the winning tactic
Enter a world of swords and sorcery with Dungeons & Dragons Tactics, a strategy-based role-playing game from British developer Kuju Entertainment and published by Atari exclusively for the PlayStation Portable system.
Tactics, adapted from the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game series and its latest rule set (version 3.5), has put the PSP in the role of Dungeon Master. As the storyteller and referee for each game session, the system rolls the dice and determines the success or failure of a player's attack - avoiding the complicated pen-and-paper work of a master in the traditional Dungeons & Dragons setting.
The game starts with a party of six, including the main character, played by you. You can choose the quick-start mode with pre-made characters so you can immediately go on a mission. Those with a little more patience can spend up to 20 minutes designing their own character, including choosing sex, race (human, dwarf, elf or gnome), class (warrior, mage, thief or monk) and varying degrees of good and evil personalities.
After that comes the subtle customisations, in which you build up points for your character based on features such as strength, dexterity, stamina, charisma and luck. You can also choose skills from a list of 24, including the ability to fight well, pick locks, learn certain types of magic speedily or see in the dark. PC gamers who have played games such as Diablo will be familiar with this aspect.
You choose the rest of your party and set off with a map that has only one location icon marked. As you complete campaigns, more locations will be identified.
At that stage you also have the option to save your game's progress, buy items such as potions and weapons, and organise each character's equipment. The amount of items a character carries is important since it will affect how they move when they travel across the game's battlefield.
The battlefield is represented as a 3D map that can be rotated up to 360 degrees and viewed from above at a 45-degree angle. Characters move across the battlefield as if they were on a chess board. How many squares they move depends on each character's accumulated points and how much gear they are carrying. As well as the bad guys, you'll find treasure chests on the battlefield. You'll also encounter both friendly and not-so-friendly woodland critters. Remember: it's kill or be killed. Hopefully you and your crew can survive encounters with bad guys and monsters on all the 40 levels the game provides.
The graphics are good, with the battlefield nicely detailed and rendered. It is on par with PC game Diablo II. The soundtrack is also impressive but high-quality earphones are a must if you want to get the full effect.
Tactics is a fun game but it will take a long time to finish. Each battle can last for up to an hour.
Pros: An engaging game that allows players to go deep inside the complicated world of Dungeons & Dragons.
Cons: Awkwardly designed menus mean players are in for a steep learning curve.