Fantasy Flight Games
Legendary board game Talisman gets a great PC edition
Talisman: Digital Edition
Bringing board game experiences into the video game world is not a new phenomenon. We've been seeing games take on serious board gaming for years, but they're getting better at it all the time.
Few have done it much better than Talisman: Digital Edition, recently released on Steam for PC. Though it's only a video game interpretation of a board game, Talisman manages to feel like an actual RPG shrunk down to the smallest scale.
The Magical Quest Game
The basic concept of Talisman is that there are four adventurers in the world all vying to reach a special talisman first. Unfortunately, the talisman is deep within a tainted land, so it takes a great deal of adventuring and plundering before these adventurers have enough power to take on the final challenges.
The game world is represented by three rings on the board. Everyone begins in the outer ring where things are mostly safe, and you can travel to any of the spaces in that ring, but it takes extra work to advance inward to the next ring. Each turn you roll a die to determine which spaces you'll be able to move to. Roll a 3 and you must move three spaces, so you'll have to choose between the two different spaces that are three spots away.
Each space has different qualities in terms of what will happen to you when you get there. In some places you'll meet wizards who can teach you spells. In others there are markets where you can buy items. In others there's nothing but chance and you'll either find items, events or monsters which can be killed to slowly level up.
It's almost hard to believe, but this board game actually manages to capture the feeling of an adventurous quest pretty well. It ends up feeling like a full RPG that can be played in a self-contained single sitting. All the epic loot drops, monster fights, and chance encounters of a full-scale fantasy RPG are here, except in Talisman it's all distilled into a roughly 2-3 hour experience.
What I love about this game is that the spaces themselves only tell you basic information like how many cards to pull, or how many dice to roll. The real game comes from the Adventure cards. This is where events, merchants, wizards, monsters etc come into play. Because the spaces only tell you how many cards to draw, anything can happen on any space, and it shapes the board into a unique space each game.
A space may only tell you to draw two cards, but one of those cards might be a giant gorilla, while the other could be a Prince who can be acquired as a “Follower” with special abilities. Suddenly that space isn't just “Plains” with a “Draw 2 cards” event. It's the place where a gorilla is holding a Prince hostage.
It's neat to watch each game slowly unfold, and see the board change and become unique over the course of dozens of turns as you discover caves, drop loot behind you, and find things like portals and characters.
Adding to the huge amount of variety in the game is the large character roster with 14 archetypes ranging from the Prophetess to the Monk to Thief. In most ways they are pretty similar, but tend to have at least one trait that sets them apart and makes the game a different experience.
Some of them can be pretty cool, too. The Ghoul character, for instance, can keep slain monsters and raise them from the dead to help in battle. All it truly means is that their strength modifier is added to his for one round, but it's delectable role-play material.
8 hours < 30 years
I've only been able to play three games of Talisman, adding up to probably 8 hours, but it's already obviously a board game that does a lot of things rights. It's enough time for me to see that this is a great game with a good PC installment, but considering the game has been out for 30 years it's safe to say I have a long way to go before I understand it at the same level as the veterans.
If you're a fan of the Talisman series, this is a slick PC version with solid AI that will facilitate you playing when you can't get your buddies over. If you're new to the series then this is a great, inexpensive option for learning the rules and testing the waters with some AI opponents.
The big, glaring ommision however, is the lack of online multiplayer. That's a big, expensive inclusion for the developer, but it's also really important for fans of the game. If there was online matchmaking then this would truly be the complete package.
As it stands, it's still worth every penny of the $15 asking price, and it's clearly going to be getting a number of expansion packs in the future. I can't wait to see where this game goes.