Three iterations in less than two years: this is the short story of Voice of Cards, the new series launched by Yoko Taro, the visionary author of the saga of NieR and Drakengard. After the first two chapters, The Beasts of Burden arrives after a very short time, highlighting a period of tiredness that the Japanese author seems to be experiencing, who after trying to subvert the jRPG formula using the typical mechanics of trading cards game, continues to add a few new features to its videogame proposal. We tried Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden on PC and that's what we think, taking into account what happened with The Isle Dragon Roars e The Forsaken Maiden.
The little girl of the village
Being fourteen years old in video games is not easy and the protagonist of our story knows it well. Stand alone chapter and therefore playable and enjoyable without having necessarily had to play the previous two chapters, The Beasts of Burden immediately takes us to a village built and inhabited in the depths of a cave, with the only goal, thanks to scattered gates and palisades from floor to floor, to defend themselves from the onslaught of monsters.
Vain defenses, because the village is suddenly attacked and the girl's mother killed by a troll, who managed to make his way inside the houses. A very dull narrative pretext, not from Yoko Taro who with NieR Automata had disturbed us with its ideas about humanity. An aspect that we cannot fail to underline with the blue pen, because it was reasonable to expect better.
The destruction of the village pushes the girl on a journey of heroin, called to get out of her comfort zone now set on fire and go to the nearby villages, supported by the advent of a team that will see her join first a mysterious warrior, then to a scholar and finally to a girl younger than the protagonist, who however won't want to reveal much about her past.
We are not faced with anything epochal from a narrative point of view, so much so that as the hours go by you will end up appreciating Voice of Cards exclusively for its gameplay component and nothing more, coming to appreciate the character design yes, but nothing more . The aspect that has certainly increased the value of our entire story is to be found in the narrative voice, which I have selected in English, so as to be able to appreciate the dubbing and acting.
Believe in the heart of the cards
Voice of Cards, for those approaching the franchise for the first time, bases all of its gameplay on cards, both in the exploratory phase and in the combat system. Our movement on the map is represented by a pawn which, in a very measured and slow way, jumps from card to card to reach the set objective: a movement which puts us in front of that anachronistic choice of running into random encounters or events which they allow us to obtain treasures or gold coins to use at the shops. The villages themselves are made like cards, making us move from one part of a town to another always with the same pawn.
The combat system climbs in a very simple and immediate way in what is a very low-level difficulty. I've never had a particular difficulty in fighting, if not a feeling of boredom at yet another random encounter generated by the map during exploration, especially when the direction was not always clear and easy to interpret. The absence of a high difficulty or in any case calibrated to be higher than the one offered, has never prompted me to modify the set of cards used or to delve into the mechanics of transforming opposing mobs into cards to be used during fights.
Gotta catch’em all
A real pity, because this was the great novelty that The Beasts of Burden proposed compared to the previous two chapters, pushing us to be able to have 54 collectible monsters and usable during battles. All, then, to be linked to a party member, who can equip up to a maximum of five monster cards each. The feature, however, is spurious, uninspired, but above all excessively random, because at the end of a battle we will have to choose which of the three chests to open, hoping to be able to find the card of the monster we just defeated. A slot machine that, to be honest, didn't excite me and that almost immediately made me lose interest in this mechanic.
While being fascinated by such a work, by the attempt to produce a different, sui generis jRPG, the fact that Voice of Cards has reached its third iteration and has seen a regression as regards the narrative, not up to the name of Yoko Taro, e a really too insignificant addition from a gameplay point of view, I can say that I found myself faced with an almost cheap job. So many wasted opportunities, in short, because faced with such an idea, much more could and should have been done, taking advantage of the possibility of creating a more layered gameplay, a higher difficulty and allowing us to have a more complete experience.