- Developer: BonusXP
- Publisher: En Masse Entertainment
- Release Date: 04/02/2020
- Price: £16.99 / $19.99
- Review code provided by En Masse Entertainment
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a Netflix series that is a prequel to the cult classic film, The Dark Crystal. While that was released in August last year, the game spinoff was delayed a bit. This tactics game follows the events of the series and uses the creatures of the world of Thra. Warning, this review will have minor spoilers for the series.
Davids and Goliaths
The story of the game follows that of the show. In the world of Thra the many Gelfling tribes are ruled under the Skesis, who guard the sacred crystal. The early missions take place with different protagonists before they join together. A palace guard Rian, learns that the Skesis use the crystal to drain the essence of Gelflings to extend their own lives. Meanwhile, Deet learns that the crystal has darkened. This turns the creatures of Thra foul. Eventually they come together to unite the other Gelflings against the Skesis.
As a tactics RPG you have units that take turns to move around and use their attacks and abilities. The game has the usual status effects, though aside from stepping into poison swamps, confusion doesn’t hurt the victim. Turn order is shown at the top of the screen, for individual units. With the exception of equipment, there are no items that can be used during battle.
Some levels have environmental effects such as poison water (which the Drenchen Gelflings are immune to), boulders that move when attacked and gusts of wind that push everyone and everything. These add to the gameplay, though the boulders can be a hassle as sometimes they might get stuck in a place where you can’t push them anymore.
The levels with Skesis opponents can be particularly hard. In my first bout with the Chamberlain I found that I had to constantly maintain my distance and piff rocks at him until we won. He has an ability that brainwashes confused allies. Later on I tried to revive an ally that fainted after being brainwashed but the game still considered him an enemy which is very stupid. It’s probably because enemy healers can revive people but surely being knocked out is a cure for brain washing? Even if their abilities are a hassle I do like that they’re much stronger than the Gelflings and serve as boss fights.
Asides from killing all enemies, some levels have different requirements, such as keeping allied characters alive, getting to the end or pulling all the levers while increasing numbers of difficult enemies arrive. The problem with a destination level I had, is that it’s easier to kill all the enemies and then move. So several turns were taken to get to the end, while dealing with the wind pushing them back.
Some levels may require a particular unit to survive but death is non permanent, which makes sense as it is an adaptation and has a small playable roster. That said there is a decent variety in part due to the different classes. As you have three main jobs, when they level up you may gain new ones, which can be set as primary or secondary. There are nine sub jobs that require other ones to be a specific level to reach. These roles determine the abilities that you can pick from, new and stronger ones becoming available as you level up. I found this especially helpful as I was able to make my healer a strong mage as well. It allows for good customisation, and to differentiate your units.
These abilities can be made to connect together, like a scout marking an enemy, then a soldier using an ability that hurts marked enemies more. Area of effect healing can also heal enemies so placement is important with any move. Most characters are Gelflings but you get a Podling and a Fizzgig that come with unique abilities. They have only certain jobs they can do (with the Fizzgig being a medic). The Podling has quite a few unique jobs and wields different equipment like a spoon. I found him most useful for slinging mud around.
I only occasionally needed to buy some new equipment because I’d gain stronger ones from going through the campaign. Though it seems you can’t sell anything. You earn pearls (currency) and equipment through story missions. You can also do optional fights in previous areas to get these items and grind your party members. This may need to be done as the game will require certain units from time to time. With the small allotments per battle you may have some very unused units.
I found that the levels themselves looked much better than the characters. Adapting from a puppet series, the art makes them look a bit more clay-like, but isn’t very flattering. Enemies range from the sentient species to other creatures like arathim and darkened nurlocs. Important cut scenes are presented in a comic style. Without voice acting they fall quite flat. During levels I found the music was thematically appropriate to the setting.
This game definitely has some performance issues, like slowdown or the game hovering over a character when their turn has already ended. Most of the issues are in the design, as the dial to select moves from is a hassle. It’s not very responsive even when there was only one move on the left it would miss a lot, wasting my time. As I’ve mentioned not being able to revive allies that were turned to ‘enemy’ status is annoying.
While being able to undo your movement before attacking is super convenient, it also means that any effects that show from being on a certain spot will pop up each time. These effects and abilities will even show on deceased enemies, as one I killed still did it’s “agitated” effect. The initial loading times are a little slow, more so on handheld. Sorting through inventory was also annoying as it can only be done one character at a time.
The Crystal Shard
I really like how they used various creatures to give them different abilities like female Gelflings having their flight. While it adapts a Netflix series, it presents the story rather plainly, mostly as some text. This game utilises the world in terms of gameplay the adaptation of the story is very weak and makes it seem almost bland. Minus a lot of design errors the core gameplay is fun with decent customisation. It’s quite a good length for its price point, even if you beat them first try battles can take five minutes to half an hour.
- Unit customization with unique jobs and sub classing
- Use of different creatures from The Dark Crystal setting
- Environmental hazards
- No voice acting
- Performance issues
- Various design flaws such as the dial to pick moves
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics has good tactics gameplay that utilises the world of Thra in it’s elements. But is let down by it’s poor adaptation in story and many small design flaws.