Not even Talisman Prologue trusts Talisman

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Talisman, a miserable Monopoly-meets-D&D boardgame from a time back when we didn’t have many good boardgames so a miserable boardgame wasn’t such a bad thing after all, is so miserable that the developers of Talisman Prologue for the iOS couldn’t bear to just make an actual port. They instead turned it into a series of jiggered episodes, edited down from the actual game into shorter canned challenges. The thinking seems to be that Talisman’s gameplay can’t stand up without some re-engineering.

So here each of the characters gets a series of unlockable solo scenarios, all scored by the number of turns it takes you to reach a goal. Losing a turn doesn’t mean everyone else gets one turn closer to beating you, because there’s never anyone else. It just means that your score is one point higher than it would have been. As if the dice weren’t a harsh enough mistress. As if your score was actually integrated into the game anywhere other than the character selection screen, where it’s instead some sort of voodoo about how many talismans that character has gathered. This is a pretty poor excuse for a score chase.

The production values are a slick transliteration of the boardgame, not too slavish, but immediately recognizable to anyone who’s played the boardgame. But you can’t play actual Talisman. You can’t just let the cards fall where they may, putting your warrior at the mercy of whatever psychic battles he might draw or leaving your prophetess to lose her last life at the untimely appearance of a measly goblin. You can’t set up a game with multiple characters. You can’t play with your friends. The miserableness of Talisman is here an entirely solitary experience, hemmed in by particular cards, played to some preset deadline. It’s a modest dice-driven fifteen minute adventure in which the warrior has to reach a certain space or the elf has to collect so many followers or the mage has to get his craft to ten.

The idea is that it’s called Talisman Prologue because the full Talisman experience — playing alone without having to use a rigged deck for a canned challenge — will be along later as paid DLC. At which point, I can imagine it might we worth the silliness of letting the dice and cards fall where they may on a quest for the Crown of Command and the ensuing PvP bloodbath. Until then, these canned side quests are a pretty poor substitute for whatever entertainment you and your friends might normally wring from a real-world copy of Talisman.

2 stars