You cannot go into a game based on a film or television show without some trepidation. We’ve all played that cinema-based game that made us roll our eyes until we could see the inside on our skulls. For me, it was The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe for Gamecube. The main playable character was a young boy, who could punch down wooden doors… enough said. But on occasion you do get a game based on cinema that isn’t all that bad or might even be good. The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics isn’t going to blow anyone away, change the genre, or convert tactical naysayers, but for what it is, it actually does a pretty good job of providing the player with an accessible little strategy game, with a modest amount of replayability for a really good price.
If you’ve never played a grid-based tactics game before, the set-up is fairly simple. You are given units to select from with varying jobs and classes ranging from healers to warriors and mages. Each unit has a range of abilities, as well as a movement limit that allows you to move the unit a certain number of squares per turn, enabling you to position your units how you want them. From there you use a combination of spells and sword play to try to dominate your opponent and win the fight. Things such as terrain advantage, height disadvantage, range disadvantage, and type disadvantage all play a role as you try to come up with the best strategy to win. But those are all staples of the genre, and are fairly basic requirements for tactical strategy games. In terms of what Age of Resistance brings to the table, things are a little less awe-inspiring. You have a range of different characters to level up and buy/earn equipment upgrades for, and some of them have special element resistances, but again, this is not breaking new ground.
The story covers the first season of Age of Resistance, and fairly accurately it must be said. If you haven’t seen the Netflix series yet, I recommend it. Highly creative and charmingly original. The way the plot translates to story for the game is mostly done in text blocks or still images, though to their credit, they are presented in a very artistically pleasing way. You play as the Gelflings, a species of small intelligent creatures that divided themselves into seven different clans. The world you inhabit is given life through a giant crystal, which is now under the control of the Skeksis. They are imposing figures that are far larger than Gelflings, but they are far less present in the game than in the show unfortunately. But with only one season being released so far, that could yet change.
To defeat the Skeksis, you’ll need to level up your characters and rally the Gelfling clans. You do this by going from fight to fight and training up your team, unlocking individual skills and jobs, as well as secondary jobs and equipment. The jobs you select will dictate the character’s class, and what type of abilities they will have. It is a limited system to be sure, but it serves its purpose. Unfortunately, there aren’t many actual story missions to be played. Most of your time will be spent grinding on repetitive generated scenarios on previously visited battle grids. The game even encourages you to do this so that you’re ready for the higher difficulty story stages. The problem is these boosting stages are easy to complete quickly, and after just a few, your characters will be over-levelled, and the game will become shockingly easy right up until the first time you face a Skeksis and the difficulty spikes to an insane degree, especially on hard mode.
But is it fun? Well actually, yes. It’s very simple, that can’t be avoided. There are loads of games that do everything this one does and more, but Age of Resistance has a certain irresistible charm to its art style and story-telling. The music, while repetitive, is very true to the show, and while dialogue is nearly non-existent, what little there is serves to do a job, especially when it’s a Skeksis. You’ll burn through the game in a couple of nights, as you will level up very quickly and be able to grind out several stages in as little as 15 minutes. And in a way, that’s where the fun comes from. Tactics games are known for their long-winded battles that can go on for far too long. Age of Resistance can be a quick blast of strategy when you’re short on game time, and that’s where it succeeds the most.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance nails the charm of the Gelflings and the world of the Dark Crystal, but fails to do anything even remotely new in the Tactics genre. Nevertheless, it’s a simple game that for a small price could be worth picking up for a quick blast of uncomplicated strategy when the strategy craving hits.