Children of Zodiarcs Review – Orphans gone wild

Reviewed August 20, 2017 on




July 18, 2017


Square Enix Holdings


Cardboard Utopia

Children of Zodiarcs is not your ordinary RPG.  A curse to many RPGs is a great story with repetitive game play – Children of Zodiarcs is pretty much the opposite. It is an enjoyable and inventive trading card tactical combat system combined with a fairly simple and linear storyline.

This is not to say that the story isn’t original, just a bit predictable, and in my opinion not the most important aspect of the game.

You follow the story of a group of orphans, who, under the guidance of Zirchhoff (a meatier version of Fagin from Oliver Twist) go out to steal relics from the rich and powerful.  Unlike Oliver and the Artful Dodger, these youngsters mean business and have no hesitation to kill, and wish nothing more than to bring down the powerhouses, even if it means total anarchy.

The game is set in the world of Lumus sometime after a more golden age, where mysterious devices called Zodiarcs were present to manifest human will into physical reality.  Now the world is divided between the rich and poor, and lunatic cults who worship near the forgotten magic.

That is pretty much all you need to know about the story and it will come of no surprise that orphan Nahmi and co. discover more about their world and shake things up a bit.

While this game is an RPG, the storyline itself is quite predictable and simple.  Normally I would get annoyed with this, but given this is “more” a strategic battling game than a classic RPG, I think simple probably works best.  This being said, I would have much preferred to have chosen (or better yet – created) the characters for this journey and to see them develop.  In Children of Zodiarcs you are given characters to use, which can change from battle to battle depending on the storyline.  This takes away the part I love about many RPGS: the ability to grow with my character(s).

This is a very dialogue driven game, but you can choose to skip a cut-scene via the pause menu if you choose.  There is also no voice dialogue, and you need to read each panel if you care to follow the story in detail.  I guess I am not a fan of children throwing around insults, as I just felt disconnected from the characters – even though some of the dialogue was hilarious.  The developers attempted to add moments of realism to the game with many of your victims spouting last words of regret and despair.  I don’t think it really worked and made me a little sorry for killing that entire gang for no apparent reason.

The one huge credit I will give the developers is the level of female representation in this game.  The main two characters were female and it was never given another thought – instead the emphasis was on their class, that they were thieves (I think murder is a bigger crime but anyway), and their possession of Zodiarc technology.

But all I really cared about these characters was what they could do ability-wise as the gameplay was the winner in this game for me.

The design of Children of Zodiarcs is similar to many turn-based RPGs, such as those in the Fire Emblem series, with a simple world map to navigate and battlefields divided into a grid.  Similar basic tactics are present which include staying out of range of your enemy and coordinating attack positions to inflict the most damage.

What makes this game unique is that each character you control has a pre-determined deck of cards containing attacks, spells and various stat changing effects to benefit yourself or weaken opponents.

As you progress in the game, you can customise this deck yourself, and your characters gain new cards as they level up.  After choosing a card, you need to roll a bunch of dice that change the effectiveness of that card (e.g. more damage), and can add nice bonuses such as extra HP, extra cards or another action with that character.

Your character-specific dice can also be customised.

While the dice rolling takes a bit of practice initially to get used to, the dice throws add more variety to the gameplay, and the random nature of drawing cards makes the game more strategic.  If you do not like a given dice roll, you can choose to re-roll some or all your dice, but be warned – your dice can inadvertently hit and roll existing dice on the screen, and some spells can create curses on your dice.

The battlefields are 3D rotatable landscapes, of mainly urban dwellings.  Being thieves, your characters can scale buildings with no problems, and so can your enemies.  You will use the rotating feature a lot, and choose your targets before selecting a card, as the rotating function becomes fairly limited.  Not only are the battlefields visually impressive, they are also functional.  Having the high ground is a definite advantage in this game, as it being able to use the surroundings for cover or to prevent a dreaded back stab.

The music is your typical epic RPG score, and I didn’t notice it after a few hours of play.  The sound effects by the characters attacking I did continue to notice, and were a bit on the annoying side.

Do not let this detract you, Children of Zodiacs is an enjoyable experience, though the more I play it, the more I wish it were just a battling game, maybe even an online multiplayer, rather than a linear RPG.


  • Novel gameplay mechanics
  • Cards and dice add both strategy and randomness to each fight
  • Each battle is simply satisfying to win


  • The story is linear and uninteresting
  • Battles can take a long time due to the card and dice elements
  • Characters were more annoying than relatable

Children of Zodiacs is an independent release by Cardboard Utopia achieved through crowd funding, and subsequent publishing by Square Enix.  The reason to play this game is to experience the quite challenging and rewarding gameplay system that fans of trading card games should enjoy.  Let’s hope we see more of these types of experiences, particular if we can just focus on the fighting.