Review: Talisman Prologue

By Dave Neumann 25 Apr 2013 0
Looks like they poached the yearbook photo from my Talisman phase. Looks like they poached the yearbook photo from my Talisman phase.

If you’re anything like me (and you'd best be on your knees thanking Tharizdun you’re not) your memories aren’t categorized by when or what was happening to you, but by what games filled your consciousness and consumed you during that period of your life. John Lennon shot? That was right toward the beginning of my D&D phase. Marriage? Magic: The Gathering. And, of course, my high school years are known as my Talisman phase.

Talisman filled that sad span of time between my friends realizing they’d never get laid if they kept playing D&D with me and growing up. Make characters and meet regularly to play an RPG? Not when there was a chance of snogging our local version of Wendy Peffercorn at the football game instead. Talisman, however, was D&D lite. I could get them to play that with me for a few hours every now and then, which helped me stave off growing up for at least a few more years.

Playing Talisman today with my kids, I realize that it isn't a very good game. It lacks meaty decisions and can drag on for an eternity, but where it shines is with its theme. There are few things more fun than sitting around with your family or friends and duking it out over who gets to wield the Crown of Command. Problem is, Talisman: Prologue is a solitaire game where all socialization is lost. So, without the social aspect, how could this version of Talisman be anything other than a random, boring mess?

Follow me and I’ll tell you, because it’s actually pretty damn fantastic.

Talisman: Prologue follows the same format as it’s cardboard cousin: roll the dice, move clockwise or counter-clockwise, and do what the space says. Usually, that means drawing a card and dealing with whatever wonderful or terrible event it contains. That’s it. We’re not decoding the human genome here, people.  Unlike the board game, however, this one is broken up into tiny, bite-sized pieces that keeps the familiar long slog for the Crown of Command a distant memory. The quest system is what saves this game and makes it a perfect fit for short bursts (or very long bursts in my case) on your platform of choice.

Oops. Must have moved the cemetery, but left the bodies behind. Oops. Must have moved the cemetery, but left the bodies behind.

Each character has five somewhat interconnected quests that they need to fulfill, each with the standard ‘3-star’ system (or ‘3-Talisman’ system in this case) which is common in puzzle games all over the App Store. Getting that elusive third star all comes down to how many turns it takes to complete the current quest. This is where the genius of this all comes into play. The randomness which is seem by many as a detriment suddenly becomes a boon. When you need to complete a quest in 20 turns and keep rolling around the space you need to land on, the tension is palpable. If you don’t get it, start over. Unlike the board game where bad rolls can spoil a 3+ hour afternoon, here you lose nothing other than a few minutes. Also a genius move, the deck of available adventure cards is tailored for each quest. A quest where you have to acquire weapons will have more chances to get gold or weapons from the deck. Decks where you need to fight certain monsters will have them in the deck. You may not see them as soon as you’d like, but they’re in there.

As you complete quests, you unlock new quests for your current character or one of the other 10 characters available. Each character has quests and an adventure deck suited specifically for that character. For example, the Wizard will have more Spirit based creatures in the deck than the Warrior. The focused deck and quest goals force you to use your character’s special abilities to the fullest if you want to succeed at each quest and makes each character feel completely different.

The game looks and plays like the latest version from Fantasy Flight including the sculpted miniatures that act as your digital pawns, and the use of the Fate mechanism to allow dice rerolls. Visually, it’s a treat and anyone who complains when digital versions of games don’t look like their source material can’t be anything but happy with the choices here.

Hey! It's the guy in Varys' box! Hey! It's the guy in Varys' box!

So, it’s perfect then! Hold on there, Gimli. There are a few minor issues such as the occasional crash on my iPad 2 and the inability of the game to process when things should happen automatically. For example, if I have a 7 Strength and I’m fighting a Boar with Strength 1, it is impossible for the Boar to win this fight. Even so, the dice rolling must continue for both sides. It’s not a big deal, but as you grow in strength this situation happens more and more often. Cross-platform saves would be a nice touch as well.

Overall, however, I can’t recommend it enough and I’m happy to have Talisman once again take a prominent role in my gaming life. This time, however, it’s just a small part of my ongoing iPad phase.

Review: Talisman Prologue

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