There have been many wizards in popular fiction. From Arthurian Legend, the great Merlin,then from the mind of JK Rowling, Harry Potter and Dumbledore, and let’s not forget the magnificent Gandalf the Grey/White from the books by Tolkien. Many of these pale though, once you venture into this latest title Tactics V, and discover the wizard known to the great kingdom as.. Bernard! I must admit though, I’ve got quite attached to bernard the wizard so far. I’ve fist punched the air when bernard has dealt a finishing blow with his bronze staff, and clapped hands with delight as a sudden magic fire attack, XP levelled bernard up another notch. Of course, this is not a game to be taken lightly or with presumption. Permadeath here happens, and characters when knocked down and left to die, WILL die and become lost forever. The way of battle, and the way of Tactics V..
The game certainly looks great for starters. A retro styled turn based strategy battle game, that’s set in a fantasy world, infested with bandits,wolves,the undead, evil necromancers, and strange creatures of all types questing to stop your Obsidian Brigade at all costs. Nothing and nobody is as what it seems, but luckily and from the off, help is at hand to form a brigade, and build a brigade strong enough to win and survive the challenges that await.
You meet Marcus. A defender class soldier who will guide and join you on the first few quests ahead. These are classed as Tutorial type battles, that learn you short range and long range attacks before leaving you to finish the battle and progress to the story proper.
Each battle is over a grid based map, that can be indoors in buildings or outdoors across various terrain. You can soon make a team up as you wish, from a range of classes in the game. Fighters, defenders, rogues, archers, healers, wizards and necromancers are just some on the list here, with every class having a certain amount of moves on the battlefield, different attacks and the options to use different abilities and items with each turn. An interesting tactic here is the facing position that’s required at the end of each move. So facing away or directly in front of an enemy reduces the damage given on any attack. Facing the enemy from the side increases damage, and attacks from the back maximum damage. Positioning being of the upmost importance and vice versa,as you don’t want to finish a turn with your back towards your opponent either! Battles finish when one team is knocked out or killed, with rewards given as potion items, XP, SP and gold. As usual, XP will be added to level up characters with SP used to buy further skills and further powers for each class, and finally gold for the shop to buy weapons, armour and items. Skills and powers are useful commodities to have, and for say an healer, will grant healing for certain ailments like paralysis, and for wizards casting elemental spells, there’s reductions in the turns taken to cast spells. There is in fact, a decent amount of different options and abilities you can add to classes, with retro type menus displayed neatly and with no complexity on finding and choosing what to do.
Graphics are beautifully rendered in that retro look of the old spectrum and amstrad games, with a very nice modern layer of polish added with animations and detail. Just pan the camera around, and watch the pixelised characters blend in with the environment then become fully coloured and more solid all at a turn. Sound is an orchestrated score throughout the game, that perfectly blends in with the theme and the experience,playing whilst swords clash in battle,and in menus and maps. Now for the bloodthirsty amongst you, I’m sad to report there are no lost limbs on death, and neither is there any splash of crimson. Yet, the sounds of screams from fallen enemies, after many turns, I must say, I find more satisfying than any graphical kind of bloodshed,and fits in with the ambience of this game very well.
Story is blended in at various locations on the map screen,and certain areas when cleared, will display either a menu with shop, roster, training, save options, or refresh again for another battle with enemies. This gives you a good opportunity early on, to grind for XP and gold, should you wish but bear in mind that death can pretty much take you back to square one. Luckily the “Training” screen can pit your characters against each other, with Xp and Sp rewarded without death ending your game. Any sign of struggle though and a press of the + button will bring up a sub menu where you can alter the game difficulty at any time, or at any point in the story.
As for the gameplay, this holds up very well and runs parallel to a game of chess in terms of the pace and the thought needed to make the best out of your positions and strategy needed. Considering this is the “bread and butter” of the game, I am pleased to say the developers here have created a game with battle systems and mechanics that are utterly compelling and engrossing. You suddenly care for your party, and certainly care on the outcomes, good or bad, which is commendable.
Of course, this game is not without certain little niggles here and there.
One of the main bugbears for this Switch version is a loading screen that will appear between the roster and shop screens. So, look at your roster of characters and decide you want a new sword.. Go from roster and pick shop (loading screen), then buy sword and leave shop to go back to roster to equip it (loading screen). It’s all a bit clumsy when there should be instant access between those kind of menus, otherwise you need to memorise items in bulk to minimalise the loading screens between the roster and shop, or you’re constantly tripping up with the wait and inconvenience. Luckily though, the developers have added an “outfitter” option in the shop menu,to counter this but unless you are aware from the off, you will get annoyed at the slight wait and delay.
I also found myself swapping the difficulty level frequently,during each area of the map.Easy mode is comfortable to play and progress with, but select the normal level and this game gets tough. Partly it tends to play on the “hit and miss” mechanic by giving more random misses than hits. Ok, I can accept positioning and luck can play a part, but with enemies 2 to 3 levels above your highest levelled character, you’re going to need a good team and careful planning and management here to gain victory and avoid permadeath.So to summarise with analysing the two levels together, there just seems too big a gap between the two levels and perhaps needs balancing, hopefully in a future patch at some point.
Overall, Tactics V is packed full of good things. Boasting an impressive 80 battles with 12-18 hours of story gameplay and an extra 3 hours of extra content on top of that, with a game + mode to boot. The main game connected to the battlefield, is solid and thoroughly entertaining to engage in, providing many many hours of gameplay here. This Switch version contains just a few rough edges with loading screen/screen times though, that just slightly tarnishes the shine off what is a very nicely polished inner core.
Still comes though
Out 9th August on e-shopThanks to From Nothing Game Studios for the code, and Paul Metcalf for the help and advice.