Cards appear to be common in computer games nowadays, although dice are still mostly linked with board games. Children of Zodiarcs’ developers opted to base the whole fighting system on these two aspects. Unfortunately, other from an intriguing method of battle resolution, the game doesn’t have much more to offer.
Cardboard’s Utopia show has characters who are both unpleasant and unsympathetic. It appears that the scriptwriters were attempting to show youngsters behaving like even younger children, while ignoring that – to the naked eye – adolescent actors repeatedly massacre whole battalions of soldiers while performing their job. Although there is a story in the background about cruel elites who deliberately keep the city’s remaining inhabitants in poverty, and the player is reminded time and again that the heroes do what they have to do to survive, we do not feel the oppression of the evil aristocracy at all.
Nahmi, Brice, and Pester are three pampered kids who treat not just others but even each other poorly, which means that the script’s attempts to make us sympathize with their difficulties are entirely devoid of emotional depth. The tale, particularly the rather contentious plot twists, clearly suggests that in Children of Zodiarcs, the plot is only an excuse to play battles and employ novel mechanics.
The game’s concept appears to be excellent in principle. We get a tactical, turn-based JRPG in which each assault is represented by a card and its power is determined by a roll of the dice, the number of which rises as we go. Damage boosts, stars that activate special powers, and even benefits in the form of more cards or movements can be found on the edges of the rolling cubes. We have some control over the randomness that is generally associated with games based on these principles thanks to the ability to alter the deck and replace dice faces.
Each of the personas portrayed by the player is distinct from the others. Brice, for example, excels in spells that do damage in a localized region, whereas Pester excels at long range. This variety should be entertaining, but in fact it highlights one of the game’s major flaws, namely balancing issues. Children of Zodiarcs was flawed in various ways, from the experience point settlement mechanism, which causes discrepancies in individual character levels that are impossible to compensate for, to the dice obtained, which widens the gap between units even more. Only Nahmi, the main character, has a chance to find lightning dice, allowing her to execute an additional action and so collect more experience. To transfer this impact to other characters, we must utilize the crafting method, which involves laying down numerous dice, which implies that no one else has a chance to acquire more than a single face with a bonus.
There’s also the issue of cards. Although each hero has eleven distinct tactics to learn, we progress slowly at first, focusing on upgrades. As a consequence, when we eventually realize the character’s full potential, we discover that there wasn’t much to wait for, and the techniques we learned early on are frequently as excellent as or better than the ones we were meant to wait for. We rapidly realize that even on regular difficulty, we must rely on optional bouts to stay up with the escalating difficulties. This unnecessarily lengthens the gameplay, which neither mechanically nor narratively compensates. Returning to the same battlefields causes us to become more bored with the game.
Children of Zodiarcs is a contradiction. The gameplay is first enjoyable and addictive, but it quickly gets tedious. The narrative grows increasingly unpleasant as it proceeds. The imbalanced tactical layer and bouts with similar opponents make the eight hours required to accomplish Cardboard Utopia seem interminable.