January 21, 2016 2:00 PM | John Bridgman
"In the heart of an evil empire, a group of young outcasts rebels against the corrupt system that holds them down," promises Children of Zodiarcs, a tactical JRPG from Cardboard Utopia. Taking cues from dice, board, and card games, this title has launched on Kickstarter after receiving a 93% approval rating through the Square Enix Collective - a record at the time and still one of the highest ratings in the program.
Set in the world of Lumus, the story features prominently the titular Zodiarcs - devices which are capable of bending reality to suit the whim of the user that were brought long ago under the guidance of the Heralds. As generations passed, the descendant of the Heralds began to use them against one another, tearing the world apart in great wars. Now rediscovered, the world is set to enter a new age of prosperity.
Made by a team of industry veterans and inspired by the stories of classic JRPGs of past generations, this game intends to combine tactical gameplay, collectible cards, and some clever dice mechanics to tell a deep, memorable story with engaging characters. These characters will influence the way you build your deck and dice, as their selections are indicative of their personalities and play styles.
Visually the game looks fantastic so far. Its characters have a style very unique to it, and what we can see so far of the animation is clean and wonderfully detailed. The music that has been shown off so far is grand, suitable to the classic JRPG inspiration that the team is intending to draw upon. Its aesthetic as a whole manages to be modern and memorable, while still playing homage to its inspirations.
At the heart of any Tactical JRPG is the combat mechanics, and this is where the game really tries some interesting things. Besides the standard suite of mechanics, such as positioning for back attacks and preventing counter attacks, each hero has a specific deck of collectible cards which dictate the actions they can perform. By allowing the player to design the deck as they see fit, they will ideally get to have a lot of control over how the characters' progress, while still preventing the game from falling into traps of having "one correct build".
In addition, the dice system is intriguing. By putting the randomization element that most tactical games rely on directly in front of the player, and indeed giving them a hand in rolling the dice - the player will get to physically roll the dice in-game in order to witness the results - a lot of the feelings of unfairness can be removed, and it removes the question of why a high-percentage chance to hit somehow missed that other similar games often cause.
There is another level on that, and that's the ability to customize the dice. Players will get to collect "loot dice" which they can then use to craft the faces on their heroes' dice. If executed well, this could add a lot of depth and decision making to the planning progress, as players will be able to better control their odds for bigger successes, or make attacks land more reliably.
Children of Zodiarcs is drumming up a lot of success already on Kickstarter, and I have extremely high hopes for it. The art is fantastic, the mechanics are fascinating, and the team has already put a lot of passion and effort into the game so far. It has a lot of ambition behind it, and if it can live up to what it can promise, it looks like an outstanding title. I think the addition of card and dice mechanics could prove to be a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing the game in its final state.