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May 2, 2007 - Imagine a threat prophesied to destroy an entire clan that also endangers the world. No one is powerful enough to stand up to the danger that's been posed, which has emboldened rogues and other unsavory characters to launch savage incursions on a kingdom. The only possible salvation for the land is a party led by a brave adventurer. If this sounds like a plot ripped directly from a fantasy movie, you might be close, but Dungeon and Dragons fans know this adventure module formula well. Soon, they'll be able to take the pen and paper game on the go as Atari and Kuju Entertainment bring Dungeons and Dragons Tactics to the PSP. We managed to check out an updated build for some new impressions of the anticipated RPG.

Like most D&D games, players start out by building their individual parties from a variety of character classes. Tactics will feature 13 different classes for players to choose from, including classic roles like Barbarians and Clerics. There are some newer types of warriors that can be chosen as well, like Psionicists and Psychic Warriors. If players happen to be new to the D&D universe and don't particularly feel like manually allocating skill points and choosing feats and spells (or you don't trust letting the computer making your choices for you), they can always select from one of 26 pre-created characters. Regardless of what you decide, one of your characters will be the primary figure of the story, with the game's actions revolving around his or her personal alignment and their actions.

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Pick your party well -- they might just save the world.

While fans of the various D&D campaigns might expect Tactics to be set in the Forgotten Realms or Eberron, you won't be crossing the paths of any locations that you'd recognize; Tactics takes place in a brand new setting on a nondescript world map, which features cities and other locations where you'll be able to hire new party members, buy items and other party management aspects. Depending on the location, you may find a cutscene that gives your party a new direction to adventure in, or acquire a mission. Akin to modules themselves, each mission has a varying number of characters that can go out and fight their way through the monsters in their path. Only large scale battles or key plot points will involve all six party members, but you won't have to worry too much about your unused characters falling far behind: they'll still receive experience points for a completed adventure, albeit at a reduced amount.

Once a mission has been chosen, players will press forward in either exploration or combat mode. Characters can move through the various environments, bantering back and forth between each other and performing actions as often as they'd like, such as equipping weapons and shields or resting. However, as soon as an enemy is detected, the game immediately switches into combat mode, with turns for your party and the enemy being dictated by the rules of initiative. When it's someone's turn, they'll have the ability to perform two separate actions: movement and standard actions. Movement obviously dictates forward progress, but it can also be applied to reloading weapons or opening chests or doors. Standard actions, on the other hand, are based around spell or item usage, as well as attacks. Speaking of attacks, players will receive three separate color indicators when they assault an enemy. Red means that there's very little chance of a successful strike, while Orange is a 50% chance of landing a hit and Green is practically guaranteed.

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This goblin doesn't stand a chance.

The myriad of options that you can select during a mission are designated by the game's spinner wheel, which allows a player access to the various game commands with a simple press of the X button. While it may be somewhat daunting for a novice D&D player or someone who hasn't been exposed to the 3.5 ruleset, you don't have to fear being too swamped by the complexities of the game. Each menu provides a healthy amount of information that breaks down whatever you might be getting involved with, and the game comes with a large glossary of D&D terms to help get everyone up to speed. Tactics also features four different tutorial missions to get players a sense of what the 30-40 hour gameplay will be like, so you'll be ready to take on the hordes that the game throws at you quickly. We'll have more on Dungeons and Dragons Tactics shortly.

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