Listen. I've escaped from the jaws of Apple. If an apple can have jaws, that is. My household went a bit Apple-mad for a while there. I had an iPhone, my girlfriend had an iPhone, we bought an iPad for the living room table. I mean, we didn't go INSANE or anything. It's not like we did anything totally stupid like buying a Mac. But still, we were on board the Apple train like a couple of silly pips. That's all changed, though. The iPhones are gone, because they were shite. We now never ever again have to use iTunes, a piece of software so hopelessly awful the timer programming on my microwave laughs at it.
But we still have the iPad. And it was on that iPad I played Talisman: Prologue. Why is this relevant to you? Why is this relevant to the Rock Paper Shotgun PC Master Race Gatekeepers Of Joy And Light? Well, it's also a PC game. And Talisman: Prologue will be followed this summer by a game called Talisman: Digital Edition. And that's coming to PC too, probably on Steam. And in this way we “do an introduction” to our “column”.
TALISMAN PROLOGUE HD (iPad)
Yeah, so I played this on the iPad. Here's what I was looking for – a clean UI. Talisman is one of my favourite board games, and I always think of it as a good time. An unfussy good time. No heavy rules to worry about, no fiddly processes, just a smooth and light ride. The most important thing that any digital port of Talisman has to get right is that feel of “smooth play”. Roll. Move. Draw card. Combat. Roll. Win. Take trophy. Turn in trophy. Arms moving over the board in complete smoothness, faces smiling, voices laughing.
And Nomad Games SMASHED it. I can honestly say I couldn't imagine a better digital interpretation of the mechanics of Talisman than you'll find in this game. After fifteen minutes with the game, playing it is second nature. You can get all Zen about it too – there's something relaxing about those efficient little taps on the screen and the light decision-making. You never feel like you're making more taps than you need to make. That might sound like a silly observation, but seriously – digital versions of board games fall down on this all the time. When you touch even once more than you feel you need to in these games, there's the potential for everything to collapse. In Talisman: Prologue it's like this – TAP (die rolls) – TAP (choose destination) – TAP (Confirm/Move) – TAP (Draw card). It's super-tight. I mean, I've been playing the PC version of Blood Bowl this past week, and that's a game that could use some elegance in how the processes have been translated. It's fun, but it CLUNKS hard.
The way Talisman: Prologue is structured is lovely too.
It's all broken up into smaller quests. These serve to teach you the game, and teach you how to use the characters. Now, this is Talisman, so what you are getting taught is some BASIC SHIT. Let's take the Warrior, for example. He's allowed to use two weapons in combat, okay? So an early quest is to FIND TWO WEAPONS and the USE THEM IN COMBAT. You start the game, go looking for weapons, kill something and YOU WIN. But it's actually a really elegant way of teaching you how the different character powers work. It's much better than throwing you into a full game of Talisman and constantly reminding you about your special powers.
The game is opened up to you in a very relaxed way. You'll learn about how it all works as you're completing these little stories. And the quests are the perfect size for a quick session before bed or while something terrible is on TV, which is all day, usually.
So it's single-player only. Yes. I know. Yes. I thought that too.
But. Yes. Hang on.
I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about board games, and tried to imagine what their experience of this game was like.
“Okay. Cool. Ooh! Lovely map. That's really beautiful. Oh, and all the characters are like little HD photos of little miniature toys! That's lovely. And look at the art! All these cards have such beautiful art. Hey, this might be good. Okay. Let's do this.
Roll die. Okay. Choose where to go. Well, it's either THERE or THERE. I'll try THERE. Draw a card. A monster. Cool. I'm fighting a monster! Roll my dice. Ooh. A five. Now they roll. Ooh. A two. I won. Excellent.
Roll die. Okay. Choose where to go. Well, it's either THERE or THERE. I'll try THERE. Draw a card. A monster. Okay. I'm fighting a monster! Roll my dice. Ooh. A three. Now they roll. Ooh. A one. I won again. Cool.
Roll die. Okay. Choose where to go. Well, it's either THERE or THERE again. I'll try THERE. Draw a card. A gold coin. Okay. Okay. Gold's cool. Okay.”
And I'm wondering to myself if they're going to think – is this it?
I mean, this game really works for me. I love Talisman, and I love the roll-and-move simplicity of the adventuring. But man, when you play alone as you do in this version, you really feel the claws of frustration dig in when you need the perfect roll to complete your quest. Quite a few quests end with your character easily strong enough to finish the fight, but struggling to get the right die roll to land on the monster that will get you over the finish line. It's the only point at which things stop being relaxing, and it's a pity.
But this is an impressive, beautiful little game. It's got me really excited about the full release this summer.
You know I love this game, right? Read all about it.
Well, Fantasy Flight have dropped it. They announced it this week.
And I am worried. And I want you all to put my mind at rest about the game's future. I love that game.