Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics

Tactically Sound

Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics blends pen-and-paper rules with strategy RPG gameplay to impressive effect.
Published: September 30, 2007
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As a big fan of the Dungeons & Dragons pen & paper games, and as a huge fan of Strategy Role Playing Games, I've been looking forward to this PSP release for quite some time, and I can honestly say that I got exactly what I was expecting and more. A grid-based combat game based on a very strict interpretation of the D&D v3.5 rules system, Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics offers a few cases where strict adherence to the rules was broken (more on that later), but those were design decisions based on the fact that you can't perfectly adapt a pen & paper combat system to a video game combat system. They stayed true to the D&D system as much as possible though, and it makes for a really fun experience.

For example, character generation systems, when done well, are always one of my favorite aspects of RPGs. When a new Elder Scrolls game comes out I've been known to literally spend days creating characters before I even get start my first game. This system is true to the D&D character generation system in that it can be as quick and easy or long and involved as you want depending on your style of play. You can either dive right into the campaign and choose from a wide variety of pre-generated characters, or you can spend time creating your own characters for use in the campaign.

If you choose to create your own characters, you can meticulously assign every stat and skill point yourself manually, or you can have the game do everything for you each step of the way by using the "Automatically Select" option. After playing with the system for a while I decided what I liked best was to use the auto-select feature for the Ability Scores (STR, CON, DEX, etc.) and Skill Point assignments, and then fine-tune those default selections manually. It made the character creation process quicker and more satisfying.

You can use up to 6 six characters in your party during the course of the campaign, and any characters you create and don't use get added to the pool of mercenaries you can hire in each of the locations you visit on your adventure. You can have up to 11 characters in your party, but you never get to use more than 6 characters on any mission.

The game consists of a series of missions that you move through using a world map. It's a mostly linear path but there are places where you get a choice of which place to go to next and there are some locations that are optional. Some of the locations are simply places to shop for gear and items and do not have missions associated with them. The world map is also where you save and load games, buy and sell items, and also where you manage your party. This consists of trading items between characters, equipping items, and leveling up characters.

Once you're all geared up and ready to go, the missions themselves are where you get to the meat of the game. You start each mission with a small deployment zone that consists of a number of squares equal to the size of your party. This doesn't allow for much deployment-time strategy, but then again most of the missions take place in rather tight dungeon corridors so it makes sense most of the time.

From here it plays like most SRPGs, but there are two phases; Exploration and Combat. During Exploration Phase, you can move each of your troops around freely to explore the map, open chests, etc. You can use the analog nub to move the camera around, however the tilt angles are limited and there is no custom zoom-in or zoom-out feature. You can however press Select to zoom out a good distance which was really nice. I spent most of the time with the camera in a position where I'm seeing everything from the top down, but that doesn't always work since there are some cave openings and doorways that obstruct that view.
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