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May 10, 2013

I want to plug for Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden because while it drew some looks for its unique aestheticóan RPG played with cards and dice that revels in the feel of that experienceóit likewise drew attention for its association with Yoko Taro.

Much like Martin and Elden Ring, the Taro influence isnít as pronounced as the marketing boilerplate might want you to think, at least, not with the first release, The isle Dragon Roars. But with the sequel, that gut-wrenching Taro charm is on display, if in a milder form.

The game is a JRPG, but you interact entirely via cards and dice. Even overworld and dungeon traversal are done this way. As you travel across a table covered in face down cards, they flip over to reveal themselves. It can be anything from terrain to random events to treasure. But whatís cool about this is that itís fog of war meant to encourage discovery and exploration rather than to obscure the unknown for its own sake. Much like Dungeon Encounters, another pleasant small budget Square offering from the last year, the compulsion to expose every corner of a map is a solid driver.

But itís that aesthetic that sells the game. Itís all narrated by one person. The first and second have different narrators and Iíve not gotten around to the first yet, but the wry witicism and plainspoken story really draw you into the experience of sitting around a table and playing a game which was crafted for you.

The game knows this, and smartly gives the narrator his own personality in some ways. Random sidequests end in unconventional ways. Characters behave oddly. Youíre often thrown random events whose outcomes you could never predict correctly, and the game toys with your expectations of how an RPG should play. Itís just subversive enough to make you laugh and nod.

The battle system is pretty simple and bog-standard JRPG. If youíve ever played one, ever, you wonít struggle with it. But itís breezy enough to be a pacing elementt, and in that way it succeeds. The polish on the incidental details like elemental magic is great. Cards explode and spin and jab at one another as though they are actual 3D models. It livens things up.

I think I like it so much because of how comfortable it feels to play. It wants you to feel like youíre sitting at a table with a DM. And itís designed with enough surprises at regular intervals that the illusion holds up.

Square played this one lovely. Banking on the Taro namedrop to sell units probably hurt it in the longrun. I donít know the sales numbers, but Iím sure a great number of folks picked it up, and when it wasnít what they were looking for, just as quickly dropped it.

Thatíd be a shame. Itís a charming, breezy little game that knows how to wink and nudge you while you play, and it hums along with a singular purpose to keep you guessing and prodding.

Itís not a deck builder, either, and considering the success of STS, I think itís an interesting game to release. Probably ballsy, in a way, considering how popular STS is.

But if you come at it with the right expectations, itíll charm the gently caress out of you.


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