The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is a strange cross between a Jim Henson production and a strategy game. Such an experience has to deal with plenty of issues since it has to appeal to a wide variety of fans. While video game adaptations of films have always been popular, the same is not true for television shows. That hasn’t stopped Netflix from experimenting with the medium for some of its original properties. We have already seen games for both Narcos and Stranger Things.
Now, Netflix has licensed its critically acclaimed series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, a prequel to the 1982 cult classic The Dark Crystal. BonusXP and En Masse Entertainment have a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics fails to match the high expectations set by the series. In truth, this is a game that will only have limited appeal and lacks quality in almost every area.
There is some good news for those coming to this game because of their love of the television series. The plot closely follows the events of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. This is a solid choice as the TV adaptation is charming, mystical, and imaginative all at once. Some of that does translate into the game’s story.
Throughout much of the narrative, you follow the story of a Gelfling named Rian. He attempts to set up a resistance to save the rest of his kind from the evil Skeksis. Generally, though, the plot is not the main focus and takes more of a backseat. This is mainly due to a lack of proper story missions or cutscenes.
One of the main problems with the story is that it is incredibly difficult to follow. Anyone who is not an avid fan of the source material will struggle to make sense of the events. Even those who have watched the film and TV show might not be able to follow everything. As such, you don’t really have much motivation to get invested in the narrative. This has consequences for the gameplay too. Without understanding the reasons why you are going from battle to battle, things soon start to feel meaningless.
Like other grid-based tactics games, you enter each battle with a collection of characters. They can range from melee combat specialists to spell-casting healers. Each unit has its own unique set of abilities, movement speed, and stats. The gameplay revolves around trying to use the best strategy to overcome your opponent.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics has plenty of variety in terms of units to keep things interesting. There’s also a wide range of weapons and items that you can upgrade to gain new skills. Additionally, you have to consider a large number of factors during battles. Everything from the type of cover you are in to the terrain units are occupying can affect the outcome. However, none of this is particularly groundbreaking but rather par for the course for the genre.
What many people want from strategy games like this is a challenge. Other similar titles like The Banner Saga demonstrate this effectively, offering players tough foes that they have to overcome. Yet, developers have to be careful to strike a balance between challenging the player and frustrating them. Too often The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics strays from this thin line. For example, story battles are incredibly hard while boosting in side missions is boring because they are so easy.
Poor pacing in terms of the difficulty curve is the main problem. The game is just too hard at times, to the point where it gets very annoying. At several points throughout the campaign, it felt necessary to put down the controller and turn off the game. If it wasn’t for having to review the entire experience, I would probably have given up more than once. The frustrating gameplay eventually just outweighs any positive aspects the title has in other areas.
For the most part, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics captures the spirit of the original film well. It contains many of the elements that made The Dark Crystal so beloved. However, it may not be quite as creepy or disturbing as you remember. But that’s hardly a fault that can be leveled against the game. After all, people who enjoyed Jim Henson’s movie have aged almost four decades since its release. That’s not to mention how much harder it is to actually shock viewers nowadays.
In other aspects, though, it falls mightily short. The environments and character models suffer from a lack of detail throughout the entire experience. It is clear that The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics has been developed with a small budget. Of course, that doesn’t excuse the quality completely.
A lack of voice acting is also a severe disappointment. Whereas the show features high quality acting from voiceover artists, players are left having to read every piece of dialogue. Overall, this looks and sounds more like a small indie or mobile title than an adaptation of a TV show.
Fans of the show will certainly find some redeeming qualities in this game. It fleshes out parts of the narrative that are only briefly shown in the TV series and expands the world. But only the most hardcore fans of the franchise will likely find any real enjoyment. There are just too many missteps that make playing The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics frustrating. Whether it is the lacking story, irritating gameplay, or poor presentation, it does nothing to stand out. Most disappointingly, it does not even try to be innovative or introduce anything new to the genre.