When it comes to card games, I’m not the biggest enthusiast. You can’t rely on just your skill, as the cards you’re dealt are a matter of luck. A JRPG based on card games, however, now that’s more up my alley. Announced during September 24th’s Nintendo Direct, Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is backed by the likes of Yoko Taro and Keiichi Okabe, and published by Square Enix. Being backed by such seasoned people in the industry, it definitely wasn’t your run-of-the-mill JRPG, so of course, I had to get my hands on the demo as fast as I could.
The Story Unfolds
There’s really only one ‘voice’ in Voice of Cards, and we’re introduced to him as the game master. He narrates the tellings of the game, in a way that makes it seem like a book. The characters don’t have voices of their own, which is something I would have liked, but I can see that they were wanting to give the game more of that tabletop feel. Nonetheless, an interesting storytelling choice.
You go forward as a fellowship of three adventurers part of the Ivory Order. They’ve been tasked by Queen Nilla to recover the stolen royal treasure, and she’s willing to give any reward for its return. In Voice of Cards, you’ll travel across a vast sea of cards, quite literally so. As you move your player Environments are represented in the form of cards with terrain patterned on them. As you move your player piece forward, the cards flip and reveal the terrain. The demo limits the area you can explore, but there are forests to walk through, mountains to climb, and seas to cross.
A neat little detail was the change in ambient sounds as the land changed. I was pleasantly surprised to hear crickets and cicadas once I headed into the forest. The game’s sound design and the soundtrack are definitely a treat and I’m looking forward to hearing even more in the full version of the game.
We visit the settlement of Nexton in search of clues regarding the thief. The town has the typical establishments; an inn, an item shop, a weaponry, but there’s also a game parlor. We get introduced to a card game (a card game inside a card game, yes) and taught about its rules. The game uses the numbered cards from a standard. We need to create sets of 2 or 3 with either the same value of cards or consecutive numbers. You can have up to 3 sets and their total should be greater than your opponent's. It’s a simple yet fun enough card game that while requires a fair bit of luck, will need more tact as you change up the ruleset and play more drawn-out games. There’s even a multiplayer mode in the demo to play against players in the game parlor. Upon winning we’re granted a reward that will come in handy later on.
Through talking with NPCs, we gather clues about the thief’s whereabouts. These NPCs have simple names such as Man and Witness, but after you meet certain requirements you get to unlock a card detailing half of their backstory. The other half gets unlocked in the game’s full version. Our main cast is beautifully designed no doubt, but even these little side characters are illustrated with a lot of detail. I wonder why they decided to give the Hobbled Woman a loaf of bread and a knife to brandish in each hand though.
Acing the Basics
After gathering all the information we need, we head towards the west in search of him. Now of course you’re going to come across enemies along the way. There are random encounters in the game, which are normally headache-inducing for me, but I found myself less annoyed every time I had to head into battle. The screen transitions to a board decorated with candles and has the cards of all the characters and enemies set up, as well as a box of gems and some dice.
Your choices between attacks and spells are all laid out as, you guessed it, cards. Some of them may require the gems in your box, essentially your mana points, and one gem replenishes with each turn. Some attacks or spells can even have you roll the dice and depending on what you roll, cause bonus damage. The combat’s not too different from the traditional turn-based combat you see, but it’s still a fun spin on things with the perfect tabletop aesthetic.
The demo ends on a cliffhanger which explains why the title of the game is The Isle Dragon Roars. It lasted for about an hour, but my hour with Voice of Cards has me looking forward to the full game for sure, and definitely could compete with the big JRPG releases of this year.
TechRaptor previewed Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars on Nintendo Switch through the demo available on the eShop. The game releases on October 28th for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Steam.