Having never played the Talisman board games from Games Workshop, I had little-to-no idea what to expect from Talisman: Digital Edition for the Nintendo Switch. Talisman, developed by Blitworks and Nomad Games, is a digital adaptation of the similarly named turn based tabletop board/card game. The title is based on Games Workshop’s and Talisman’s 4th rule-set.
Now, how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated, and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Talisman: Digital Edition through the lens of more objective metrics such as; Graphical fidelity, characters/story, content/length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design and cinematics. This product was reviewed on a base model Nintendo Switch.
Diving right into visuals, it looks just like a board game. That’s cards, dice and all. The layout and models are two dimensional with reasonable, but not incredible levels of detail for the Switch’s 720p display. Although in docked 1080p resolution, the board and some details look grainy. This is exemplified when players use the zoom in function on certain tiles. It’s much better played on a small screen based on viewing results. Additionally, It should be noted that Talisman crashed a total of 3 times over the testing period. There are little sparkle effects that look all well and good with plenty of minor lighting details, particularly used to signal turns, and icon/tile selection.
The graphics aren’t going to be a major selling point, however the simplicity is effective. The game visuals and its user interface are practical, if a little boring. In regards to the menu, I must admit it is visually disappointing with the background being little more than a static photo. It gets the job done but It won’t be winning any awards in this category.
Characters & Story
In Talisman it’s characters aren’t known intimately, but more in playable archetypes or classes. Each character has it’s own unique ability, stats, alignment, and model. Overall however, there isn’t really an overarching story or any form of in-depth characterization. Which in all fairness, most board games don’t contain.
Content & Length
Given the style of game and the approximate length of time it takes to play each round, Talisman offers lots of potential replayability. Although I must admit that I’m not fond of the pricing model, as much of the content is pay-walled. Even with the game not being full price, it’s disappointing to see so much content and so many characters gated away from the start. I’d rather pay extra initially for a more complete product. During the pre-game setup, players can choose their characters, expansions (all locked from the start) and “alternative endings” which only one is available at the beginning. Players also have the ability to customize their win conditions, and the games rule-set including turns, limited lives, etc. Which is quite welcome, as it’s awfully disheartening seeing a NPC you just defeated revive back the next turn. It is always nice to put flexibility and control in the players’ hands.
New modifier cards called runes are unlocked with profile level ups by winning games. Additionally both online and local multiplayer is available. Local two player matches were functionally tested with the Switch’s joy-con controllers. Talisman offers up to six player multiplayer.
Controls & Gameplay
Moving on, the controls for Talisman are pretty standard, and fairly uncomplicated. Through the use of either the Joy-Cons, or touch screen (my single player preference) players navigate the user interface. Due to the lack of real time constraints, controlling the game is an ease. Just remember to be certain in everything you do, because there is no back button.
Now, the precise goal of Talisman is to get to the center of the board while in possession of a talisman – an item you hopefully pickup along the way. There are multiple ways of acquiring a talisman, and alternatively traversing the board. Players will take turns rolling dice for movement in descending order. Most altercations or decisions are made through dice rolls as well. Such as: how far the player moves (direction is up to them), combat, and location events. However character stats and sometimes their good, neutral, or evil alignments act as modifiers – especially in the cases of strength and craft. So, players revolve within the outer bounds of the map, until they find a raft or other passage to the inner layers of the board where the objective lies. They can use items or spells, to help themselves or hinder others as well as land on different events and enemy encounters.
The issue (for me) is when bad rolls repeatedly turn players into a toad, halting or resetting their progress in the game. Well maybe not that, exactly. But it’s the same frustration X-COM players feel after missing a 99% chance shot. Likewise, a few good turns can have your character snowballing into an unstoppable monster, racking up trophies and trading in for bonus strength stat. RNG can add a certain spicy thrill, but it can also make players feel powerless. In the context that it’s an adaptation of a board game, these complaints may be irrelevant. On the contrary, maybe it’s wasting some potential in it’s translation of medium to video game format.
Sound Design & Cinematics
In all honesty, this is where Talisman falls short. It’s not simply that there are no cinematics to speak of (not all games do), it’s that the general sound design feels lackluster. Before long the menu music (which sounds like a D&D gets highly repetitive. While the gameplay soundtrack is marginally more diverse, It was still muted by the end. I understand the focus wasn’t on filling an OST with bangers, however some minor variation would go a long way. That’s not to say the minor (too quiet) sound effects and arent good enough, but it’s no Disco Elysium.
To be fair to Talisman: Digital Edition, I imagine it does exactly what the developers set out to do. Additionally, this isn’t an overtly extravagant game, after all, it runs on mobile too. It’s what I imagine a proper adaptation should be, though it’s not my type of game. Even though it is a decent time killer, I’d wait for a sale to purchase this title. It is fun for a bit, but shortly feels limiting without purchasing extra content. Talisman is available on Steam, iOS, Android, Switch, PS4 & Vita. 6.5/10 and best played with friends.
What did you think of Talisman Digital Edition? If you enjoyed this content, why not check out our Division 2: Warlords of New York Review.
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a tabletop title not for everyone
- Score - 6.5/106.5/10
+ Jolly Good RNG Tabletop RPG fun
+ Great Co-op Function
+ Good Time Killer
– Repetitive Once Familiarized
– Dry Sound Design.
Just a Canadian dude who’s passionate about gaming, and the industry as a whole.