from active to passive, and from offensive to supportive. This adds a certain amount of - welcome - randomness to the gameplay, but that sort of randomness that still revolves around skill rather than chance.

Simply put, don't just expect to get lucky. Instead, it's all about thinking what the best option in each situation is. Waste the only available healing card, or attack a foe? Don't use a card and just enter guard mode, or draw some cards from the deck? …And so on. As expected, of course, new cards can be acquired, levelling-up upgrades them, and, even better, the player can customize the "hand" of a character, and thus increase or decrease how often will a skill will appear.

Screenshot for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

The inclusion of this card system is fun and all, however, it's the dice roll mechanic that really elevates this game to a whole different level. Every time one character chooses a skill, a dice roll ensues (manually or automatically), the outcome of which affects the selected card in one way or another. For example, more 'Shards' equal a stronger attack or heal, 'Thunder' rewards with a free action, 'Shields' add better counter-attack defence, while 'Stars' raise the chance of activating the bonus ability of a card.

Thankfully, the randomization this adds still remains heavily skill-based, the main reason being that it's possible to choose two dice to reroll, therefore, if you need to, say, land a more powerful hit, just pick two non-Shard dice and try again. Finally, more dice can be acquired and equipped, and, more importantly, be crafted, so it's possible to create sets that focus on your favourite play style - more offensive, defensive, varied, etc.

Screenshot for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

Generally, the developing team behind it all shows a clear understanding of what makes this kind of games fun. The dice and card system is not a gimmick, but a fantastic addition; the plot isn't just a placeholder, but something that makes you more invested in the whole thing; and, finally, the main dish, the fighting, isn't there just to provide EXP, but to test your mettle, by offering a variety of battle scenarios, rather than just a bunch of stronger foes in a couple of slightly different arenas.

To wrap things up, Children of Zodiarcs already looks like a pretty impressive bundle of old-school, tactical-RPG fun. Sure, some things still need some work, like more automations (auto-select a character at the start of a round, for instance), semi-transparent walls instead of solid ones, more options/settings, a couple of bug fixes (although, there's not much to fix), and it's currently impossible to know how the storyline will turn out, but the first taste of Cardboard Utopia's creation makes it easy to get hopes up.

Screenshot for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

Final Thoughts

Fans of tactical/strategy-RPGs rejoice! Cardboard Utopia is close to completing its own innovative take on the genre, and, so far, it looks mighty fine. With a little more care, especially in terms of variety and storytelling, the potential of Children of Zodiarcs becoming one of the classics looks quite high.

Developer

Cardboard Utopia

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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