For a long time now, Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts have had the chance to experience their favorite paper and pencil adventures through video and computer games. Titles like Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights have brought a certain special magic to D&D lore, but haven't provided an experience which is truly what D&D is all about. We're talking about grid-mapped dungeons and turn-based action. The lack of these fundamental elements may have alienated tabletop purists from the digital-dungeon crawling scene, causing a schism between tabletop and video gaming. However, the gap is being bridged as we speak, and a new entry into the D&D franchise is set to win the hearts of both dice-throwers and button-mashers alike. Atari and Kuju present to you, Dungeons & Dragons Tactics.
"How befitting, not only are there dungeons in this game... but there are dragons as well."
It's a bit ironic how a Dungeons & Dragons title has to insert the word "Tactics" to reaffirm that it's going back to its roots. In fact, the developers claim that the game faithfully replicates a genuine D&D experience; everything contained within the version 3.5 core books are strictly adhered to. This means to say that memorizing the complexities of flat-footed, encumbrance, initiative, saving throws, armor class, and fog of war will pay off. For D&D newbies, this means you'll have quite a lot to catch up on, but don't fret, there's an in-game tutorial to help ease your soon-to-come information overload. Most of the game takes place in colossal, grid-mapped dungeons, where you'll have to lead a party of six through to safety. These dungeons are so huge that the game has incorporated a save-anywhere feature just in case you need to quit in the middle of a quest. The atmosphere is brought to life with the fog of war and lighting effects, which both revolve around the D&D aspect of visibility. This makes for a good use of visual quality and strategic planning; you don't want to move too fast and find out you're being ambushed by a horde of orcs. Challenging puzzles and riddles will mar your progression; these little obstacles are a good replacement for that clever, yet often times cruel, Dungeon Master. Turn-based combat begins when nearby enemies are detected and the game immediately calculates for initiative and other bonuses to see who goes first. In combat you'll have two options, either a movement or a standard action. When choosing an option, such as attacking, color indicators will signal the chance of that attack succeeding. For example, a red ring around the enemy means very low chance of success, while green means good.
Appearing straight out of the core books, you'll be able to create characters based on all seven races and eleven classes. In addition to this, two psionic classes have been added--the Psychic Warrior and Psion. Characters have further customization with alignment, which allows you to follow a path of light or darkness. Top this off with more than 200 spells, 100 feats, and 40 different weapon types, and you'll have a character unlike any other. You can even create as many characters as you like, since you're limited only by the amount of space left on your PSP memory stick. You'll even have the option to trade characters with other players via the PSP's ad hoc connection.
Speaking of ad hoc, D&D Tactics will be making good use of the PSP wireless network. The game will have a bunch of multi-player modes. You and five other nearby friends can band together and tackle the main quest. If a friend has to leave, you can assign their character to someone else, so you won't have to cut the gaming session short. If cooperation is not your thing, then you'll want to check out the battle modes where you can challenge friends to see who's boss. They are aptly named: Last Man Standing, Dragon Kill, Gladiator, and Treasure Hunt. This game, however, is not playable online and downloadable content is no longer available. The downloads have been axed because they've already been included on the game disc itself.
D&D Tactics takes place on an original world, so you won't be seeing familiar locales or NPCs from previous campaign settings. The plot revolves around a war between two power-hungry dragons who consequently drag the entire world into their bitter rivalry. How befitting, not only are there dungeons in this game... but there are dragons as well.
So mark the date on your calendar. June 19, 2007 is the day Dungeons & Dragons Tactics will be released in North America. For our European and Aussie buddies, look out for a late June-July release.