By all accounts, I shouldn't really like Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars. As a rule, I shy away from JRPGs, because I often find them to be too complicated, too long, too insane, or some combination of the three. I've certainly tried to get into the genre, and my longstanding attachment to Pokémon means I'm familiar with the basic tropes. Anything without a Charmander in it doesn't really stand much of a chance with me, though, and there's seemingly no good reason why. JRPGs just don't do it for me, and I've largely accepted that.
However, when Voice of Cards was announced, I was intrigued. Square Enix was going out on a limb with this one: a JRPG, only everything and everyone is represented by a trading card? The novel presentation caught my eye, and games like Slay the Spire have cemented card games in my mind as a thing I like. Obviously, though, this isn't a card game — it's a JRPG in a card game's clothing. Still, it did the trick. I downloaded the demo with curiosity, and it did enough that I couldn't resist playing the full thing.
I've enjoyed it much more than I was expecting, but in a way that I wasn't. All parts of the adventure — locations, people, monsters, weapons — are shown as cards on a dimly lit table, and it's narrated by a game master who, to be honest, sounds like he might fall asleep at any moment. You move a playing piece around, card by card, and go through the usual motions. You visit shops and blacksmiths to stock up on items and equipment. You talk to NPCs to get more information about the world and your quest. You fight random, turn-based battles against increasingly dangerous enemies. The thing is, it's all delivered in such a way that I find it enjoyably relaxing.
The game's story is not particularly deep or surprising, the combat is basic (and probably too easy), and the whole experience moves at a snail's pace. I'll be the first to admit it has some flaws, but Voice of Cards resonates with me despite them. I'm more or less done with it now, but for a good week or so, I'd boot up the game and play a few hours in the evenings, and it served as a great way to unwind.
It's actually the title's simplicity that contributes most to this feeling, I think. This is a JRPG, but it's not the sprawling, complex, 200-hour epic that label implies. It doesn't really go beyond the basics, and I appreciate the restraint. The combat adds a wrinkle or two with dice rolls and elemental strengths and weaknesses, but even these are commonplace in RPGs. All you really need to worry about is who you want in your active party, outfitting them with the best gear you have at the time, and you're good to go.
Fights aren't particularly challenging, but instead of growing bored, I enjoy the slow pace and the lack of grinding. Fight every random battle you encounter and your party will be perfectly capable — there's no need to go out of your way to level up further. So, I would spend my nights sweeping across each map, defeating whatever got in the way, and enjoying every glacial step. You barely need to think, and it's great.
On top of this is the presentation, which really is lovely. The music, especially, has a warm, gentle vibe, even when things become more intense. Todd Haberkorn's performance as narrator means every story beat, no matter what's happening, is delivered to you in an understated, almost disinterested manner, which certainly adds to the game's laid-back atmosphere. A dragon is burning a village to the ground? It doesn't feel quite so urgent when you're told about it with all the energy of a librarian teetering on retirement.
Everything comes together in such a way that, for me, makes it a true pleasure to play. Again, it's not the best game I've played this year, but the slow pace, simple gameplay, and neat presentation mean it's probably the most relaxing one. If you need a calming remedy after blitzing through something energetic, intense, or emotional, Voice of Cards could be just what the doctor ordered.
Have you played Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars? Do you agree that it's a pleasantly relaxing experience? Speak calmly in the comments section below.