Throughout the years there have been a number of attempts to bring the Dungeons & Dragons™ tabletop experience to the virtual gaming world. If you’ve been paying attention you very well know that a vast majority have failed to make their mark. I’m pleased to report that Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation will give you one of the best D&D experiences you can get. This is our Tales from Candlekeep review.
In Tomb of Annihilation, you are brought to the peninsula of Chult where you will partake in over 30 main and side quests on your way to “end Acererak’s reign of terror and bring peace to the region”. You will be disappointed to discover that you are unable to create and customize your own hero, though I imagine it wouldn’t take long for people to discover game-breaking ways to roll their stats. However, you will be able to command a party of one or all of the game’s characters: Artus Cimber the ranger, Asharra the mage, Birdsong the bard, and Dragonbait, a warrior-esque type character.
Tomb of Annihilation is a turn-based game with each hero’s turn being broken down into 4 phases: Hero Phase, Exploration Phase, Villain Phase and lastly an Encounter phase. The hero phase is when you can move your hero across the tiles and perform an action (attack, disarm trap, open chest, etc). Following the hero phase is the exploration phase, in which new tiles are discovered if the hero is standing at the edge of their tile. Following this phase is the villain phase which is basically the enemies version of the hero phase – they will move around and attack a hero. A note on villains and monsters: Monsters will “belong” to the hero that discovered them and will only be able to move and attack during that hero’s 4-phase turn. The exception is if multiple monsters are the same type, where they will all attack during the same phase regardless of the hero. The last phase is the encounters phase. If you do not discover a new tile, or if the tile you discover is a challenge tile, you will trigger an encounter. (An encounter involves the game “rolling a die” and creates a random event that will usually negatively affect your hero.) Encounters can be interrupted in various ways and the in-game tutorial does a wonderful job of teaching new and seasoned D&D players alike the flow of the game – it is strongly recommended for you spend the 15 minutes to go through it.
Staying true to D&D each hero has a variety of abilities that fall into three categories: at-will, daily and utility powers. At-will abilities can be used during each hero phase and cost an action point. Daily powers usually use an action point but can only be used once during a quest. It’s a good idea to save these for when you’re a little overwhelmed because they are your more powerful abilities. Lastly, you have utility powers. These are generally free to use but can also only be used once per question. Some items that drop from monsters can recharge your daily or utility powers, but don’t count on them dropping – I only saw a few of them during my time in Candlekeep.
In addition to the aforementioned mechanics there is a crafting system in Candlekeep, but don’t get too excited. It felt a little grindy to me, as I had to repeat some quests are harder difficulties in order to advance my story, but it’s rewarding when you see your heroes become more and more powerful. You collect the materials and gold from completing quests and looting chests – but don’t expect to be upgrading your heroes gear after every mission. Unless you’re doing the highest difficulty (which IS hard) you can expect an upgrade every 2-4 missions.
A large disappointment for me was the lack of multiplayer and I can only hope a new game is created with the same system with multiplayer added in. It was the one big thing missing that would have fully brought the experience home for me. Controlling four heroes yourself IS fun but I can only imagine the chaos and hilarity that would ensue from getting three other friends at adventure with voice chat – or better yet three strangers!
To wrap things up: if you are curious about what D&D is all about, or a veteran chasing a feeling of nostalgia, you should give Tales from Candlekeep a shot. It’s a well-polished rendition of classic D&D and is sure to provide hours of entertainment.
Compares to: Divinity Original Sin 1 and 2, XCOM 1 and 2
Note: Our review was done on PC via a Steam Code from PR.