Effectively, that was quick, wasn’t it? Not even 4 months in the past, Sq. Enix launched Voice of Playing cards: The Isle Dragon Roars, which proved itself to be an pleasing, enjoyable, and fascinating tackle a basic JRPG from inventive director Yoko Taro and his crew. The title subtly hinted on the risk that there can be extra entries to return, and now right here we’re with a full-fledged sequel that tells a completely new story. The excellent news is that Voice of Playing cards: The Forsaken Maiden is each bit as enthralling and comfortable as its predecessor. The dangerous information is that it feels extra like an ‘additional chapter’ than it does its personal standalone product. It’s a terrific sport general, although it gained’t change your thoughts should you weren’t swayed by the primary entry.
Voice of Playing cards: The Forsaken Maiden remains to be set in a fantasy world, however this time with a decidedly extra nautical theme. This narrative is centered round a small archipelago of islands, every of which relies upon a resident spirit for prosperity. Every so often, an area maiden on every island must carry out a ritual to please the native spirit and be certain that her island will proceed to thrive. You play as Barren, a hopeful navigator who belongs to the aptly named Omega Village. For no matter cause, the maiden who was purported to reside there by no means arrived, and the island is thus teetering on the verge of destruction. It’s revealed early on that Barren’s pal Laty—a green-haired, mysterious lady who doesn’t have a voice—is the island’s maiden, however she doesn’t have the ability to carry out the ritual she was born for. So, the 2 set out on the excessive seas to hunt the help of the opposite islands’ maidens and hopefully unravel Laty’s hidden previous.
It is a remarkably compelling narrative, pushed by sturdy characterizations and a few shockingly darkish plot twists which can be well-telegraphed. The primary gimmick, after all, is that every one that is being communicated to you by way of a sole narrator who reads each line of dialogue and outline. The GM duties this time round are being dealt with by Mark Atherlay, a brand new narrator who supplies a stable efficiency that matches Todd Haberkorn’s earlier degree of high quality whereas having some distinguishing traits. Atherlay has a barely extra playful tone to his narration, and although he doesn’t insert himself as a personality into the narrative as a lot, we observed that he breaks away to talk on to the participant extra continuously. Some might have a problem with simply one voice for all characters, however we actually respect how Voice of Playing cards nails that storybook vibe of getting somebody studying to you; it has the impact of drawing you into the world in a means that no cutscene or in depth voice forged ever might.
As for its gameplay, Voice of Playing cards performs loads like a typical old fashioned JRPG, however with the small distinction being that the complete world is made out of an enormous grid of playing cards. Within the overworld, you don’t truly play as a given character, as an alternative you management a golden totem that represents your social gathering and transfer it from card to card laid out on an enormous wood desk. The playing cards in each new space you enter are flipped over, and also you solely get to see what’s on the opposite aspect should you transfer your totem to an adjoining card. Most playing cards will simply have grasses, paths, fields, and so forth, however typically you’ll come throughout rock partitions, water, or different untraversable terrains that prod you to show again.
This will make for some thrilling exploration, as you don’t have any concept what the lay of the land is like till you’ve got truly moved your social gathering throughout it. Generally you may discover a hidden passage main you to a particular alcove, otherwise you’ll discover a treasure chest obscured behind some bushes. Generally you could suppose you understand how a given dungeon ground might be laid out, solely to be stunned as you slowly uncover what it’s actually like. It is spectacular how a comparatively small assortment of ‘generic’ terrain playing cards will be specified by such a means as to make new locales really feel completely distinct even when they technically look the identical.
As you discover the overworld, you’re positive to return throughout some randomly triggered occasions that assist to make the flat world really feel way more alive. Generally a random service provider will method you and offer you an opportunity to purchase merchandise at an enormous low cost. One memorable occasion noticed our social gathering gathering a bag of mysterious items that proved to be instrumental in a later quest. You by no means know who may method you or what may assault you on the highway, and given that you just actually can’t see something coming, these emergent occasions are at all times a pleasant shock.
