Review – Dungeons and Dragons Tactics

Finally, a Good Original Game for the PSP

The PSP has always befuddled me. Here you have a visually excellent system with pretty decent processing power and storage capabilities, yet one of the biggest electronics companies in the world can only manage to wrangle a handful of good titles for the system. No kidding, I can count the number of PSP games that I enjoy playing for extended periods on one hand. Now I need to add one more finger because Dungeons and Dragons Tactics is a pretty sweet game.

Beware the forbidden forest of split pea soup!

This review is going to be pretty simple: if you like Dungeons and Dragons and you like turn-based tactical strategy games, you will like D&D Tactics. I, for one, am not a fan of D&D but that is due mostly to the people who have played and run the games I have tried to enjoy. Most role playing veterans have stories about the stringent rule-enforcers who exist in every gaming group; when I played, I was the only person who wasn’t a rule-Nazi.

D&D Tactics does me a favor and eliminates other humans from the otherwise spiffy world that the game is set in. However, if you do get lonely, there are two multiplayer modes available. The game lets you and a friend work together to beat down on goblins, zombies, and various other fantastical beings. When that gets boring and you get sick of your buddy bogarting the +3 Turdmantium Bracers of Testicular Lightning, there is a death match mode available as well. Since I have no friends, I am not able to enlighten you as to the coolness of the aforementioned modes.

The other area of the game I had a nerdgasm over was the character creation mode. This is a section of the game in which the attention to the details of the D&D world shines. Character creation takes forever. Well, it doesn’t take that long but it has enough depth to make you say to yourself, “Holy Crap, this is just like making a pen and paper D&D character.” I have a thing for wee people so I decided to make Willow, the Halfling rogue. After creating him, I realized he may get lonely and it would suck not to have a human to keep track of my munchkin’s wily antics so I made Mad Mardigan, the best swordsman in the world. Together, along with four other losers I picked to be slaughtered, the two friends set off on a quest that would include much burning, raping, pillaging, and midget jokes.

This is where the jaded X-Com veteran in me kicks in. I was playing X-Com before many of you realized that girls were good for something other than throwing dodge balls at…though they are still pretty fun to throw dodge balls at. The point I am trying to make is, I have played the hands-down best tactical game ever made and nothing has come close to filling X-Com’s alien slaughtering shoes. If you say otherwise, I will do the crane kick to your nuts and you will crumple like a small child. This is not X-Com but it’s still pretty good. However, Dungeons and Dragons Tactics, is not without a couple of minor flaws.

I’m confused. Where can I attack? If only it were more obvious.

First, the camera angles in the game are downright annoying in some areas. There are a couple of levels in which you can’t see anyone in your party for the majority of the fight; walls do not go transparent when people are behind them. This wouldn’t be such a big issue if it were not for the way that you have to move your guys. You can’t just click on a section of terrain and say, “Go here!” Oh no, you have to manually set your character’s path and dictate exactly what squares they will move over in order to get to their destination. This is done with the D-Pad and is kind of a pain. I am not sure why they didn’t choose a more suitable movement system when everything else in the game pretty much rocks.

Second, don’t expect much of a storyline. The plot really only exists to connect battles together and I didn’t feel very drawn in by it. As a comparison, Final Fantasy Tactics for the Gameboy Advance had a much better story and I actually enjoyed the characters. Here, Dungeons and Dragons knows you are only playing the game for one reason and that is to kill. Do not play this game for the story or you will be disappointed.

The two smaller gripes I have are more personal preferences. I get sick of the epic Lord of the Rings-ish soundtrack. As if listening to the music throughout that entire trilogy wasn’t enough, I have to listen to that same genre throughout Tactics. My other beef is that if anything, there is too much Dungeons and Dragons in this game. Some of the pen and paper rules and abilities that are included here were definitely done to appease the D&D fanboys but add very little to the game.

Having to sort through all of the items and spells and what is compatible with what gets tedious with the shallow menus that the game provides. I never liked doing it all that much in the pen and paper version and doing it here is more troublesome because of the lack of a mouse or a big rule book spread out in front of you. If it were a computer game, I would have no problems with this but the PSP limits the convenience of equipping and changing around items and I found myself not switching stuff out as much as I probably would have otherwise. Who knows, maybe I am just lazy.

Despite having ten eyes, this beholder is too busy staring at a wall to sense your approach.

Anywho, if you like the tactical genre, Dungeons and Dragons is worth a play. It is a solid tactical game and is very deep when it comes to items and weaponry. Character creation is great and the graphics are very well done. It doesn’t happen often but this is a PSP game that I would whole-heartedly suggest to someone I like and want to keep talking to after they are done with the game.

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16 years ago

The screenshots I pulled for this are clearly not all from the same version. I apologize for the lack of professionalism, but we don’t all have the resources and most sites are full of watermarking assholes.

16 years ago

Tyson – did you ever play rebelstar tactical command for GBA? I got it from the bargain bin, and despite being relatively into strategy RPGs, I couldn’t really get into it. The crappy manual and lack of in game explanation of the leveling system helped, but mostly it wasn’t that fun. I wondered if it was just me. -Astrxs

16 years ago

I’m not sure about you guys, but refuse to play any tactics game that doesn’t offer “rope use”, “plant lore – ferns” or “artistic ability – poetry” as a proficiency.

16 years ago

If theres one thing that annoys me about Videolamer, it’s how much money it ends up costing me to read fair reviews like this. I already wrote off D&D tactics months ago, but now I can’t help but give it a try. It’s bad enough this holiday season buying the games I knew I wanted, now I have to contend with all the other games I never paid attention to:)

How detailed is the manual, by the way? I know I was pretty lost starting out in Baldur’s Gate on PC back in the day, and that was with it’s awesome tome of knowledge to help me. Should I just go out and buy a 3.5 edition rulebook, or is the game not quite that obtuse?

16 years ago

Screw D&D Tactics, if you have a DS get Heroes of Mana. I am playing it now and it is scary how much I have enjoyed that game. D&D Tactics has more on the depth of character end but a ton of it isn’t useful. Heroes of Mana strips out the pointless crap, adds a pretty good story, and takes away the annoying music. I will have a review for it soon, when I can put it down long enough to do it justice.

As for Astrxs comment: I have heard of the game and I have been told to get it but I have also heard it has a couple of rather serious bugs that can affect the game mechanics in the later parts of the game. Something about not being able to use a flame thrower on certain creatures and having levels where that is what is expected of you. I could be thinking of a different game but I am pretty certain it was Rebelstar.