Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics PSP
Published by: Atari
Developed by: Kuju Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
You might be forgiven for thinking that Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics would be a simplified tactical RPG. You would also be forgiven for not expecting a good amount of the latest Dungeons & Dragons rules to have been included in a game that's going to appear on the PSP. After all, most console RPG titles, let alone handheld RPG titles certainly aren't that complex (even though there are a fair few with plenty of depth). Indeed, Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics isn't your typical handheld tactical RPG. There's tonnes of depth and complexity here and plenty of longevity. Those looking for a casual, pick up and play experience might find the game a little overwhelming but those who are looking for a handheld title with real depth, should really appreciate what the game has to offer.
Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics offers both a single-player campaign and some multiplayer modes for up to four players to take part in using the ad hoc mode. The campaign offers over thirty levels and side quests and will take over forty hours to complete. For those of you who have PSP owning friends, who also have a copy of the game, there are a variety of multiplayer modes to enjoy. Dungeon Bash is a mode where you'll join forces with your friends and fight your way through the Dungeon Bash maps. Deathmatch Battle has three game variations such as Last Man Standing (where you'll fight against the other players), Gladiator (where you'll fight against the other players and monsters) and Dragon Kill (which involves working co-operatively to kill the dragon).
In the single-player campaign you'll begin the campaign by creating your party of six. You can either create your own or you can choose from a good selection of pre-made characters. The game offers seven races and thirteen different classes as well as the usual abilities, alignments, skills, feats and so forth. You aren't simply confined to playing the game with the six characters you start out with as you can remove characters from your party when you wish and you can also recruit different characters from various locations in the game. Your characters can have a preference for melee, ranged and magical attacks and some will also have the ability to use psionic powers that give them special abilities.
The basic flow of the game starts with you selecting one of the available locations from your map, choosing whether or not to visit one of the facilities there, recruiting additional members, purchasing items or managing your party. Finally you'll choose to undertake an adventure, which essentially involves doing some exploration and combat. You won't always be able to take all of your party members into an adventure. The number of party members you can take with you varies according to each adventure. Assuming you've created a well balanced party, this adds an interesting layer of strategy to the game as you never know exactly what you're going to come up against. You also have to consider that those party members who aren't involved in an adventure won't gain any experience so if you continue to ignore various party members, they will essentially be useless in the latter parts of the game.
Whilst Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics is undoubtedly a good game, with a surprising amount of depth, there are a few problems. The early part of the campaign isn't that interesting. Get through the first few missions and things definitely improve. Whilst this won't be a problem for those who have patience, it will put-off those who expect their storyline to be interesting from the start. During battles the camera isn't as good as it could be. You have to use the right analogue stick to manipulate the camera and it's unwieldy to say the least. When you begin a mission you'll get to explore until an enemy is sighted and then the focus switches to combat. In games such as this what usually happens is that your characters are free to move around until an enemy is sighted or an enemy has sighted you and from this point the game becomes a turn-based affair until the battle is resolved. In Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics you remain in turn-based mode all of the time. This makes exploration a chore and far more long-winded than it needs to be. The game's tutorials don't really go into enough detail and some of the finer points of the Dungeons & Dragons concepts will initially seem strange for those who aren't well versed in them. Those who are knowledgeable about such things will be disappointed by some omissions such as the inability to create multi-class characters.
In terms of presentation, Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics is quite pleasing. The graphics are as good as could be expected. The battle and spell animations look OK and get the job done. If you want to speed up the battles you can choose to turn off the movement animation, which is good to see, although in fairness the characters don't take too long to move and carry out their actions. The interface is generally well laid out and rarely feels cluttered which is certainly quite an achievement. Loading times can be a little annoying. I couldn't say whether they are better on the new PSP model but on the original PSP the load times are a little tedious.
Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics won't give deaf gamers any problems. There are a few tutorials and all of these are in text, so you'll have no problem in picking up the game's basic concepts. The game's dialogue is text only and you get to read the text at your own pace as you'll need to press the X button in order to progress the dialogue. The dialogue has a character portrait and character name placed alongside it so you'll know who is saying what. During battles floating text and icons provide you with important feedback. The game makes good and extensive use of icons. Thankfully the game comes with a manual that lists all of the game's icons so you'll always be aware of what status effects are in use. All of the game's important information on the adventures you're about to undertake, locations and your party etc. is displayed in text.
Those looking for a deep and involving tactical RPG to play on their PSP would do well to give Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics a look. The game has a surprising amount of depth and although some elements have not been included, such as multi-class characters, a surprising amount has been and on the whole it's quite impressive. Some elements of the game, which we've mentioned above, could have been done better but those who are looking for a solid and enjoyable tactical RPG will be able to overlook the game's shortcomings, none of which are major problems, and enjoy what the game has to offer.
There are a few aspects of the Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics that could have been better but there can be no denying that the game is impressive in quite a few ways and is certainly one that Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts and fans of deep and involving tactical RPG games should consider.