by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Dungeons & amp; Dragons Tactics

Rated Teen; PSP & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & M & lt;/span & y great sword is three feet long and forged of solid steel. It's heavy enough to require two hands to hold it poised in the air. According to Dungeons & amp; Dragons Tactics, which draws its rules from the canonical Dungeons & amp; Dragons 3.5 rulebooks, the great sword weighs eight pounds. Not as much as an orc double axe, but much more than the thin little daggers that some of my adventuring companions carry. Their lighter weapons let them use their free hands for things like carrying torches. Unless I hang out near them and their shadowy light -- 40 feet, according to the torch rules -- I'm stuck swinging my heavy sword in the darkness of a cramped crypt.

The nicest thing about playing Dungeons & amp; Dragons on a videogame system is that the machine automatically keeps track of things like how far the torchlight extends. And instead of relying on a Dungeon Master's description of the effect, the videogame simply depicts it. Shadows from pillars and sarcophagi swing around the room when the torchbearers move. Characters with darkvision see the world in a glowing bluish light wherever they turn their eyes.

Whenever I swing my great sword, the game automatically rolls the dice and calculates the damage that I've done. This keeps the combat quick. At a table, in a basement, a single skirmish can last an hour or more. But the tabletop version of Dungeons & amp; Dragons flows because there are multiple people present, each of them contributing to the discussion. Sodas and pizzas help too. The solitary PSP has none of those advantages, and Tactics' developers were smart to smooth out the battle.

Most of the characters that adventure alongside me in the game have been prefabricated. This certainly deprives the game of the character development and storytelling that have always been core elements of D & amp;D. But Tactics is a combat game. And as a part of the Dungeons & amp; Dragons line of games (books, miniatures, videogames), it's the easiest way by far to pick up a great sword and start hacking and slashing.

THE GOOD: Dungeons & amp; Dragons Tactics has one of the most robust combat systems ever developed for a videogame. Most of it is stolen whole cloth from the Dungeons & amp; Dragons 3.5 rules. Instead of requiring players to consult a library of books, however, all of the details are automatically incorporated into Tactics. And since Dungeons & amp; Dragons has used a grid-based, tactical combat system for years now, the videogame's adaptation is virtually kink-free, having been play-tested in thousands of basement enclaves.

THE BAD: The combat system in Dungeons & amp; Dragons was designed to accompany a storytelling game in which players sit around a table and use their imaginations. Nothing in Dungeons & amp; Dragons Tactics requires imagination. (Though some of the graphics are rough enough to require some fantasizing.) During battle, if a boulder is in the vicinity, it probably can't be spontaneously picked up and heaved at an enemy, even though the core D & amp;D rules allow for details like that.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Tactics brings one of the best tactical combat systems into the videogame world, though without much of the imaginative role-playing that defines Dungeons & amp; Dragons.

3/5 Stars

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