E3 06: D&D Tactics Hands-On

We check out an early build of Atari's Dungeons & Dragons-inspired, turn-based strategy game for the PSP.

At its recent pre-E3 press event in San Francisco, Atari unveiled D&D Tactics--a turn-based strategy game being developed by UK-based Kuju. Like the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rule set, D&D Tactics supports parties of up to six players simultaneously, and will also boast a number of competitive multiplayer modes (named deathmatch, last man standing, treasure hunt, and dragon kill) in which you can pit your customized characters against your friends'. The version of the game that we were able to get our hands on was far from finished, but it already showed plenty of promise and was surprisingly easy to come to grips with--even for a D&D newcomer.

Movement in D&D Tactics will be achieved via a garden-variety grid-based system, and after moving you'll be able to select one of any number of actions for your character to perform using a menu that can be customized to make your most frequently used actions easy to get to. No character-creation system had been implemented in the version of D&D Tactics that we were playing, but we were told that there will be "psion" and "psychic warrior" classes in addition to all of those that you'd find in the regular Dungeons & Dragons universe, which include rogues, barbarians, archers, wizards, and such. You'll be able to create as many characters as you can fit onto your memory stick, and you'll also have the option to trade them (and any cool items that you find on your adventures) with friends wirelessly. You'll likely want to create at least two or three different characters, because even when you're playing with friends you'll be able to control more than one character if there aren't enough players to make up an entire party.

In addition to the mandatory story-driven quests that you undertake as you explore the all-new realm created for the game, you'll come across numerous side quests that are entirely optional and, in many cases, can only be completed if your character has the appropriate good/evil alignment. Since no fog-of-war mechanic has been implemented in D&D Tactics yet, we were able to scroll around the demo map at will. We were pleasantly surprised by what we found, since what initially appeared to be a map comprising little more than a network of dimly lit cave passages also incorporated grassy exterior locations and the interior of a building. The character models and locations are nicely detailed even at this early stage in development, and they look especially impressive when you take advantage of the zoom and rotate options on the camera.

Further information on D&D Tactics is scarce at present, save for the fact that player deaths will be punishable by the loss of one character level. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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