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PSP  header logo

Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics

For: PSP

Fabulousness -5

Product: Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics | Developer: Kuju Entertainment | Publisher: Atari | Format: PSP | Genre: RPG | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: US
 
Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics PSP, thumbnail 1
Nothing says 'geek' more clearly than touting a D&D rulebook around. Thank goodness, then, Atari is here to help you trade some geek factor for a chicer look. It's like Atari Eye for the Geek Guy – a makeover show where you replace that clunky rulebook and uncool 20-sided die for a sleeker, sexier look on PSP. Work that wizard, baby.

Ah, if only it were that good. True, a faithful adherence to the 3.5 rule-set means Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics satisfies the need for authenticity. However, it's hardly a proper introduction if you're unfamiliar with the table-top game: needlessly complex menus, uninspiring tactical combat, and drab visuals prevent it from being anything other than boring.

The game starts off on the wrong foot, providing absolutely no background to its single-player campaign. A set of tutorials help to acquaint you with the combat system, but you're given no clue as to what's going on with the story – you're dropped into the game without any indication of who you are, what you're doing, or why. This makes it incredibly hard to invest any immediate interest in the game.

The only information you're given about your character is limited to the choices you make when creating him/her. Seven races are offered, along with just over a dozen different classes. You're free to mix and match at will, creating an original character, and you then move over to assigning points to attributes, selecting feats, and denoting a moral alignment.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because it's most fun part of the game – sadly, it's pretty much downhill from here.

Once on an adventure, battles involve navigating through an unending maze of menus. Basic actions, such as positioning a character or issuing a standard attack, require moving through at least three or four menus before execution. There's simply no need for this sort of complexity. When moving party members is a hassle, you know there's a fundamental flaw in the game's design.

But if movement is laborious, then killing an enemy is an ordeal. Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics utilizes a computer-controlled 20-sided die for combat, so all attacks are dependent on the strength of your character, their weapon, and roll of the die. Since the die infrequently rolls in your favor, landing an attack is a rare event. Most of your time in battle is therefore spent issuing failed attacks in the hope that one will be successful.

When you're fortunate enough to nail a foe, it isn't enough to deplete its hit points. Enemies are disabled when their hit points reach zero, true, but actually killing them requires dropping their HP to -10.

Having to deal with dying enemies introduces tedium, not authentic fun. This is one of many elements that make the game difficult and unintuitive for anyone not versed in the D&D universe. While faithful adherence to the rules should be applauded, flexibility is a must in creating an enjoyable, accessible video game experience – alas, none of that can be found in Tactics.

Surprisingly, however, one aspect of the game surpasses others in the genre: multiplayer. While other tactical role-playing games on PSP have unwisely omitted competitive multiplayer, it's available to you here. Whether you want to continue slogging through menus and lacklustre combat with a friend is your choice, but at least it's an option.

Visually the game looks dated, if only because it's come out at entirely the wrong time, trumped as it is by the recent arrival of the gorgeous (and immeasurably more entertaining) Jeanne d'Arc. Had it seen release a year ago, as initially expected, its graphics would have seemed more impressive. But today, muddy textures, generic character design, and often dull environments leave Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics looking decidedly mediocre.

On a more postive note, the musical score is something to be praised. While other elements of the presentation are lacking, the rousing score accompanying the tactical action is nothing short of fantastic. The orchestral backdrop makes suffering through the tedium of battle slightly more bearable, and boosts the overall quality of the largely substandard production values.

When all is said and done, the video game interpretation Atari has given D&D just doesn't work. Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics succeeds only in replicating the rules of its namesake in digital form. In every other sense it fails, with combat that is uninspiring, a needlessly complex interface, and underwhelming presentation.

Ultimately, and regrettably, we suspect even ardent D&D fans would be bored playing this. They could, nevertheless, always take some comfort for the +2 charisma bonus they'll receive for carrying a PSP instead of a rulebook.
 
Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 6 September 2007
Tedious, complex, and unappealing on a variety of levels, D&D Tactics may have authenticity in spades, yet it lacks a modicum of accessibility
 
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ManOnTheMoon | 12:50 - 7 September 2007
Being an avid paper-based role player (been playing DND since early 1980s), it is about time that a computer version of the game comes out that is true to the 3.5 rules and not concentrated on being graphically orientated.
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