Before I begin I played a demo of the game on Table Top Simulator, with a member of SlugFest. I have not been paid for this preview, though I may receive a copy of the game should it fund. You can check out my video below. Get your own copy here.
It is a poorly guarded secret that I love the world of Red Dragon Inn. It is just fantastic, in my opinion, how they have built a whole world and relatively deep characters with just a hint of story. I love it. I also love dungeon crawls, and I have learned in recent years that I have a preference for crawls that are on the lighter side of things.
So when I learned at Origins several thousand years ago that they were working on a dungeon crawl I just about lost my little reviewer brain. So I was super pumped when Jen from Slugfest let me play through the demo version a few times, and gave me a few sneak peaks at some of the other parts of the game. The demo involved us mighty heroes setting off to save Wrench’s beer goat from stupid drunken bandits that had stolen it.
In Tales you find yourself moving through a variety of scenarios, with a progressing story of up to 20 levels. As you progress through you will level up, which will unlock new abilities that you can bring into each battle, and eventually turn into even stronger abilities, and of course you will find gear to buff up even more as you go.
Each of these abilities operates on either a cooldown (ie x rounds until you can use it again) or it has a number of charges and once they are used you are out for the rest of that mission
The game features the original 4 characters, plus two of the fan favorites from the second RDI set, giving you Zot, Fiona, Gerki, Eve, Deirdre, and Gog to play with. Each of the characters plays remarkably differently, as you would expect.
Each round you will draw initiative at random from the initiative bag, and if an enemy is drawn they will refer to their scheme (determined by a dice roll at the top of each round), and if a hero is drawn they will get to take two actions (usually a move or attack, or both) and a shenanigan (usually some kind of support or other randomness…you know a shenanigan). Combat is relatively simple with a little bit of tactical battle map strategy to be utilized, combined with some pushing and pulling of enemies all about the board.
While enemy combat is completely handled via their AI, hero combat is dealt with via dice. I should note that there are no misses on these dice, it is just a question of how hard you hit (if you are me you hit about as hard as a new puppy licking your face). The particularly interesting mechanic is the epic dice. Certain dice faces will allow you to add extra dice to the epic pool, these dice can be used to protect yourself from a hit, or to add to your attack, dealing even more damage.
So what do I think?
The game really does capture the feel of Red Dragon Inn. The humor is there, but now we get to see these characters kick butt. It is really satisfying. The way the abilities, and dice play is very clean as well. I love that the dice always do something-yes you may not get an epic die, but you will at least do one damage, and the way the epic dice work is INCREDIBLY fun. I really enjoy being able to build up that pool, and then use it for either attack or defense. That makes the game quite satisfying to play. Speaking of satisfying…I love that the environment can be interacted with, while I did not get to do it, I love that I COULD have tossed someone into a fireplace, and the second I play Gog I will.
I also really appreciated that the demo I played, and some of the other ones I learned about do not all revolve around a “kill everything” objective. Yes that is fun, but it can get repetitive.
Finally, I like the way the enemy AI works. Enemies have a variety of things that they can do, this means you are never able to perfectly predict what they will do, you have an idea, but you never know for sure.
The game plays quickly and smoothly, and, the demo had good variety to it. The challenge will be, are there going to be enough variety in enemies to keep the game from getting stale. Usually, I would put here that I think it does, or that I think it does not, but I simply have not seen enough to know.
I also need to say that, as a lover of the RDI characters, I already want more! Six is a good solid amount, but I already want to play Chronos, or Osric, or Wizgille. The good news is this does mean there is a massive amount of potential expansions down the line, which is awesome…and a bummer cause that is a lot of content to be added.
I am very excited about playing over a dozen story missions, and I have full belief in the people behind the story. However, I do wonder if there will be a little bit of a lack of replayability. After you play through the whole thing, what is going to make you want to come back and play again? Will there be ways to get a different story, will there be potentially branching stories?
Bringing it all together
Tales promises to be a delightful light dungeon crawl. It is quick to play, with good scenario variety memorable characters, with fun abilities and good dice mechanics. The art, being a Red Dragon title, promises to be great fun, and the story is shaping up to be a comic romp. It has just enough tactical combat to keep you thinking, but not so much that the game drags. I hope that the story has enough variety to make you want to come back and play it over and over again. My expectations for this game were sky high, and I must say I am still very excited about it.
Gog not like read!
* Captures the feel of the Red Dragon Inn world
* There are six great characters in the game, but there are another 43 awesome ones I WANT to play
* Great balance between tactical combat and dice chucking goodness
* Very cool epic dice mechanic to make the game feel fresh
* Great story potential, but will it be replayable?
*I was super excited before I got to try the demo, that has not changed at all