Now that we’re half way through 2018 , I have to admit I’ve become pretty frustrated with the diversity and representation options within games. I found myself disinterested in games for a few months.
So instead of staying disappointed, I decided to actively search for more inclusive games. Thus, I arrived to my series of “For Your Consideration”. Then I began to find games that were inclusive in terms of plot, fully fleshed out characters, and so forth.
Eventually I came across the strategy JRPG Children of Zodiarcs, developed by Cardboard Utopia, released for PC and the PS4 in 2017. Now what drew me to the game primarily are it’s heroes and it’s story.
From my understanding, the main character is Nahmi, a young thief. She and her allies find themselves fighting against nobles and a multitude of injustices. The narrative shares elements similar to most stories of resisting an oppressive society. Immediately, you’ll notice Nahmi is a black woman - By the numbers, we still hardly have any games featuring people of color, let alone women of color-
So you can imagine my surprise to see her. Now, I had reservations in terms of the plot and her character. However the more I play the game, the more I see she’s a very well written character. She’s fueled by righteous vengeance against her oppressors. At the same time, she recognizes this isn’t how she wants to live. Those brief moment of introspection really shine through the for Children of Zodiarcs.
Nahmi is more of a person than a righteous hero. Her characterization is just a part of what the plot has to offer. The narrative features a number of people of color whom also find themselves at odds with reality and society. Her story is very relatable as it manages to resonate with the black experience.
I could keep speaking about her as a character but the point is proved further by the game. The loading screen features her signature lavender blade lightly covered with blood. I’m assuming that’s the blood of her foes and would be oppressors
Now I’ve played my share of strategy games but I’ll have to admit, this game is quite challenging. The difficulty does scale on a natural curve. Yet, you can find yourself overwhelmed if you aren’t careful.
The title combines a few ideas to make a unique set of gameplay elements. You move on the field and attack what’s within range like most other strategy titles. Now it gets more difficult due to the fact that all actions require a dice roll. Want to deal a certain amount of damage? heal? You have to roll the die.
As a respectable nod to table top games, the dice roll is everything. If you get a bad roll you can fail to kill a foe for example. Your results of a roll assigns values to attack, defense, activate abilities and etc.
The game allows you to have ideal dice equipped but ultimately it’s a game of chance. The additional factor of luck adds tension to make battle very engaging, probably more so than other strategy games. There’s more nuances for battle I don’t think I’ve even scratched yet. The game does allow the ability to fight as much as you want without progressing the plot. So will have time to get the hang of battle.
I did forget to mention the art/character vision by Erica Lahaie is very cohesive. The backdrops, art, and character portraits compliment each other nicely. Also, the music composed by studio Vibe Avenue is nothing short of amazing. From the most intimate moments, to somber monologues, the scoring is very well done. It’s certainly memorable.
If you’re a fan of JRPGs and strategy games I would definitely recommend Children of Zodiarcs. More importantly, if you wish to play a game with a women of color at the helm, I definitely recommend this as well.