Scratching the Itch.io: Tactics is for Kings17 Nov 2017 0
After spending another two weeks digging through underappreciated gems, full-price offerings, prototypes and promises, we've bundled together three more strategy games that could quench your thirst for victory in a short sitting. Focusing on tactics games yet again (because there's just so many of them) we're looking to keep things somewhat uniform around here by looking specifically at 'fantasy' offerings. If you like bows, rogue-lites or things from Japan, then do we have something for you!
Magic Scroll Tactics
Built from the ground up to be playable at Comiket92 (Japan's legendary convention), Magic Scroll Tactics was likely one of dozens (if not hundreds) of 'doujin' games on display over that particular August weekend. Graciously translated (mostly) into English, it's available on Itch.io as a 'lite' pre-alpha demo for anyone to pick up and play. Whether or not we'll see it again is anyone's guess, but most of what we find on Itch.io never materializes into anything more than a proof of concept. It's a little like Kickstarter!
Magic Scroll Tactics tells you it's hard. And it absolutely is. Once the first few bits of dialogue are over, you're asked by an adorable shopkeep to buy some stuff before you go on the mission she's basically forcing onto you; and you'd be wise to grant her request. With a generous 20,000 gold in your account, you'll even need a solid purchasing strategy if you're to deck out your pre-determined party with the tools they'll need to survive.
With everyone ready to go, you head into what we assume to be the game's only mission – I was too weak to confirm! Starting at one end of a 2D map, this warzone looks strikingly similar to a platformer; and we all know how strategy games like to make use of terrain differences... With certain characters able to gain ever higher advantages through flight, the key to surviving long enough to whittle down the boss at the other side is to, ironically, make proper use of the ground beneath.
High-mobility characters can rain arrows from above for extra damage, while keeping ground troops rooted in shallow waters can mitigate any incoming Fire Magic damage. Still managing to make use of a grid-style format, area attacks are a frequent (and deadly) occurrence, making even the slightest movement of an individual character incredibly important. Just like any good tactics game, this one feels like a chess match – only with colourful characters, healers and splash damage. Nerf the herbs, please.
Possibly the most fleshed out title we've featured on this Itch.io round-ups so far, Harmonia Tactics is a hybrid of sorts. It's difficult to even say for sure whether we can class this as a strategy game – but if it mentions 'tactics' in the title, it's good enough for me. Though the tutorial may be a little long in the tooth, you can tell even that took a vast chunk of time to put together. Having you adventure through four individual tutorial zones to learn the ropes, it certainly could have been done in one long-form quest. Regardless, it teaches you what you need to know, and teaches it well.
Diving into the real thing, we're met with what is essentially a bunch of mini engine tests, but ones that impressed at every turn. To keep things on track, we tested out the game's single player narrative mode and a Gauntlet-style 'mini-game'. Focusing on the story portion, you're dropped into some kind of space station where you have to fight off a series of Slimes in turn-based combat that activates seamlessly within the confines of the game world.
The energy meter used to launch attacks and movements is still present outside of combat, but you're granted near-endless reserves when there's no enemy to take their turn. What plays out retains enough speed to feel like an action-RPG built on exploration and adventure, but quickly switches to a light tactics game when combat breaks out. It's short, but it certainly highlights a premise I would happily get behind. It's even further explored in a free-roam adventure mode with a massive randomly generated world, but there didn't seem to be any actual events built into it. Bummer.
Then there's what we'd consider to be the main attraction right now; a scalable gauntlet mode that puts you and your party against waves of increasingly difficult enemies. With the rate at which they spawn from each other, the idea is to maximise your strategy to shave off the seconds needed to reposition before the next fight. Higher ground instils noticeable benefits in battle, but controlling which party member draws the attention of a particular creature is much more difficult. Each defeated enemy drops randomized loot, so you'll have to rely on both your micro and macro skills to equip the best gear as you fight to survive.
Fantasy Conquest Tactics
The obvious disappointment of this week's line-up, I don't know why I didn't see it coming with the needlessly long title. Fantasy Conquest Tactics bigs itself up as a mash between Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics, but really doesn't feel like either in its current state.
Filling in the medieval slot we spoke of earlier, Fantasy Conquest Tactics is a bare-bones tactics game that certainly looks the part through its animated screenshots and video material. For some reason, however, most of what we saw on the game's main page didn't work in practice. Still, just like last week's mention of Revery: Duel of Dreamers, this one could inspire others to build upon the concept. A far more stereotypical strategy title, Fantasy Conquest Tactics has all that you'd expect from a game of its kind; recruitment, grid-based combat, and buildings to capture. Being a rough demo offered up for free, it's home to plenty of bugs – but they honestly add a little flavor to an otherwise uninspired offering.
You start off with a bunch of units under your control with the option to recruit more as you earn Gold between turns. As ever, the goal is to take control of your opponent's buildings by overwhelming them with the added force that comes with annexing the structures littering the field. There's a fairly wide selection of units to recruit from the get-go, but whether it was one unit thinking it was something else, or another failing to do its own job, I didn't know what to make of the whole mess.
Turns consist of spending each unit's action points and hiring more as time goes on. Buildings are captured by reducing their HP to zero, but this just means enemies with enough foresight can swipe them from your grasp at any moment. Although I had to play by myself due to there being no AI implementation, bugs causing the attacks of my ranged units to disappear into the abyss or friendly units killing each other from a distance made for an entertaining experience in its own way. There isn't much else to set this apart from more fleshed-out tactics titles, but if you want to rope a friend into some truly RNG-based strategy gaming, this is a fine pick that echoes the kind of game-breaking mod YouTubers would happily jump on.
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We won't know of our next focus until it truly comes down to it, but there's always time to put in your requests. Should we head into space, focus on animals fighting each other or broaden our horizons even more? Come back on December 1st for some new inspiration, regret or bewilderment, but don't go expecting some kind of obligatory Christmas Special. We'll have to give that particular mince pie a little more time in the oven.