A time of conflict looms on the horizon for the Gelflings, a race not so dissimilar to our own in its ways. Another race, the grotesque Skeksis, has been quietly subjugating their will and weaving a plot to seize power and live forever, right under the noses of an increasingly fractured and distrusting Gelfing leadership. As the vile plot to take over the planet of Thraa begins with cruel relish from its instigators, a handful of seemingly fated Gelfling from different tribes unite to try and expose the plot and halt the destruction of their society. This is The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance and you will lead their battle.
Based on Netflix’s recent prequel to the classic Henson Company movie, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics serves as a wonderful companion piece to the show, capturing and re-contextualizing scenes into scenarios for you to lead your forces through. Connected by comic book vignettes, the story closely follows the events of the series, taking you from washing unruly podlings and learning of the Skesis plan, through to battling powerful Skesis themselves, such as The Hunter. These story missions often have quirks or tactical choices available according to the scene, with a prime example being patches of killer plants featured on the first stage featuring The Hunter. Those who know their plot points will find themselves with a little advantage when it comes to spotting the best route forward on some stages.
The gameplay itself is tried and tested fare, but it’s done with a solid level of polish and a reasonable balance when it comes to grinding level ups and new skills. Games with the word “tactics” in the title tend to be grid based, strategy RPGs and you’re not wrong if you’ve assumed as much here. The aim is to pick missions from the world map, dive into an arena full of enemies and then guide a small crew of your own characters, choosing moves to pull off, strategising ahead of time to ensure you don’t get caught off guard and then choosing how to equip and improve your minions ahead of the next round.
As you progress, you’ll unlock a wide range of combat roles and classes to level. Familiar roles such as fighters and mages do what you might expect, but there are a wider range of situational skills and classes that become available after mastering some of these typical battlefield positions. Levelling for a while as a soldier before switching to a mage will unlock the Stone Warden class – defence-focused damage dealers with abilities focused on enraging enemies and delaying their turns. Mastery of even more skills eventually leads to the final powerful classes and their end game abilities.
Mixing things up all the more are the other races, who come with their own classes and totally distinct abilities, such as the podling’s ability to summon monsters or a fizzgig’s unusual medical skills. It might not be a revolution, but even those intimately familiar with SRPG titles will find some unique ideas in the way The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics offers choices when it comes to making your team your own and effectively strategising.
Visuals are another strong suit for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics, with the source material’s colourful and varied locales being well represented. Whether you’re playing in handheld mode or using your Switch on a bigger screen, the Gelflings, Skesis and the world they inhabit is faithfully recreated with a solid style and a consistent frame rate. Animations lend greater personality to moments, with moves looking impactful and small moments such as The Chancellor’s flourish during attacks adding a lot when it comes to provoking thoughts of the source material itself. It’s hardly a mind blowing spectacle, but rather the graphics here are exactly what they need to be.
Musically, the mix here is again in keeping with it’s source material, as well you might hope. Ranging from upbeat podling pub music through to the pounding of tribal drums and the blaring of trumpets, the tone is set perfectly. There’s enough variety that you wont be hearing the same tunes over and over, unlike some SRPG games, but beyond that there’s little more to say. What’s truly lacking in the audio department are voice clips for the various characters. Whether a symptom of the show’s production or a limitation of development, none of the character have voices. What could have elevated the cut scenes and added a lot to battle animations would have been lines from the show. Perhaps it’s an unusual fault to point to, but seeing The Chamberlain take action without hearing his trademark sneer just felt off to me.
There’s a lot to enjoy about The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics and it’s a great companion piece to the show, however, it falls short of being gripping. For SRPG fanatics, it will likely scratch an itch if the likes of Fire Emblem or Fell Seal have run their course, but those without a love for the genre or a powerful enough appreciation for the source material may find themselves put off by the ‘just good enough’-ness of it all.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by En Masse Entertainment