Talisman: Origins Review09 Jul 2019 2
Talisman: Origins Review
Released 16 May 2019
What happens when you take a popular board game and strip away the multiplayer elements for a lore-rich experience? You get something like Talisman: Origins, which is Nomad Games’ latest take on the challenging tabletop adventure Talisman.
This new expedition into the Talisman board game universe has been tailored for solitaire and has been specifically designed to offer a similar experience for anyone who may not have the friends or interest in playing with others. And while it's a great way to offer a crash course in Talisman history, it's a bit bizarre to take away the multiplayer elements of a board game where it’s so ingrained in the DNA. While it contains several solid features that make for an entertaining affair, it all feels a bit directionless in the end.
The game is based off the Revised 4th Edition ruleset, and you can choose from 12 unique characters across your journey as you explore a vast expanse of lore. The 12 Talisman characters that you can take on for each campaign include the new Great Wizard character, which is exclusive to Talisman: Origins. He’s pretty cool, but with that in mind, if you prefer, you can also take on the role of the villain instead. It's up to you. There are 7 total books with around 5 quests in them apiece to complete. Each quest is broken down into 5 to 7 challenges that you can take on once the original quest has been completed.
Essentially, these are mini campaigns that each recall a period of narrative throughout Talisman's history. Ever wonder how the legendary Crown of Command was summoned into being? You've got the chance to learn all about that (as well as the intriguing Lord of Darkness as well) as you power through each campaign book.
On the left side of the screen, you have several pieces of helpful information about your character: Strength, Life, Craft, Fate, and Gold as well as your Objects, Followers, Trophies, and Other cards he happens to have. You can also find your character's alignment here, which tends to stay at Neutral if you commit fairly Neutral acts. This can change over the course of the game to Good or Evil as well.
The board itself, which can be a bit difficult to discern, is split into three different regions. Typically you'll begin your journey in the Outer Region, which you can move in either direction around the board. Then you have the Middle Region and Inner Region, which will come into play as you roll the dice, make moves, and get further into your game.
To move, you roll the dice via quick tap on the right side of the screen. After you determine the amount of spaces you'll move, you can tap on a space to move there immediately. The game will highlight spaces on the board that you can move to, which takes away some of the fun of tapping around and exploring for yourself.
If you're not sure what will happen if you decide to go there, the game will help you out with a quick explanation at the bottom of the screen that helps to further explain. And if you don't like your roll, you can always use something called a Fate Point to try it again, but you're stuck with the consequences with the second try if you end up not liking that one, either. Luckily, you can earn Fate Points back at other areas on the board if you end up needing more later on.
Combat is interesting enough, but it plays out with random dice rolls in the background – and because it's essentially AI working to take out your character, you never feel as if you're particularly in any peril or have a reason to try your best to devastate the enemy. But in the end, you’re not really strategizing, even though you’re continually drawing cards to make a great hand and trying your best to overtake the AI. You’re just playing against a computer and hoping the game of RNG you keep playing turns up in your favor.
Even with the handholding of the game's first helpful tutorial and subsequent help windows, I still found some of the rules a bit obtuse – and, dare I say it? – not all that fun. Beyond that, while I followed the rules to a T and ended up learning quite a bit more than I already knew about Talisman along the way, it simply isn't as exciting without other players involved. I did appreciate the attempts at bringing additional bits and bobs of lore into the mobile sphere and the thought that went into putting together a solo version of the popular game, though.
When you have no opponents to play against, suddenly the stakes are nonexistent. You're playing against yourself, and while it's intriguing to see the game's lore play out in the background, there isn’t much going on here to truly hold your attention. I frequently found myself zoning out through a few “decisive” battles, feeling well and completely exhausted after finishing up some of the campaigns that felt like a little too much like work to be entertaining.
That’s where the issues with Talisman: Origins lie. Mechanically, it’s not a terrible game. It isn’t a low-quality title by any means. It doesn’t feature free-to-play trappings or ads. All told, there's around 40+ hours of story content and quests to play through, with around 100 challenges you can complete throughout the narrative. It’s just boring, and it desperately needs the spice that’s added by playing with others, or at the very least an exciting AI. As it is, it’s a lot like eating plain old piping hot oatmeal when you wake up on a winter’s day. It’s hearty and it’ll warm you up, but it lacks the panache that adding fruit or cinnamon would bring.
If you’re intrigued by the Talisman board game universe and want to get on board, Talisman: Origins isn’t the worst way to jump in, but if you’re looking for a more engaging tour through the series, you might want to actually try a game with other people first.