From the Archive: Turn-Based Tactics

By Joe Robinson 19 Jul 2017 0

Welcome to another edition of From the Archive, where we talk about strategy games that existed prior to the birth of Strategy Gamer. Tied together by a core theme, we will be bringing you older content from our sister websites and beyond  to allow you to rediscover old gems while we work on exciting, new content for you on the latest upcoming releases.

In today’s Archive raid, we’ve been looking at turn-based tactical games in the vein of XCOM. I’ve only just noticed that XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is now available for pre-purchase on Steam and… wow. £34.99/$40!?

Firaxis front-runner Jake Solomon has gone on record to say that Chosen will have almost an entire game’s worth of content, but you can’t help but wonder why they don’t just release a brand new game. As our review highlights, the original release of XCOM 2 was good, but the game was not what it was supposed to be. Further to that, I personally don’t think it’s been getting the support it really needs post-launch to keep people invested. A DLC priced to this level is a big ask, and only time will tell if they weren’t better off just making XCOM 3.

Since Firaxis launched Enemy Unknown back in 2012, a lot of other games have tried to capitalise on the new wave of love gamers found for turn-based tactical experiences that forged a narrative between player and game. We’ve published reviews on three such games over the course of today – not the best of the best, but each of our reviewers found something they liked about these games. Perhaps you will as well.

Mordheim – City of the Damned (PC, Xbox One, PS4)

Mordheim is a game that’s definitely had some growing pains, entering Early Access in November 2014, but seems to have largely come into its own in 1 ½ years since its full release in 2015. When Alex reviewed it after 1.0 was launched, he really felt the klunky, number heavy and fiddly gameplay. At the same time, there was something that kept him coming back for more...

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So yes. Mordheim: City of the Damned is slow, with painstakingly-modeled combat to the points of being persnickety. It's stilted and gummy, fiddly in navigation and purposefully obtuse in hinting at item location. Hell, Mordheim has more numbers being flung about per turn than the United Nations Statistics Division receives in a week.

But to be honest, as my warband scurries off into the bastard burroughs of Mordheim's bountiful decrepitude once more, I don't think I'd have it any other way.

Even though Alex only gave it 3/5 stars in the full review (Read Here), glancing at the Steam reviews shows a more positive light – the overall rating is holding at 73% for both the last 30 days and overall

Tastee Lethal Tactics (PC)

Sometimes, it’s a lot more fun to just keep things simple, which is pretty much exactly what Tastee Lethal Tactics does. When chasing the crown of something like XCOM, a game can quite easily fall into common traps that arise when one is trying to emulate.

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TLT offers over-the-top characters, simplistic controls and robust mechanics means that there’s a lot of fun to be had in this no-nonsense, story-light world of mercenaries. James was even impressed by the multipler set-up:

Tastee Lethal Tactics has a nice multiplayer system with easy email notification and a leaderboard updated monthly. Multiplayer and trying to get a perfect solution to all thirty missions assure many replays, especially since no save system exists.

Is Tastee Lethal Tactics the equal of XCOM 2? Not by a long shot - the lack of rewards as missions progress gives it a one-dimensional feel. On the other hand, the tactical situations are almost as tense and challenging as its blockbuster cousin: tactical gamers who don’t care about story lines will relish their time with this game.

TlT has won several awards, and currently enjoys an overall Steam user rating of 82%. The developers are very active with their community – tournaments, regular posts, and the upcoming game update will introduce daily missions, making this even more value for money.

You can read James’ review in full here.

Hard West (PC)

This game truly gave off XCOM vibes, and was set in an era that’s often criminally under-used – the wild west. Created by CreativeForge Games, who at the time had only created the rather disappointing Ancient Space with Paradox Interactive previously, this was a turn-based tactics game that both shined and disappointed in equal measure. As Matt highlighted in his original review, there were some neat ideas, and the narrative was pretty good over all, but at other times Hard West felt very much a clone of the source material...

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Hard West doesn't take the hard road. It's very derivative of XCOM, to the point where veterans of that game can apply the same tactics and succeed. There's the same emphasis on cover, the same limited pool of actions which end with shooting, the same need to outflank for victory. Oddly, there's no overwatch for the players, even though AI units will fire during your turn if you get too close. Confusing, but you get used to it.

It's got to be said, though, that it's a setup that worked well in XCOM and it still works well here. The missions are easier and there are less options but you'll still have to consider your tactics.  It's not enough on it's own, though, to make me recommend Hard West, yet that is exactly what I'm going to do. Not because of the tactical combat, but because it surpasses the grade with its narrative and setting.

Hard West has had only one bit of DLC, although it’s still being supported via updates – the 1.5 Patch was released back in June. User reviews stand at 75% for the last 30 days, and 77% overall. Despite Matt’s reservations Hard West seemed to please fans overall, and we’d be interested in knowing what future plans CFG have.

You can read Matt’s full review here.

For tomorrow's From the Archive (final one this week, promise), we'll heading to the stars as we look at two very cool space-strategy games.

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