"Talisman Prologue" (TP) is based on the board game "Talisman", which was first published in 1983, and continually revised and re-released since then. TP implements the official board, rules, cards, and 10 of the 14 characters. However, you cannot actually play a game of Talisman with it: There is no multiplayer, no AI (so no simulated opponents either), the talisman (the board game's main objective) isn't even present, and entering the inner part of the map mostly makes no sense. Instead of regular Talisman gameplay, TP offers five solitaire "quests" for each included character.
These "quests" are so inane that using this term is an insult to every game that _does_ include real quests. As an example, these are the complete 5 quests for the assassin (it's similar for the other characters):
1. Walk around until you've beaten 6 strength-based enemies.
2. Same as 1, now for 10 enemies.
3. Walk around the middle map region until you draw the "Mephistopheles" card. (With luck, this entire quest can be done in three turns).
4. Walk around until you draw the "Devil" card, then go to a specific map square and keep rolling dice against an opponent until your result is higher.
5. Five "Ghost" cards are placed on the map, defeat each of them.
The character and the board are reset after each quest, so the game involves a lot of grinding, to level up stats and to get equipment.
Each quest has a short introduction text which tries to tell a story - for the above questline, the "story" is that the assassin became a renowned killer, so the devil sent him Mephistopheles as a messenger, and tasked him to kill some ghosts. These "stories" completely fail to create any atmosphere whatsoever. The "plots", if you can even call them that, are banal and unimaginative, the writing is drab and dry, and a three-sentence instruction simply cannot create a storyline that could actually draw the player in. Any 14-year-old could probably write a dozen of such "stories" in the course of two hours.
The actual gameplay has even more problems though.
Talisman has never been a single player game, and the ruleset does not really support a solitaire mode. Talisman doesn't require much thought, the luck of the die has a much bigger impact than any decisions that the players can make. For the board game, this tends to work - the interaction between players mitigates extreme streaks of luck, and since all players are at the mercy of the dice, there's still a good amount of fun to be had. The main appeal of Talisman was never the gameplay in the first place (which has always been rather primitive and luck-driven), but the sitting together with friends, guiding a fantasy character to the Crown of Command, and laughing at the odd ways in which the dice (or another player) can throw a wrench into someone else's plans.
For a single player game, the ruleset just doesn't work. Since there are no actual opponents, most quests are just sequences of primitive "go to square X and either kill a monster or drop an item" tasks. This means that it is now much more important to reach a specific map square - but TP still uses the luck-based movement from the multiplayer game. So you'll find yourself rolling dice dozens of times until you finally get to the one square you need. And then there might be combat on that square, which is very luck-dependent as well, and if the dice don't fall right, you may have to repeat the whole process of getting there, and hope for better luck next time. All this is rather frustrating, and I wouldn't consider it good game design.
Moreover, TP rates your performance by counting the number of turns that you needed to complete a quest - despite the fact that movement and combat are so luck-dependent that you can easily lose 5-15 turns on a single task, just because the dice don't fall right.
It's definitely _possible_ to design a solitaire game based on Talisman, but TP's approach to this is - sorry - a complete failure. Instead of recognizing the extremely random movement and combat as a problem for a single player experience, and designing alternative rules to fix this and give the player a bit more control, TP even hugely _enlarges_ the role of those gameplay elements, to frustrate the solitaire player even more, and force him into long sequences of pointless dice rolls. It just doesn't make sense, and it's baffling that these problems were not recognized during the game's design phase.
The graphics are in high resolution, but keep the look and feel of a board- and card game, while enhancing them with highlight and glow effects. This successful combination of "oldschool" hand-drawn graphics and modern effects is probably the best-designed part of the entire product.
The sound effects are decent and varied. The music is okay, but gets repetitive quickly. There is no voice acting.
The interface meshes nicely with the boardgame look of the game, but it isn't very efficient. You have to click a lot, even for actions that are obvious and that a better interface would automate. Moreover, the game continually forces you through sequences that are completely unnecessary. Even if the outcome of a battle is pre-determined, you still have to click all the dice rolls and confirmations, and there's no way to skip or accelerate the animations either.
The game is played with the mouse. Some keyboard shortcuts are available, but their implementation isn't consistent, and they can't be configured either.
EASE OF USE:
The game is easy to install. Learning the boardgame rules is required to play it, but there's a manual available as well as a quick tutorial. Progress (i.e. completed quests) is saved automatically, but you can't save a quest in progress. However, the quests are so short that this doesn't matter much.
OTHER THINGS OF NOTE:
Even with 50 so-called quests, the game is short and very repetitive. There is no replay value - you could try to beat the time limit for each quest, but this too dependent on luck to be satisfying or even enjoyable.
The quests themselves are extremely easy. Since your character is the only thing that's ever moving on the board, it's always your choice whether you want to enter a risky area, or go back for some healing first.
The game is DRM-free, which is always nice.
The gap between the flamboyant advertising and the poor actual content is uncomfortably large. The way how the devs tout these poor, cobbled-together micro-scenarios as engaging quests has made me reluctant to trust their statements on further products, notably the multiplayer version that's in the works. "Talisman Prologue" is more an engine demo, a funding help, and a glorified tutorial for this upcoming version, than it is an actual game by itself. Demanding 10$ for such a kludgy product (which also doesn't even give a discount for the main game) is rather brazen.
TP might be fun for 1-2 hours, but there isn't much of an actual game here. The foundation for a decent game is present, but the current design of this solitaire variant simply doesn't work, at all. I'm giving it a second star because at least the presentation is pretty good, but I really can't recommend it to anybody. People who are interested in "Talisman", or who want to support the development of the upcoming multiplayer game, are much better served by pre-ordering that one instead of getting this b