The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics Review

Matt Lorrigan

Before playing The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics, I made sure to watch a bit of the Netflix series that the game ties into beforehand, so I had some context for the characters and story the game offered. As it turns out, it’s brilliant, a wonderful blend of incredibly puppetry and a genuinely engaging fantasy story. So I was hopeful for Tactics to use the IP to create a great Dark Crystal game, and an engaging strategy title. Unfortunately, Age of Resistance Tactics manages to be neither.

Age of Resistance Tactics guides players through the events of the Netflix series, from beginning to end, but with a weird alternate-universe take on what happened. As a tactical game, the focus is heavily on combat, but many of the storylines you play through require no combat at all. Regardless, these moments are forced into the game like a square peg in a Podling shaped hole, where researching history in a library requires you to collect five books (hit five books with your sword) while fending off attacking librarians. Or another mission, in which the given goal is to stop Podlings escaping so you can wash them, just ends up with you hitting them with swords or daggers until they are ‘knocked out’. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see in an old licensed PS2 or original Xbox game, and it comes across very strangely.

But, at the very least, you’d expect that this strict adherence to the TV series would mean that the game would be an entertaining romp in that world, with the same great story and characters. Disappointingly, the game falls down here as well. Despite many character lines being lifted directly from the show, the game doesn’t have any voice acting at all. Any dialogue is delivered through text boxes, and some of the bigger moments from the TV show have been converted into comic book-style cut outs. It turns out it was a good thing that I did watch some of the series before playing, because otherwise I don’t think I’d have a single clue what was going on. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is clearly meant to be a companion piece to the TV show, and struggles to exist on its own merits.

As a strategy game, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics fares slightly better. The early game proves to be a good tutorial for how the systems works, and it is a fairly normal turn-based strategy affair. There are three main classes of units - Soldiers, Scouts and Menders, which fit into the classic archetypes of Warrior, Rogue and Mage. While in some missions there are heroes you’ll have to use, you can normally choose at least two additional units from your collection of characters. Each class has a selection of abilities that unlock as that unit levels up, and multiple jobs to unlock. One job can be listed as the primary, another as the secondary, with a total of five abilities able to be equipped at one time. This means you can have two soldier class heroes, for example, with two completely distinct ability sets to one another, which opens up your options greatly.

This kind of forward planning and character customisation would be more useful, however, if the battles themselves weren’t such straightforward affairs. Often the mission is simply to take out a certain amount of enemies, while keeping one specified hero alive. There are variations, such as missions where you need your units to reach a goal, or to interact with (again, hit) some items around the map, but the majority are just a deathmatch of sorts. Enemy types aren’t particularly varied, with enemy Gelflings employing the same class types as you, and enemy monsters having limited variations. Maps are small, units can move a maximum of three spaces, and enemies will block your unit’s movement, meaning one wrong move can often leave you in a war of attrition with a single enemy unit, taking it in turns to just hit each other until one dies first. This ends up exactly as dull as it sounds.

Probably the most interesting thing that The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics does with its gameplay is the way turns work - rather than making all your moves on your turn, then passing things over to the AI, units instead take their turns based on their speed. This means you have to move units in the order the game dictates. Scouts, for example, can normally move more often, essentially increasing your movement range if you can move twice before an enemy. If your unit can’t do anything after moving, you can choose to end your turn without taking an action, which will move that unit forward in the queue, so they can take their next turn earlier. In theory, this adds a layer of additional strategy to the game, but in practice, it makes forward planning difficult and boring. Rather than knowing you’ll have a whole turn to maximise your units abilities, some of which can combine nicely to deal increased damage or additional status effects, you’ll instead just be trying to kill units before they kill you. This led me to focus heavily on damage dealing, and left a large amount of interesting-sounding abilities to gather dust - it never felt worth wasting a turn not attacking.

As someone who likes strategy games, and who also now really likes The Dark Crystal, I was hoping for something more. But despite the game’s best efforts to add layers of depth and player choice to the battles (I haven’t even mentioned the equippable gear, and individual hero stats) The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics really falls down once a battle actually starts. If you’re simply here for the strategy, the game doesn’t do enough new or interesting to make it worth your time. If you’re here for The Dark Crystal, it also doesn’t have enough love for the show to warrant slogging through hours of repetitive missions. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics isn’t fundamentally broken, and it isn’t a terrible game, but it commits the cardinal sin of simply being boring. The entire time I was playing, there was one thought that kept going through my head - I’d much rather keep watching the Netflix series instead.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistanc...

An okay strategy game that doesn’t take advantage of the fantastic world of The Dark Crystal. Dull missions and strange gameplay quirks make this game difficult to recommend.

Form widget
55%
Audio
55%

No voice acting, and the same few tracks repeated throughout the game, means the audio leaves a lot to be desired.

Visuals
65%

The visual design varies based on where you’re fighting, and at its best looks quite nice, but the game doesn’t get anywhere near to capturing the wonderful visual style of the film or TV series.

Playability
60%

The battles are perfectly serviceable morsels of strategy, but the depth of the systems doesn’t match up to the simplicity of the missions.

Delivery
50%

Slimline storytelling through text boxes and comic pages, no voice acting to make characters interesting, and repetitive missions lead to a game that isn’t all that fun to play.

Achievements
60%

The achievement list is a fairly standard affair - you’ll unlock most of them as you progress through the game, and one requires you to play through again on New Game Plus. Whether you’ll want to is another question.

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