eSports for indie | E4i

E4i ESPORTS Championships Signups

sign up to our free esports events every time registrations open

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics Review

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a turn-based tactical RPG recently released by developer BonusXP, the first game released in the fictional universe built by Jim Henson since The Dark Crystal, released in 1983 by Sierra Entertainment. The title coincides with the Netflix extended series of the same name, and both build upon the universe that was first introduced in 1982.

From the early stages of development, the team building The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (AOR) made it clear that they intended to create a title that is loosely based upon the type of structure made famous by Final Fantasy Tactics, a game widely regarded as being one of the best tactical RPGs ever created. This would be done in a variety of ways, such as an extensive job system, isometric grid-based battling, and a variety of individual battles that progress the story throughout the game. For fans of The Dark Crystal universe, the characters should be very familiar, as you are thrust into a story set in the world of Thra where Brea has escaped from the palace, and you get to pick up the pieces through the lenses of multiple Gelflings.

Strange Lands

The game does a good job of introducing characters through these little battle vignettes, and gives you some creative control over how you want battles to play out. However, it does very little to distance itself from the source material it draws from. Although this may be a net-positive for fans of the series, the structure in which the story is introduced does little to draw those in who may not be familiar with the The Dark Crystal  universe. While It may be an unrealistic expectation for a video game based upon a movie/game to do something unique, the storyline feels at times unapproachable, often feeling like a cheap fantasy novel without extensive knowledge on the part of the player to draw from. 

The aforementioned understanding (or lack thereof) of the base story of the Gelflings battle against the alien Skeksis and their rule of Thra does little to limit the enjoyment that can be had within the battles and the class systems themselves, fortunately. Each character introduced is a member of one of three classes that can be leveled up: Soldier, Mender, or Scout. Each of these jobs are part of a greater system made up of primary and secondary jobs that can be leveled up to unlock multi-classing jobs such as the Grave Dancer, a fast melee damage dealer, or Song Teller, whose role on the battlefield is to heal and boost the abilities of other fighters around them. This system allows for a significant amount of creative freedom for every member of the party, but feels limited in its overall versatility because it ultimately is built upon three primary jobs. During gameplay, you quickly notice that only one primary job can level up at a time, unlike other games in the tactical RPG genre, which means you often end up in level grinding situations in order to get to the final classes that you desire.

Freedom Fighting

The battles themselves are fun and interesting, which is the true boon of this game. Although there is little need to use any of the stuns or special abilities that are made available because dealing damage is always the best choice, the fact remains that each job plays nicely with the others, allowing for a fair amount of experimentation. Between each of the primary battles the story progresses through entertaining cutscenes, but you can take a break from story progression at any time to ‘skirmish’ and level up your whole party. Skirmishes award pearls (currency) and equipment upon victory. On the note of pearls and equipment: the store is available at any time for purchase of new equipment which seem to fluctuate in strength at random, but once equipment is purchased with pearls, there is no system for reselling or using equipment that become useless. 

Visual Letdown

Graphically speaking, AOR leaves quite a bit to be desired. The characters look like they are molded out of clay, and although each individual character has its own look and feel, there is no customization of that look based upon the armor they are wearing, or the weapons they are wielding. This is admittedly a relatively easy thing to overlook since the game is using characters that play a prominent role in the television series AOR is based on, but a little goes a long way to make players feel as though they truly have an impact in the world they are fighting within. Exacerbating this limited graphical strength is the very clunky and simplistic UI that the game is built upon. Although a title that was widely released across many platforms, the interface feels stylistically closer to a mobile game. Adding insult to injury is the optimization of the game, where stuttering in basic gameplay mechanics are common, even when the graphical settings are set to low. This issue persists whether in windowed mode or fullscreen and creates the undercurrent of a title that was either rushed to market or made with limited regard for player experience feel front and center.

The music is fine, and adds to the overall ambience of each battle, but is extremely limited in its catalogue, which means you will spend a significant amount of time listening to songs on repeat. Although not voice-acted, the more important characters in the game have unique exclamations based upon their species which can be fun to see before and after a battle. It would have been great to see some cameos by some of the voice actors that made these characters so interesting in the show, but it's safe to assume that this game was built with more of a limited budget than a AAA title, so their inclusion of these sound effects is nice to have. Overall it still feels as though there could have been more done to change the sound up, as the game is very text and story heavy, but overall the experience is pretty fun.

5

The Verdict: Fair

In the midst of a clunky UI, limited soundtrack, and retread of the storyline introduced in the series on Netflix, you have a satisfying (but not groundbreaking) battle system that has a fair amount of replayability. It will certainly scratch the itch for gamers constantly looking for the next great tactical RPG experience that made them love the genre, but not for very long. Meanwhile, fans of The Dark Crystal universe will most likely find more to enjoy than those who may not have familiarity with the universe, but after all is said and done, the title serves little more purpose than to simply act as another arm of marketing for the critically-acclaimed series. 

See About Us to learn how we score

Alex Mickle
Written by
Tuesday, 10 March 2020 04:33
Published in Strategy

Trailer

Media

Alex Mickle is a gamer that traces his roots to JRPG’s on the PS1, but ultimately found his way to PC gaming by spending every afternoon after school playing Counterstrike at a local LAN gaming café. He is a father and husband that splits his gaming time into bursts whenever he can find time, or when ever he makes time. Alex enjoys variance and versatility in his gaming experiences and can be found asleep on the couch with a twitch steam on the television at the end of almost every night.

Read 252 times