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Dungeons & Dragons Tactics - hands-on

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Even though it has the word "tactics" in the title, even though it's packed with familiar-looking grid-based strategy, there's no other portable game quite like Dungeons & Dragons Tactics. Meticulous enough for the most hardcore D&D fans, Tactics squeezes in several books' worth of rulemongering tabletop knowledge while still managing to be accessible for fans who just want to roll up some barbarians and kill some monsters already.

We've already talked up D&D Tactics' extensive features and interfaces in earlier previews, so we'll just cut straight to the experience of playing the game. Tactics is fairly deep as a strategy game, but don't expect something on par with the Neverwinter Nights series. Instead, Tactics will take you straight from one turn-based battle to the next, with minimal story in between; fans of Final Fantasy Tactics and its ilk should be right at home.



The battles range from dimly lit dungeon crawls to open-air free-for-alls, and each one is divided into two phases. During the "exploration" phase, when no enemies are visible, you'll be able to move your characters around freely, in whatever order you like, to pop open chests and investigate locked doors. Once they've spotted a threat, though, the dynamic changes a little and everyone - enemies included - takes turns according to whatever random initiative order the computer decides on. Waiting for every single unit on the map to move before you can move your favorite tank of a fighter in for a kill is kind of a drag, but that shouldn't come as a huge surprise for tactics fans.

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