Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden review

Square Enix has now released The Forsaken Maiden – the second instalment in the Voice of Cards franchise on Switch, PS4 and Steam.

But wait, didn’t the first game The Isle Dragon Roars come out only a few months ago? Yes! Am I pleasantly surprised? Yes! Am I a little concerned for the welfare of the staff at Square Enix? Yes!

For those hearing about this franchise for the first time, Voice of Cards is a JRPG series from Yoko Taro (the creator of NieR) told entirely through the medium of cards. Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden is a completely standalone story, and arguably better than its predecessor.

A game that holds all the cards

Imagine a tabletop JRPG with the environment, combat, characters, and dialogue all represented by cards, paired with the dark vibes of Yoko Taro. That’s the Voice of Cards series.

As discussed in our review of the previous game, don’t come to Voice of Cards looking for a mechanically complex card game. You have five swappable moves to use against enemies that are weak or resistant to different types of attacks.

It’s typical JRPG stuff with a neat stylistic card spin. If you’re looking for a chill time with some Yoko Taro twists, it’s pretty great.

This time around, our old scrappy boy, girl, and mascot type character have been replaced by a more docile boy, girl, and mascot type character, along with a series of rotating group members. Sardonic narrator “Game-Master” Todd Haberkorn is replaced by (also more docile but equally competent) narrator Mark Atherlay.

More difficult challenges are on the cards

As mentioned, The Forsaken Maiden is completely standalone, with only Easter eggs to tie it to the previous instalment. I would also argue that the story beats are easier to predict, but this could be because I’m now in the rhythm of Yoko Taro’s particular brand of storytelling.

While much of The Isle Dragon Roars was spent traversing forests and grasslands, The Forsaken Maiden is all about the ocean exploration. The seemingly endless expanse of blue-ocean cards that greets you gives a huge sense of scale. It’s also cleverly implemented, with some sections more difficult than others, guiding your exploration in a natural way. Handy-dandy plot whirlpools also block your path until you sufficiently progress the story.

Where The Forsaken Maiden improves upon its predecessor is its more demanding difficulty spike and better rate of challenging encounters. This fixes one of the main gripes I had about the original instalment. While I felt over-levelled and weighed down with items in the first game, in The Forsaken Maiden I found myself having to pay more attention to my strategy and healing use.

My dance card is full

The Forsaken Maiden looks and sounds cosy and pleasant as The Isle Dragon Roars. Some of that is due to partly having the same soundtrack, with some extra tracks thrown in.

Character illustrations continue to be a strong point and make me wish I was a better artist. The combat effect animations are still very flashy – particularly as they’re in essence just cards dancing across the screen to pretty lights. Dance cards, dance!

While there’s no graphical leap here, the team has pushed the visuals just that little bit further using visual effects. For example, one creepy section used glitch effects to give me some serious heebie-jeebies.

With the same visuals, the same lag I experienced in The Isle Dragon Roars is still a problem for The Forsaken Maiden on the Switch. This is particularly obvious when selecting the menu. It’s not game-breaking by any means – just a small tear on an otherwise crisp deck of cards.

Sea-riously good. Also, cards!

The Forsaken Maiden is a deck that has only been shuffled a token amount. Maybe there’s a few different cards here and there, but you’ll recognise the same patterns.

In this way, The Forsaken Maiden is more like a standalone DLC – the one where they’re on a boat. But you know, like how expansion packs used to be nearly the same size as the original game. I hope that doesn’t give away my age.

When coupled with its improved difficulty and fun visual surprises The Forsaken Maiden is a good tweak of a successful formula. Predictably, if you enjoyed the first Voice of Cards instalment, you’ll also enjoy this one. I certainly did!
Second verse, slightly better than the first
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