Title Children of Zodiarcs
Developer Cardboard Utopia
Publisher Square Enix
Release Date July 18, 2017
Genre Tactical RPG
Platform PS4, PC
Age Rating Teen
Official Website

If you look at my bio at the bottom of the screen you will find that my favorite games are RPGs, Rhythm and Board games. Children of Zodiarcs just happens to be a masterful mix of two of those three genres. And while the idea of saving the world from chaos with the power of colored notes sounds amazing, we’ll be reviewing a mix of Final Fantasy Tactics with deck building and dice rolling all in a nicely packed fantasy setting.

Children of Zodiarcs | Casting a healing spell

It all starts in the city of Torus, a nation where the nobles are rich, live in luxury, and have everything. Meanwhile the poor live in slums, killing to eat the food that the high class throws away. But things are about to change for Nahmi, our protagonist, who is in the middle of a heist to rob a Zodiarc from a Noble. Zodiarcs are relics from an ancient civilization said to posses great power, or curses, depending on who you ask.

This will cause a series of events that will turn the slums upside down as everyone is after Nahmi and her particular group of friends. But Torus is not a nice place to live, and you will see the true face of the city as you progress through this story-driven game.

To be fair, the story is quite average. The main focus is in the contrast between the rich and the poor, which is a common theme in medieval fantasy. However, the execution is really well done. Most characters are likable and unique. Their role in the story is clear and there are a couple of twists in the story to keep you intrigued to know what will happen until the very end.

Children of Zodiarcs | Brice retreats from combat

Something that I really enjoyed was the contrast between Nahmi, who is someone that’s used to the way that the world works and sees it as a dark place where only the stronger survives, and Xero, a character that joins the group later in the game, who has a more childish and protective personality. I won’t comment much on the characters since that would be considered spoilers, but the emotional punch that both characters deliver was something I haven’t experienced in quite a while.

However, what really sets this game apart is its unique approach to the genre. As mentioned above this is a Tactical RPG, meaning that you have to move your characters through the stage while taking actions to defeat your enemies, similar to Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics, but instead of selecting abilities from a menu each character has a unique deck of cards that represent each attack they can make. This deck is customizable, but each character has their own pool of cards specific to their role, though you can determine how many of each card you want to include, with a minimum of 18, and when you level up you’ll get either new cards or upgrades to the existing abilities.

Children of Zodiarcs | Deck building screen for Brice

Additionally, each character has a number of dice that they need to equip, starting with two to a maximum of six. These are six-sided dice with different symbols that range from increasing damage, healing your character, drawing cards to increase your defense or triggering special abilities on the cards. Whenever you select a card to attack you have to throw your dice, and this will determine how much additional damage you do or any other unique effect that could be applicable.

Unfortunately, not everything is good and helpful. Some abilities will have you use additional dice which could have negative effects, or enemies can curse you, adding these cursed dice to your usual rolls. These could nullify all your damage or mess up that extra turn that you could have gotten otherwise.

Children of Zodiarcs | Dice results

From a difficulty standpoint the game is fair. It has an option that allows the enemies to have a similar level to yours, usually one or two higher, so if you don’t like to grind for experience points this can be helpful, while keeping the combat interesting. The AI is not particularly smart and has a tendency to attack the closer unit, so that’s something to keep in mind.

There are different objectives in addition to simply defeating all enemies, like surviving a certain number of turns or reaching the end of a map to keep things fresh. And each character that you use has a different style. For example, the main character is focused on taking additional turns, and dealing high damage to a single unit. Brice, the magic user, is all about area control and searching her deck for the right spell. Unfortunately, there are not many characters that you can control throughout the game.

Children of Zodiarcs | Pester attacks an officer

The main story will always follow the same three characters, with four additional characters that are controlled through side quests. Unfortunately, you cannot change party members or modify the decks or dice of the additional characters. This, added to the fact that the game is only 16 hours long, makes it feel like an incomplete package if you compare it to a game like Disgaea, which has limitless customization options and can last hundreds of hours.

The other problem is that there is not much additional content besides the main story. There is an Arena where you can battle different groups of enemies and optional battles called Skirmishes. But with the small pool of enemies in the game, it can get a bit repetitive.

Children of Zodiarcs | Crafting new dice

Moving on to the technical bits, the game looks pretty good. The maps are very detailed, and you can move the camera 360 degrees, which is great for this type of game. The characters portraits have a very unique style which really helps express the different emotions that they go through. Something I noticed is that some enemies have unique portraits which I imagine are backers of the game, a nice thing to look out for. The soundtrack is fantastic. It has an orchestrated feeling to it, including several instruments like piano, cello and flutes, and goes for an epic feeling on each track. Also, I don’t refer to something as epic unless I mean it.

Children of Zodiarcs | Status screen for the team

With its problems and all, I really enjoyed Children of Zodiarcs. It’s been a while since I’ve played a tactical game with a unique system, and that is something that certainly delivers with flying colors. For $18 you’ll get an interesting story with a good take on combat. If you’re into tactical games you must try this game. You won’t be disappointed.

Review Score

Review copy provided by the publisher. 

Henry Badilla
Jack of all Trades, Master of none. Henry's First videogames where simple NES games like Ice Climbers, Contra or Super Mario, but it was until he played Final Fantasy that he found out his true passion. Huge Fan of JRPGs(Final Fantasy, Valkyrie Profile), Music Games (Rock Band, Theatrhythm) and Board games (Magic The Gathering, Betrayal).