Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance has been a well received prequel to Jim Henson’s beloved dark fantasy film The Dark Crystal. The streaming service is now wading into the video game market in partnership with BonusXP and En Masse Entertainment by creating a game adaptation of the show’s first season. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics offers viewers of the show a chance to relive key moments of the show and experience some events that were not covered in season one.
The game’s story is more of a companion to the TV series than a standalone title. The writing is shallow. The writers have put minimal effort in world building or plot development, often running with the assumption the player is reasonably familiar with The Dark Crystal franchise. The short chapters contribute to the poor plot development. The game bills itself as recounting key moments from the season but really, it’s simply axed all the important parts of storytelling to fit an entire TV season into a short game.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is a turn-based strategy RPG featuring characters from the TV series and the film. The combat is the strongest aspect of the game. It is challenging without being utterly punishing. It’s possible to make a mistake or two in the game and still recover. Environmental hazards are a major part of combat. Passive hazards can be used as traps for unsuspecting enemies. Active hazards will occur after a certain number of turns, causing some sort of major effect on the battlefield. A smart player can use this to their advantage, such as using the winds to stall the enemy’s approach. The environment adds a neat twist to the classic SRPG gameplay. The combat has a few issues though. The boss designs are quite dull and repetitive. More unique abilities would make these encounters more interesting. A restart battle button in game is a much-needed quality of life addition.
The job system gives players some flexibility on how they want to build their party. Each job has its own set of skills. Each character can equip a primary job that provides three skills and a secondary job that provides two skills. Characters start as one of the three base jobs. After a certain number of levels in a prerequisite job, more specialized jobs are unlocked. The first ten levels are rough for spellcasters. The mender class is a prerequisite for the mage classes but can only offer magical attacks if they are equipped with a spell book. By default, all the starting menders are equipped with staves. It would have made life easier and cheaper to equip half with staves and half with spell books. The game gives players a lot of characters to use, but players are effectively encouraged to stick to a small party as there is no way to keep all characters leveled together without a lot of grinding.
The equipment system is very basic. One or two items will occasionally drop from battles, so most of the equipment will be purchased from the store. Managing equipment is clunky as players need to go into individual character or item pages to see who has what equipped. Many classes can use more than one type of armour, even though their class is optimized for one type. This clutters up the armour purchasing menus, forcing players to wade through a lot of characters who have no business wearing cloth armour in order to equip things on their mages.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is bogged down by its grind-heavy nature. To minimize grinding, players need to stick with a group of five characters balanced between tanks, mages, physical damage dealers, and healers right off the bat. This method will still require a couple of randomly generated encounters every few story missions. Players who waffle on characters and jobs or have a lot of characters die during combat will be stuck grinding even more to make up for missed experience. Considering the grinding is all randomly generated missions, replacing or augmenting them with optional scripted side missions would have cut down on the grind significantly.
The controls are decent. The layout is clearly designed with consoles in mind, but it never hinders the PC experience. The game does not seem to allow for keys to be rebound but playing the game with just the mouse works well for the exception of placing characters at the start of the battle. The game is very fussy, requiring the player to select a square with one click and then a character with another. Deviating from this just causes frustration.
The graphic style is a cartoonish take on the franchise. While nowhere near as detailed or realistic looking as the Netflix series, the characters are instantly recognizable. The cut scenes are very simple, opting for mostly static comic book style panels. The animations are limited but well done.
The audio experience is decent, though nothing ever stands out. The sound effects and soundtrack are enjoyable. There is no voice acting, which is extremely disappointing. Considering the game is based on the events of the TV series, it would have been nice to see the voice actors provide lines for the cut scenes at bare minimum.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is a middling tactical RPG. While the combat is strong, the gameplay is hampered by grind-heavy design, messy equipment menus, and missing quality of life features. The dull presentation and weak story do nothing to bring in new people into The Dark Crystal franchise. Fans of franchise should check the game out as it’s a decent title for TV and film adaptation standards. Fans of tactical RPGs will probably want to add this game to the wish list and wait for a deep discount.
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