Children of Zodiarcs - Impression

Rolling Dice and Taking Names
by Michael Baker

Children of Zodiarcs
Platform: PC
Developer: Cardboard Utopia
Publisher: Square Enix Collective
Release Date: 07.18.2017
"It's a dirty, grimy world of steampunk ruins and military aristocrats..."
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   Where's a good place to find RPG developers? Canada, apparently. That's where Cardboard Utopia, a participant in the Square Enix Collective, is based. This studio comes with an impressive pedigree for its developers, and its first game, the tactical RPG Children of Zodiarcs, is coming out on Steam right about now.

   What's a Zodiarc? Thankfully that bit's explained in literally the second text box of the opening sequence. Miraculous devices of mysterious origin, the Zodiarcs fueled a golden age — and, humans being humans, the people promptly squandered it, sparking a world-encompassing war that just ruined it for everyone. Centuries later, and the nations which arose from the dust are still recovering.

   That's where the plot kicks in. Within this brave new world, there is a massive divide between the Zodiarc-controlling master classes and the regular peons. It's a dirty, grimy world of steampunk ruins and military aristocrats, so of course the main character is a daring thief named Nahmi. She's gotten herself the nickname of the "Ebon Flame" from the authorities, with all the headaches that such notoriety usually brings.

   Children of Zodiarcs is a tactical title, but it uses card and dice mechanics for combat. Each unit on the map has a hand of up to seven cards, which determines what skills are currently available. New cards are not drawn automatically, so the player must sometimes make choices such as whether to defend against an attack now or being able to strike back in the next round.

   Added to the cards are the dice. Each character can equip a certain number of dice, which are gained as post-battle rewards. Each die can have different sets of icons or force multipliers, so the player's equipment choices do have an impact here. When a skill is used, these equipped dice are combined with the inherent dice of the card as well as any cursed dice the enemy may have inflicted, to determine bonuses or penalties to attack, defense against counters, healing, or other more specialized tricks. There is one chance to re-roll per skill or attack, which can be helpful for fudging the final numbers on a hit.

   What is not helpful is how the player is supposed to use the dice. As a default setting, the player must manually roll them with the mouse or touchpad, and the required motions are finicky. It is highly recommended to switch to automated dice rolls in the Options menu, because this saves time, removes frustration, and doesn't affect the outcome in any case.

   Being Canadian, Children of Zodiarcs is of course available with both English and French text. The English script has more cusswords, but that's mainly because French is a better language for insulting someone, and thus doesn't have to try so hard to be edgy.

   Just to look at it, one could describe Children of Zodiarcs as a game made by people who really like Final Fantasy Tactics, and intended for the same. That would be a fair assessment, but it wouldn't be doing the entire thing justice. From what I've been able to see so far in my short time with this game, it's definitely blazing its own path ahead. I'll be interested in seeing where it ends up.

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