Sometimes, a new game can be an opportunity. It can be a way to welcome people who are unfamiliar with a series into it, or it could be a way for people who love one form of media to be pulled into a video game or genre they don’t normally play. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics feels like that sort of chance encounter. Those who love The Dark Crystal could have it lure them into a game and genre they might not otherwise try. Meanwhile, those who like character-focused games, but have never experienced the Jim Henson movie or show could find themselves curious about its stories after this adventure.
The obvious audience is people who liked The Dark Crystal or The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. The Dark Crystal Tactics is a retelling of the Netflix show, taking major altercations and moments from the series and making them into rather brief, turn-based, isometric battles on a grid. You get major characters from the show, like Rian, Deet, Brea, and Gurjin, all coming together to fight against the Skeksis after learning the disturbing creatures are sapping Gelfling life essences with the Dark Crystal to make themselves immortal. Initially, we see things through a handful of characters’ eyes, but eventually the separate characters all join together to form a larger whole, with Gelfling, Fizzgig, and Podlings all joining together to save their world.
It’s a very character-focused affair. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics early on establishes its fights and segments with certain characters as the “stars.” For example, Deet is the first character to discover and talk about the corruption. Then, we see how Rian saw the Skesis’ betrayal and murdering of his kind firsthand, losing his beloved in the process. We watch as Gurjin’s siblings head out to save them, then as Gurjin himself deals with being trapped in the Skesis castle. We even see Brea as the princess is smart enough to work out something is going wrong. Not every moment is captured and some segments are sped up to get to the action. (For example, we never see Rian convince Gurjin that the Skesis killed and used Mira to extend one’s lifespan.) Still, the major plot points are mostly there, and the ability to choose from three difficulty levels makes it welcoming for anyone regardless of experience.
But, this focus on characters and brevity does cut back on complexity. For example, there are three base jobs, which are a soldier, ranger, and mender, for Gelflings. These branch out to six second-tier jobs, which add options like Thieves and and AOE-spell casters like the Bramble Sages. But then, everything comes back down to three advanced classes, like the Strategist, again. (There are even fewer options for Podlings and Fizzgigs.) There isn’t as much sense of range, which can cut back on your options as you near the end. Similarly, you are limited to how many skills you can equip to a character. You could have three from your primary job and two from your secondary. It’s quite a cutback from more advanced tactical games, like say Final Fantasy Tactics, where you have much more a person can do.
It also means that things experienced strategic-RPG fans might want aren’t as present. Since this is an adaptation of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, not all the details are here. It doesn’t have the political nuance a game like Final Fantasy Tactics would or the same range of jobs. While you do get equipment, it’s limited to a weapon, one piece of upper-body protection, and an accessory. There are 50 missions, but a lot of them are very short. I’d say an experienced player could crank the difficulty up to hard right away and never go back.
The thing about The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is that it is pleasant enough, but it doesn’t feel as challenging or engrossing as something like Final Fantasy Tactics or even Mercenaries Saga. Yet, it borrows things from the same DNA as both games. Rather, it feels like an introduction to the strategic-RPG genre. People who enjoyed the original The Dark Crystal or Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance might be pleased, given its adequate adaptation of the source material and the way major characters like Rian, Deet, Gurjin, and Brea get special attention. Those looking to it and hoping for a more involved affair will find something that can be a little too slow and simplistic.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.