We belong to the group of people who adore the world of The Dark Crystal. The original film from 1982 is, according to us, phenomenal in every way and it deserves more praise than it gets. The recently released Netflix series also impressed us. Armed with this context, you can probably see why we were excited for BonusXP's video game adaptation after it was announced during E3 of last year, and even though we knew we wouldn't be getting a AAA game, we expected that some of the magic from the source material would be present. However, as it turns out, these expectations didn't mirror reality because what could have been a beloved tale continuing the legacy of Jim Henson and his phenomenal puppet show fell well short of our expectations in the end.
If you're somewhat familiar with games such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, you'll have the basics nailed down ahead of starting this Dark Crystal experience. You steer your heroes across a grid battlefield where you and your opponent take turns attacking until one stands as the lone victor. Granted, some missions have different objectives, such as having players activate a set amount of levers, move their soldiers to a specific spot on the grid, or kill a specific enemy to win and proceed. The concept is rather easy to understand and learn, but it's that very simplicity that's the main issue we have with it. When the same simplicity comes through in every aspect of the game, it's hard to not get bored, Dark Crystal fan or not. The game doesn't really pick up and we didn't feel that we got much back for the hours that invested.
Graphically, the game is rough as well. It looks like a bizarre mix of a mobile title and a low-textured PlayStation 2 game which, for whatever reason, has been "spiced up" with a blurry pastel colour palette. It's not pretty, quite the opposite, and neither the environments nor the characters get a chance to come alive among the mediocre still portraits and simple polygon models. Accompanied by the lack of recorded dialogue (you get the occasional "mmm") and it becomes really hard to feel as though there's anything coming to life, which is a shame considering the source material features such a creative and expansive universe.
The narrative more or less follows that of the Netflix series, but despite this, a lot of the energy that the series brought to audiences is missing, mostly because of the fact that the story is told as though it was rushed and edited down. In the end, it doesn't work as a substitute or as a companion game for the series. The developer assumes that everyone who has played or will play the game is familiar with all aspects of the franchise before jumping into action and we'd say that those who aren't will understand little to nothing of what's going on on-screen. No introduction to the narrative is given and it feels like corners were cut.
To make matters worse, the game doesn't run great either. Every time you try to navigate the menus to manage your troops or add new skills, weapons or items, you're met with some intense delays from the moment you click on something until something happens on-screen. The loading times between matches can sometimes be upwards 20 seconds and to wait that amount of time between the rather short missions isn't optimal considering the fact that the game struggles to keep you interested.
What depressed us the most when thinking about The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics isn't the fact that it gets old fast or even it being a disgraceful adaptation of the classic franchise. No, what upsets us the most was the fact that it feels like the developer hasn't even put any effort into the creation of the game, hoping that fans of the franchise will spend their hard-earned money before realising what a jerry-built game it really is. For £15.49, even though that price tag isn't AAA big, it's not good enough. If it had been a free-to-play mobile game, we could have let some things slide, but the developer has taken a beloved treasure and twisted it into a tedious, bland, emotionless strategy game with no respect towards the source material, the genre, or its target audience.
To summarise; if you, like us, adore Jim Henson's lovely world of puppets, you should steer clear of this game. Start running in the opposite direction. Go watch the movie, watch the show on Netflix. This game empties the franchise of all its charm and the Crystal of Truth has never felt as corrupt as it does in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics.
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