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Sovereign Syndicate Review – Unique Tarot Card RPG

Sovereign Syndicate has been in development for several years and in early access on Steam, and Crimson Herring Studios has finally launched the game on January 15, 2024, on Steam and GOG. It is a narrative-driven isometric RPG that immerses you in a Victorian-era London infused with steampunk technology and mythological creatures. While drawing inspiration from other rich RPGs like Disco Elysium, it adds its own flare to the genre with a unique tarot card system, compelling characters, and a choice-driven story that kept me intrigued.

The first thing that caught my eye is the environment around us. The smog-filled streets of East London teem with life, from grimy dockworkers to elegant socialites, all existing alongside minotaurs, automatons, and other fantastical beings. The developers have painted a vivid picture of this world, blending historical details with fantastical elements to create an immersive experience. There are 20 different locations spread over the city’s east docklands to explore that open as you progress the story.

Rather than playing a singular protagonist, we control three that have unique skills, motivations and playstyles that give us multiple perspectives on the central mystery that intertwines them. I started the game as Atticus Daley, a minotaur grappling with addiction and prejudice. After a short time, the game switched to Clara Reed’s perspective who is a cunning corsair with a rebellious streak and out for vengeance. Finally, there is Otto, a sentient automaton and companion of Theodore Redgrave (a dwarven war veteran), who wants more to life than service to others and is yearning for independence.

When choosing a character for the first time, each has a set of attributes you need to select which alters their starting statistics as well as their Major Arcana card. For example, I chose to specialise Atticus in self-discipline, and this gave him The High Priestess Major Arcana which comes with the illusionist trait. This meant he is trained in magic to make others see what is not there. The Major Arcana cards represent different aspects of your character’s personality, evolving based on your actions and unlocking new dialogue options as you progress each of the three characters.

Where Sovereign Syndicate stands out amongst similar RPGs is its use of a tarot card system in place of dice rolls, which suits the Victorian-era period. Each decision, action, and dialogue option are tied to a specific card, adding a layer of weight to your choices. Your percentage chance of success is displayed but it’s still up to lady luck as to whether it will succeed, and whether the interaction or dialogue is positive or twists the story against you. There’s no voice acting so there is a lot of reading, but the writing is very well detailed such that you can sense each character’s accent and personality.

Your choices in the game, big and small, have lasting consequences that ripple throughout the story, shaping your relationships, altering the world, and even influences the ending. I enjoyed the comic-book style of updates in combat situations as each tarot decision outcome is made, it added some visual flare and excitement to the otherwise idle combat. Players that are looking for a full combat RPG experience may be disappointed here, but I thought it was very cleverly handled.

You are also able to influence each character’s outlook on the world and other characters by the ever-changing amount of Hope they have. This can be gained or lost depending on dialogue choices you make and from combat outcomes. Speak optimistically and win a combat hand and you may gain hope, or act cynically, talk down to someone or losing a combat hand could see you lose hope. Even side activities such as choosing to help a beggar will affect your hope, and it is just as easy to gain as it is to lose.

Overall, Sovereign Syndicate is a captivating narrative RPG with a slower pace and tarot-based mechanics. Its immersive world, compelling characters, and choice-driven story make it a worthwhile experience for players who enjoy deep narratives and role-playing freedom. Players looking for active combat and action may not enjoy the slower pace and focus on story, but each to their own.

This review utilised a key provided by Evolve PR and Sovereign Syndicate is available now on Steam and GOG.


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