When it comes to fantasies that define a generation, Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal stands out. With whimsical puppetry the original film, which released in 1982, has become a classic, inspiring books, comics, and now a Netflix Original series, Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.
Released last week, the new series takes place before the events of The Dark Crystal, before the Gelfling genocide by the skeksis and their forces. In the story, three Gelfling discover the horrifying secret behind the Skeksis’ power and set out on an epic journey to ignite the fires of rebellion and save their world. Later this year, a tactics game of the same name is coming to the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation4, PC, and even Mac, published by En Masse Entertainment. To put it simply, if you’re a Dark Crystal fan, you have no shortage of choices to adventure through the world of Thra.
As we entered the demo for Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics, it was clear that the developer, Bonus XP, had done everything in their power to bring the highly anticipated Netflix series to life, which is no small feat given how iconic the imagery of the series and franchise it fits into. Fans and newcomers alike will have an opportunity to experience the fantasy of Thra by playing through the events of the series and even going through more storylines that expand it.
In total, Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics will have 80 unique turn-based campaign battles taking place across the world of Thra at launch. As a turn-based strategy RPG, players will recruit new allies and customize their forces by assigning them jobs and outfitting them with new equipment.
For the demo, we were able to play as Deet, the protagonist of the Netflix Series, Gelflings which had five jobs: Stone Warden, Scout, Mender, Adept, or a Podlig Potion Master, named Pombo. In the final game, you will be able to play as a Podling paladin and Fizzgigs, both of which were not playable in the pre-alpha demo of Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics. In total, there will be 15 job classes in the system with five per race across Gelfling, Podling, and Fizzgig.
In the first mission, “Rescue the Sages,” we played as Deet and I have to say the detail on the small tips of her wings peeking from her cloak was immediately recognizable. While female Gelfling still know how to fly in this era of the series, this wasn’t allowed as a movement as to balance the characters. That being said, flying is available based on what job the female Gelflings have.
This first part of the demo was simple, a way for us to get used to the combat system, one movement and one action per turn. Heavily influenced by Final Fantasy Tactics, we maneuvered through the terrain while killing Arathim Spitters and other Arathim in order to save the Bramble Sages on the map.
In the final game, we will be able to jump into and expand the legend of The Dark Crystal, learn more about the Gelfling clans who are not united as we move across five diverse and modular territories. While we played as Deet in this first portion, you will be able to choose from over 15 character jobs and play through reimagined and brand-new battles with the Skeksis, to help lead the proud Gelfling to victory.
In the second bit of the demo, our mission was called “Heretic’s Revolt,” was a lot more difficult and called for more strategic movement between the three members of your chosen party. For our playthrough we chose the Gelfling Stone Warden, a tank-like character, the Gelfling Mender, a healer-like character, and my favorite of the bunch for no other reason than being adorable, the Podling Potion Master named Pombo. And although I didn’t beat the level, I did have a lot of fun in it.
In fact, I learned why I lost, which makes me excited to jump back in when the game launches in late 2019. Like most tactics games, using the environment is important and being aware of height levels of the ground is a way to up your survivability, something I didn’t use.
While the combat was great and took heavy strategizing once we moved from fighting Arathim to fighting other Mender, Stone Warden, Scout, and Bowmaster Gelflings, plus The Chamberlain, the Skeksis controlling them, the true magic of the game is in its design. The character models are beautiful and show the passion for the IP. Having completed the designs with the guiding hands of The Jim Henson Company, every character is whimsical and pulled us right into the world of Thra.
It was both the little details, the clothes and armor worn, the wings peaking from under a robe, Pombo’s round and adorable face that made me want to protect him at all cost and the larger ones, like the detail in the maps and animations of the actions that made Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics magical. With only two missions played, the replayability was extremely apparent. Not only because of the beauty of the world that the Bonus XP team have brought to life, but also because it will offer a New Game+ mode, which will allow players to challenge themselves with more difficult versions of the battles with new mechanics and challenges to overcome.
Overall, this early demo of Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics was magical, difficult, and shows the promise for one of the best tactics games to come out this year. There are layers to the gameplay that build from understanding the terrain, to understanding the jobs of your party members, and learning how to be reactionary when your Gelfling weaknesses are exploited. All in all, Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is a game to watch out for.
Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation4, PC, and Mac.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.