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Voice Of Cards: The Beasts of Burden

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2022


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PS4 Review - 'Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 23, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Voice Of Cards: The Beasts Of Burden brings players to an illustrated world presented through the medium of cards as the third release in the Voice of Cards franchise.

Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden follows the story of The Guard, a young girl who lives in an underground city. She is the one who protects her people from dangerous monster attacks. One day, while she is stopping an invasion, a group of monsters sneaks in and slaughters her village. Rescued by a young boy, she sets out into the world, only to discover that she has the power to control monsters. With her newfound powers and allies, she sets out on a quest for revenge, eager to destroy every monster in the world.

Of the three games in the Voice of Cards franchise so far, The Beasts of Burden probably best fits what you imagine when someone mentions Yoko Taro. It is a relentlessly depressing story of people going from tragedy to tragedy, leaving misery in their wake. It can genuinely make the game difficult to play at times because it never lets up. It's tough to express where the game goes without spoilers, but from the beginning to the end, you're either being witness to or doing terrible things — you know, the usual Yoko Taro stuff.

The core gameplay in Voice of Cards: Beasts of Burden is pretty much identical to the other games in the series to date. While the game is comprised of cards, it isn't really a card game, with the aesthetics more of a visual choice than anything else. Instead, it's more akin to a standard RPG. You're not building a deck of randomly drawn cards, but you can equip your characters with armor, skills and weapons for use in battle.

The combat system hasn't changed much, either. Combat works in a standard turn-based way. You and enemies take turns attacking based on your speed stats, and whoever goes down first dies. The game centers around figuring out how to generate and use gems most effectively. For every character turn, you get a gem. The character's default attack or item usage don't use gems, but pretty much every other ability or attack does. If you use a one-gem attack, you end up gem neutral for the turn, but use two or more, and you can end up not having enough for the next character in line.

The new feature is capturing monsters. When you defeat an enemy in battle, there is a random chance that you'll get their card as a drop. Once you do, you can equip that card onto any party member, and it serves as a skill. A cute fuzzy monster gives you a healing spell, a wolf gives you an attack that damages no matter the enemy defense, a water spirit gives you a water-element attack, and so on. Each monster's strength is rated at one to five stars, and as you progress, you'll find stronger versions of monsters whose abilities are more powerful and will overwrite your previously captured monster.

I'm a little torn on this system. Collecting monsters is neat, but the unfortunate result is that the majority of them are not worth the bother. There are a handful of monsters that are extremely good, and the rest are a waste of time, so despite the flexibility of the system, I didn't swap attacks much. The pacing of monster abilities is awkward, which can leave you without certain elements or abilities until very late in the game.

The result is a standard RPG with some minor customization of skills. It's fun for that, but it feels like more could've been done with the concept. I'd much rather have seen monsters with more intriguing skills instead of what felt mostly like "hit," "hit harder," and "hit but on fire." The game also added a defend mechanic that allows you to block incoming attacks, but I used it once, and that was during the tutorial. There's almost no point where defending is better than attacking.

Aside from that, The Beasts of Burden is pretty much the same as the last two, strengths and flaws alike. It's a swift RPG that goes through its plot beats quickly and has a good pace to the plot. If anything, I wish it lingered in a few more areas.

However, the flaw is that the gameplay is slow. The pacing of battles feels rather glacial, and the random encounter rate is ridiculous. I was obliterating enemies in one round, but when I got into a fight every three steps, it dragged down things. This was a problem in the previous games, so it isn't unique to this title. I wish there were more quality of life additions between game offerings. As nice as swift as the story is, I was bored while trying to push through to the next story beat, and I don't usually mind random battles in JRPGs. A simple "speed up" button would go a very long way.

The Voice of Cards games all share the same basic visuals. They have a world crafted out of cards, with each area, character and step represented by a card. The cards have nice artwork, and there's some fun use of the card aesthetic for effects. The Guard attacks by spinning and twirling around, defeated enemies are torn in half, and it's a unique visual style. The voice acting is presented mostly via an omnipotent narrator who is calming and pleasant, and the music is top-notch and fits the tone of the game. It's not the highest-budget game, but it does a lot with what it has.

At the end of the day, Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden is the same basic game as the last two, only with a different story. It really doesn't do anything to break the mold except be incredibly dark and depressing. If you found yourself enjoying the last two games, then you'll almost certainly enjoy this one, but if any of the previous game's flaws dragged down things, then you probably won't change your mind here. It's a nice, low-budget JRPG with some interesting story beats, but the consistent flaws between games have started to wear out their welcome.

Score: 7.0/10

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