Stay a while and listen

User Rating: 9 | Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars PC

Voice of Cards is a deliberately slower paced RPG, presented in a way that fosters the imagination. It has a very specific style of writing that is refreshingly literary, and all of it is voiced by a narrator with a gravelly voice, creating the illusion of playing a board game in the company of a talented gamemaster, while also feeling like a fantasy novel being read in front of a cozy fireplace. In this regard, Voice of Cards radiates with soul and distinct purpose.

Much of this soul lies within the small details of the presentation, which never betrays the game's premise. Whether it be during combat or dialogue, the way the cards are animated manages to convey each character's actions perfectly. The fact that you can "see" Ridis performing a quick roll (or a backflip, if you're extra imaginative) before firing two more poisoned arrows, just from how her card moves when she gets a critical hit, is incredible.

There's a lot of appeal to be found there. Whenever an image is forming in your head while playing a game, that is the ultimate form of suspension of disbelief. It means that the game has successfully immersed you, because that thought came from your own subconscious.

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An unforgettable facet of this game's beauty is the heavenly music composed by Keiichi Okabe. Enchanting melodies, able to soothe and revitalize the most aching of hearts and dispel cynicism through pleasant chills of warmth.

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On a more technical standpoint, one greatly appreciated detail about the music is that it knows when to play and when to stop. For instance, when it's deemed more fitting, the dungeon music will continue playing during battle instead of the regular combat music. In other words, the battles are not detached from their context, and the intended mood is retained at all times. This might seem trivial, but it's extremely beneficial to the atmosphere of a game when the combat encounters throughout feel like a genuine part of the journey. It can't be overstated how important and valuable good music and sound design is to the medium of video games. On a related note, the narrator also knows when to keep quiet and lets important battles speak for themselves. He never comes across as annoying, which is an impressive feat in a game where one person does all the talking.

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There may not be a ton of depth to the combat, but the simplicity works in favor of the sublime presentation, and from a roleplaying perspective, what's there is well designed. You don't play Voice of Cards to beat your head against a wall with numbers, you play it to have an immersive pen-and-paper-like RPG experience, complete with cards and dice rolls. While the pacing of each action is intentionally slowed down to preserve the realistic look and feel of the presentation, the pacing of the overall game is designed in a way that respects the player's time. In blunt gaming terms, there is no grinding needed, no avalanche of side-quests that you feel forced to do just for the EXP or anything of the sort. In essence, it's just you and your merry band of adventurers, setting out on a quest to take down a dragon, with narrated eventful incidents happening along the way.

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If you'd like to increase both the challenge and your own immersion, you can skip buying new equipment at Armorers until it becomes too dangerous to keep venturing forth in your old gear. Your party may come close to being wiped out on multiple occasions, which is always exciting. Remember, you can run from battle if it feels like you've got no chance to make it out alive.

Playing this way, each character should have a more specific role in battle; for example, your would-be-hero could be the dedicated healer, keeping a taunting Mar alive while Ridis poisons the monsters. There are other strategies, but the idea is that a character who spends his turns healing others doesn't need to spend gold on a strong weapon, while one acting as a protector only needs good defense, and the priority for one dealing damage is to simply carry a powerful weapon.

The reason playing this way is immersive is that the protagonist is canonically strapped for cash and doesn't like splitting rewards. Of course, he's not so bad that he would let his companions get hurt, so it makes sense to spend some money on consumable items as they're cheaper than equipment. They make battles more interesting too, when you use them in an emergency against formidable foes. Sell the Revive items though, they're worth a lot.

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Due to its intentionally slow burn nature, some may find Voice of Cards not very fun to play. That, however, takes absolutely nothing away from its qualities.

There is one particular thing that feels out of place in this game, and it has to do with a handful of characters sporting bulging muscles. More specifically, it's their attire... or lack thereof. A bit of comic relief is all well and good, but here it comes at a cost, as those character designs just don't quite fit with the mystical fantasy ambience of the game. What is unfortunate though, is that this game has a niche appeal to begin with, and those few questionably revealing character designs (the rest are excellent) only restrict that appeal even further, by making it needlessly awkward to recommend this game to children or anyone who might find those designs off-putting.

Regardless, that's the only eyebrow-raising design decision in the game, which is impressive for such an original concept. It's a well conceived execution of a great idea that sticks to its ambitions. Voice of Cards has something to say and delivers it without compromise.