Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars Demo Impressions - A card game in appearance only

Revealed at the latest Nintendo Direct, Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is a tabletop stylised RPG published by Square Enix, with some notable staff members at the helm, such as creative director Yoko Taro. This demo dropped around the same time for Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and PC, with the full game set to release on October 28.

The presentation of this game did lead me, and likely others, to think that the gameplay would utilise cards along the lines of something like SteamWorld Quest or Slay The Spire

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Instead, Voice of Cards is a typical turn-based RPG replete with critical and elemental attacks, equipment, consumable items, and so on. While your moves are listed on a card to choose from, they don’t get discarded as you’d see in other card-based games. Instead, some require gems (skill points) to use or a roll of the dice to increase the damage and/or add a status effect. The damage dealt is determined by the attacker’s attack points against the victim’s defense points, both of which are displayed on the cards, likening it a bit to a trading card game. In the demo, I found the combat rather breezy, especially as most enemies dealt very little damage. Hopefully in the complete game it’ll ramp up later on, or at least give us some difficulty options. 

While travelling you can encounter random events, such as whether or not to treat a poisoned monster, and this instance leads to a future encounter. At one point I had the choice of how to interact with a door, and if I held the card up for a very short time I could read it without committing to the choice. These events and choices aren’t uncommon to many RPGs but do add to the pen and paper story feel. So far, the only way you “collect” cards is by fighting monsters and talking to NPCs which will give you an option to read some background information on them.

While in town I was able to play the parlor game Pot, though I’m not sure what real card game it is based on. Winning nets you a reward which later turned out to be essential for continuing the story, or at least was faster than grinding the money to buy the same item at the store. Beating it a first time also unlocks another rules option that adds more effects and the ability to play it from the main menu. In the multiplayer parlor, you can play against COMs or use local (adhoc and couch) to play against real people. It’s a fun little game but I’m wondering if there’ll be others.

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A narrator introduces and follows you throughout the game, to the extent of being the same voice for every character, likely to add to the tabletop atmosphere. While they recommend keeping it on for the sake of immersion, I read fast enough that I’ll turn it off in the future.

Almost every single thing in the game is represented by a card, whether it’s the ground you walk on, characters, dialogue, or the menus. The only exceptions to this being your movement pawn, and parts of the board in combat like the gems, dice, or visual effects. I especially love how it looks to navigate the world as the cards flip over to reveal the nearby terrain, as you would fill in a map in another game. Trying to move diagonally can be tricky but you can jump to any crossable terrain that is within sight.

Having everything appear as a card is an interesting choice but is used well sometimes, like when a woman shook each party member’s hand, her card moved towards and shook next to each individual. Though, the transition to combat via placing a board on top of what’s already on the table feels a little awkward and slow. It seems The Isle Dragon Roars is making good use of its talent, whether it’s the gentle background music or character designs (the fisherman is my favourite so far). Writing is a high point too, whether we’re admiring the fishermans’ physique or experiencing Wynifred getting hepeated by her party members. Besides difficulty, my only complaint so far would be that I’m in dire need of an option to increase the speed. 

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Despite the protagonists of the game being showcased in the announcement, your party for the demo consists of a different team. After rewatching the trailer it does seem that they will appear in the story again. I’m intrigued to see how we’ll interact with them as I’m a little scared of facing Wynifred as her opponent. 

While it’s not the card game I was expecting, I am still intrigued. The design, mini-games and humorous writing have me invested enough that I will play the full game. 

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