From the 30-year Dungeons & Dragons franchise comes Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics for the first time on PSP. Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics is a fairly easy game to pick up even if you have never touched a turn-based strategy game in your existence (although if you're not a previous Dungeons & Dragons fan this title probably won't leave you thinking that you've been missing out all these years).
If you have never played the D&D series -- let alone a turn-based game -- you'll be happy to know that you are brought into the game fairly gradually, and are given ample opportunity to understand the mechanics of the turn-based system. Essentially, characters are allowed to make two actions per turn, which is displayed with two green-coloured rings around the player's feet. Any equipping or attack orientated actions can only be used once in a turn, whereas moving can be used in both. So, for example, you could move six spaces towards the enemy then attack him, or just use the move action twice. Since you are only moving each character one at a time, it can mean a lot of time between battles.
The 4-player wireless multiplayer offers a few different game modes to battle with or against your friend's characters. Go up against their characters in a deathmatch, or go in together against computer-controlled opponents.
The character creation is in-depth and will please the hardcore Dungeons & Dragons fans. Even first-timers will be able to understand the workings of different character classes and the available abilities and skills. It is all explained and it's just a matter of reading through for a while and piecing it all together.
Inside the tutorial menu there are a number of walkthrough guides for understanding the player movements and actions, such as what happens in combat situations, and how to use magic spells with the associated classes. After you've prepared yourself with the tutorials you can jump into the Campaign mode and put together a party for the adventures that lie ahead. Offering a wide variety of character classes and races, gamers are able to choose which characters they want in their party of six. These characters can be pre-generated or ones created from scratch. For races you have a decent variety -- humans, gnomes, elves, half-elves, halflings, half-orcs, and dwarfs -- each having its own special traits which are explained upon selecting them.
With classes there is also a wide range -- so for your party you will want a good variety to employ different strategies. You can choose from more melee-orientated classes like barbarians, rogues, fighters, psychic warriors, rangers, or paladins. Then there are of course the magic users consisting of sorcerers, wizards, bards, monks, psions, clerics, and the druid, which has the ability to shift into animal forms.
Now when it comes to adventures they are quiet straightforward. You are informed what your mission is with a short brief (for example, kill all creatures in the area and collect your reward). Prior to starting it you will be taken to the party management screen to select who you want to come along. We found that it was helpful to get a nice mixture of characters.
As for the in-game audio and video there isn't anything spectacular about it. The audio is encumbered by whiny and repetitive medieval-like music that will force you to continue playing the game without any sound at all. Action sound effects are kept fairly minimal and are all shared between characters -- you'll hear a whining goblin in the background up until you have finally maimed him.
You cannot exactly ask for better visuals on a PSP, but they didn't lighten up the action. Adventures inside caves all looked entirely the same -- dark corridors and the occasional open room. All characters share the same movements and being able to tell if you actually killed your enemy (or if any of your party members have died) was a bit hard. They just seemed to bow their heads after they are killed. So in some situations your character could take a hit and it wasn't obvious that he had indeed taken his final blow and was bleeding out.
For the avid Dungeons & Dragons fan this next installment will definitely provide hours and hours of adventurous play time, especially with your character's customisations and upgrades. But if this is your first go at a turn-based strategy, let alone Dungeons & Dragons, then you probably won't be that eager to try out some different turn-based titles. Having gone to good lengths to make this game easy to pick up for a new gamer, it still feels that the real enjoyment is left for the die-hard fans.