I was very surprised – but pleasantly so – when Square Enix revealed a second Voice of Cards game was just around the corner. After all, it’s been barely three months since Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars released.
Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden isn’t to be viewed as a sequel; it’s its own game, telling a completely separate story, but presented in the same way as The Isle Dragon Roars. And so, if you’ve already played it, you’ll enter The Forsaken Maiden knowing exactly what to expect. And if you haven’t, it doesn’t matter – this second game in the series is just as valid as an entry point.
An explorative RPG that sees you building a party, improving their strength and taking out monsters, on the face of it Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden sounds like any old RPG. Except there’s one key difference: the entire game is presented through cards. The world you move around on? Cards laid out side-by-side that turn over as you step on them. Combat? Enemies are cards, and so are your attacks. It makes for an unusual (but beautiful) presentation, and one that’s very easy to get to grips with.
And so, since The Forsaken Maiden is presented as a card game, its action is narrated to you by a “gamesmaster” as you play. He’ll narrate the story, read out cards as they’re dealt to you and direct you where you need to go. It’s all presented in such a way that you can imagine you’re sat at a table, with dozens of beautifully-decorated cards laid out in front of you.
The story that Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden tells wastes no time in getting going; it doesn’t bog itself down in endless exposition. You’ll get straight to the heart of the matter: essentially, the group of islands you live on is in danger of destruction. The only way to save it is to find the maidens who protect the isles – and help your new friend Laty become a maiden herself. The characters and the story perhaps haven’t grabbed me quite as much as they did in The Isle Dragon Roars, but it works well enough as a vehicle to move the action along.
Ultimately, it’s the combat which is the bread-and-butter of Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden. And thankfully, it’s exceedingly well executed. Like all RPGs, you’ll likely get bogged down with one too many random battles, but taking on key enemies is always a thrill. Each character in your party has their own unique set of combat cards, each one offering up an attack or skill. To use skills, though, you’ll need to spend gems, which you’ll accumulate by executing standard attacks. You’ll need to balance your standard attacks with more powerful gem spends in order to best the deadliest of foes.
You’ll also need to exploit enemy weaknesses by using attacks imbued with an element. Water-type enemies will be weak to thunder attacks, for example. It’s not always obvious what enemy will be vulnerable to what attack, so it often takes a fair bit of trial and error. But as long as your party has a strong range of attacks and skills at their disposal, no encounter should be too difficult to overcome.
Just as I was in The Isle Dragon Roars, I found myself distracted by Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden‘s Game Parlor. Accessible when you’re in one of the game’s towns, it presents a game within a game. It’s a fairly simple card game that pits you against opponents, the goal being to score the most points. Like a watered-down game of poker, you’ll need to make pairs or sets of cards either of the same value or with three consecutive numbers (i.e. 1,2,3 or 4,5,6). You can have three sets in your hand at any one time, and once the draw pile is empty, the game’s over, with whoever has the highest value sets winning.
The Game Parlor game is made more complicated later on by adding in action cards and events. There, opponents may be able to steal your sets or you may be able to force other players to skip their turn. It keeps you on your toes, as the game could turn against your favour at any time. It may not be the intended focus of Voice of Cards, but it’s an addictive little game – and if you enjoy it, you can jump into it straight from the main menu, with the option to play against real friends.
I praised The Isle Dragon Roars for its ingenuity and design, and while Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden is still a delight, a mere three months after playing the first game some of the charm has worn off. I’m glad Square Enix is continuing to invest in smaller, offbeat titles, but something to set it apart from The Isle Dragon Roars would have been nice. As it is, it’s entirely more of the same. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you’ve only just played the first, it may feel a little tiresome.
Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden Review – GameSpew’s Score