This being an old style JRPG, it comes with the territory that each few steps will see you randomly getting jumped by yet one more enemy and getting drawn into fight. The battle display is laid out a bit like a standard card sport, however the precise fight system simply follows easy, tried and true turn-based battle guidelines. Every character has myriad assaults, abilities, and spells they’ll forged, and there’s an fascinating tackle a mana system on show right here. Each character generates a gem when their flip comes, and that is then saved in a small field that the entire crew attracts from when anybody needs to forged a extra highly effective motion. Which means that not everybody can go all out on a regular basis; typically it’s important to prioritize which assaults or actions you need to take as a result of there gained’t be sufficient gems for everybody. Typically, the enemies don’t put up sufficient of a battle that you just actually need to be getting within the weeds of planning out turns, however we loved this additional layer of technique to an in any other case simplistic battle system.
One new mechanic unique to this entry is that of Hyperlink Abilities, which allow social gathering members to behave in tandem with one another. Generally it’ll be the identical ability on each characters and different instances every can have a particular motion in the event that they’re the ‘lead’ if you select to spend the hefty worth of gems. These hyperlink abilities will be absolute sport changers if you recognize when to drop them in a troublesome boss battle, and we appreciated this effort to make your crew really feel like a extra cohesive group. Plus, watching each the mandatory playing cards dance across the battle display as every kind of fireworks go off could make for an impressive spectacle as you drive the nail into the enemy’s coffin.
These of you who get bored with the standard gameplay loop of exploring dungeons, visiting cities, and preventing enemies can at all times cease off at a sport parlor in every main city the place you may interact in a minigame that performs way more like a standard card sport. Right here, you and your opponents share a deck of playing cards, and the objective is to create units of two or three playing cards to carry in your hand and increase up your general rating. There’s a pleasant stability right here of luck and ability, as you may’t do something to manage what playing cards you draw every flip, however the way you play them can imply the distinction between victory and defeat. There are different rulesets, too, that give every card completely different skills for including additional strategic depth or have random occasions happen once in a while to utterly change the state of the sport. It could’ve been good if this minigame had been built-in higher into the principle gameplay loop—we’re remembering fondly of how Triple Triad labored—nevertheless it’s nonetheless good to have a break from the motion once in a while if you’d like it.
As for its presentation, Voice of Playing cards manages to ascertain a completely engrossing and imaginative ambiance that every one however begs to be performed in a snug location with headphones on. The combination of Mark Atherlay’s emphatic narration, the warmly lit desk, and Keiichi Okabe’s assortment of sentimental guitar and piano tracks creates an amazing sense of place, stimulating your creativeness to fill within the gaps and create this world in your thoughts as you’re enjoying by way of it. The character artwork for all of the characters and monsters—hand-drawn by Kimihiko Fujisaka—stays impressively expressive, whereas enjoyable little extras like your totem turning into just a little boat if you go crusing present some enjoyable consideration to element. Our solely grievance right here is that we observed some occasional efficiency dips when loading into or out of the battle display; nothing that disrupted the circulation too egregiously, however sufficient to be noticeable.
We really feel it’s necessary to notice that Voice of Playing cards is the form of sport that calls for a sure temper. By this, we imply that it’s deliberately designed as a really quick, but sluggish form of sport that you may’t interact with in the identical means you do most different RPGs. Voice of Playing cards isn’t about minmaxing your social gathering or speeding by way of the plot so you may get to the endgame, it’s all about issues like taking your time to regularly reveal all of the playing cards in a brand new space or to let Atherlay’s narration play out on every line. If you happen to’re the form of participant who doesn’t have the endurance for a extra laid again and easygoing expertise, Voice of Playing cards simply is probably not for you. The JRPG construction right here is actually the core of the gameplay, however we’d argue that construction isn’t the purpose of this launch. That is the form of sport to method in the identical means you’d somebody telling you a narrative by firelight — simply settle in and revel in what every second brings with out specializing in what’s subsequent. This can be a title to be sweetly savored, not voraciously consumed.
Arriving mere months after its predecessor, we’re completely happy to report that Voice of Playing cards: The Forsaken Maiden proves itself to be a satisfying and endearing sequel. It’s mechanically virtually a precise copy of the primary Voice of Playing cards, however issues like the brand new setting and Mark Atherlay’s narration assist to make it really feel like a particular entry that stands properly by itself. We’d give Voice of Playing cards: The Forsaken Maiden a excessive advice for anybody searching for one other ‘cozy’ sport so as to add to their assortment or for gamers who need to strive an enticing, however not overly demanding JRPG. For all its brevity and minimalism, Voice of Playing cards: The Forsaken Maiden is an unforgettable expertise.