Children of Zodiarcs (PC) Review

By Athanasios 18.07.2017

Review for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

Right from the very beginning, Children of Zodiarcs has been one of the most promising products that has had the luck of being part of Square Enix's indie publishing division. Managing to exceed its original Kickstarter funding goal, and leaving quite an impression during its Early Access phase, the expectations for a great final release were more than high - and, luckily, this finely-crafted homage to the classic tactical RPGs of old manages to deliver with flying colours. Here's why…

Few (if any) SRPGs stand out from the rest, as not a single one has tried to innovate to such a level that it all feels like a reinvention of the wheel. Children of Zodiarcs is, for the most part, just another one of those thrown into the pile - grid-based battlefield, units whose movement and skills have a very specific limit per round, and so on... And yet, the Canadian developer has managed to infuse the good ol' recipe with a few ingredients that manage to stir things up quite a lot.

Both heroes and foes alike have in their possession a deck of cards; cards that act as the offensive, defensive, and supporting skills that can be used, and which are unique for each type/class of unit. The tricky part is that no one gets to choose from the whole deck, as access is restricted to a 'hand' of seven abilities, something that, apart from forcing you to consider whether it's better to use a card or draw some more, adds a very pleasant layer of chance to the whole deal.

Screenshot for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

…But wait - luck plays a part in a chess-like strategy game? Well, worry not, as it all still revolves around one's skill, something that becomes even more evident with Children of Zodiarcs' second innovation. Upon choosing a card to use, a dice roll ensues, which, depending on the outcome, can boost the selected skill in one way or another. It doesn't end here, though, as it's possible to reroll two of them, and raise the chances of, for example, dealing more or less damage, something that, like the cards, turns out to be a great risk-reward system.

Of course, as fun as all this sounds, it's their actual implementation that matters, and, thankfully, it is one that's near-flawless. The main protagonists are much more than just a rogue, tank, mage, and so on, the skills are balanced as well as extremely varied, and enable all sorts of tactical thinking, and, on top of it all, you can actually spend hours upon hours trying to create the "perfect" deck of cards by mixing and matching them, or even alter the symbols on the dices by crafting in order for them to suit your needs.

Screenshot for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

Mechanics, shmechanics, though. If battles aren't fun, they just aren't fun, and, thankfully, these are quite the entertaining and tense bunch. For starters, the opposition is pleasantly fierce, forcing you not just to think, but to actually experiment quite a lot, as there's no single way to complete a match. Moreover, levels don't feel samey, as each one tends to offer a different scenario, and thus never ever succumb to repetition - but all is not perfect.

One of the things that hasn't changed from the Early Access days is the lack of a speed button. In all honesty, playing more than four battles can wear you out, as it's usually three against five or more enemies; enemies who slowly move and use their abilities each time their turn comes. Furthermore, while this is definitely a magnificent single-player experience, there's not much to do after completing the journey - no multiplayer, no meta-game mode, no nothing.

Screenshot for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

The biggest disappointment, however, seems to be the plot. Bad? Oh, heavens no! It's actually an engrossing tale about a group of child thieves that steal pieces of ancient technology from the rich minority that oppresses the poor masses of the fantasy realm of Lumus; a tale with great characters who are surprisingly easy to sympathise with, dialogue sequences that never overstay their welcome, and an overall outstanding audio-visual quality as a cherry on top, courtesy of illustrator Erica Lahaie, and the musical talents of Vibe Avenue.

In conclusion, it's a story about how some underdogs manage to win the battle against the big and powerful that rule this land, and it's very good… but it's nothing more than that. In other words, it's highly entertaining, but it could be so, so much more. It must be mentioned again, however: the storyline at hand is far, far, far from bad, subpar, or mediocre - it's just that it never becomes the epic that it feels it is. Flaws or not, however, kudos to Cardboard Utopia, as it has clearly shown that it has the "right stuff."

Screenshot for Children of Zodiarcs on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Children of Zodiarcs does so much with so little that its only flaw seems to be that it's not as close to perfection as it could be. Nevertheless, fans of the genre are highly advised to try it out, as the inclusion of card-based skills and specialised dices manage to offer a fine example of an SRPG that's original, challenging, and all around fun.


Cardboard Utopia


Square Enix





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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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