When you’ve got a colorful grid-based and turn-based strategy RPG, it’s bound to draw comparison to some of the greats. After all, this is a genre that has previously been filled by legendary franchises like “Final Fantasy Tactics” and “Disgaea.” Make no mistake, Endlessfluff Games and Humble Games’ “Fae Tactics” definitely feels like it’s paying homage to those classics. However, there’s something wholly unique about what “Fae Tactics” has for players. The story is there. The strategy is there. The mechanics are present. But it’s all built within a solid system that both reduces the historical grind of these games while presenting plenty of opportunity to explore and master its depth. Put all of this together and it truly makes “Fae Tactics” feel like its own unique treat.
When worlds collide
The story of “Fae Tactics” is one of a disastrous overlap of the world of humans and the magical fae. In the long past, an unknown being attempted to bring the two worlds together, but it was a haphazard process to say the least, and the combined world was left devastated and chaotic in the aftermath. Some humans and fae chose to coexist tentatively. Others went a more violent route of war and attempted eradication. Still, some powerful beings hid in the shadows, taking advantage of the fear and confusion to achieve their own goals.
In the midst of all of this, players take on the journey of a young girl named Peony and her many companions. Peony is capable of using magic (a taboo thing for humans) and can wield different elements as well as casting spells and calling fae that she has defeated to aid her. With her special powers, Peony is engaged in a quest to find her long-lost mother and help others in need wherever she can.
“Fae Tactics” has perhaps one of the more enjoyable worlds I’ve recently explored in these types of games. The various fae players come across are fun and interesting and the companions Peony discovers along the way are equally enjoyable. Whether it’s the faithful canine companion, Chico, the water-flinging baby bird, Payachin, or the nature-attuned centaur, Orowantus, a lot of these characters make the journey through “Fae Tactics” all the more fun. In particular, I love Pichon. He’s a Pio-Pio (a race of bird people) that’s also a prizefighting boxer and a bit of a womanizer. Imagine if Don Flamenco from “Punch-Out!!” was both more honorable and bad a**, but also a bird person. That’s Pichon.
It helps that the enemies that you meet throughout this game are also decently done. Many are simply the victims of their own corner of this broken world just trying to get by, but it makes the characters that are truly nefarious all the more vile, so it feels fantastic when you put together the winning strategy that will wring their necks for good.
A deep well of winning strategies
Of course, narrative is only half the equation of a game like “Fae Tactics.” A game like this needs a great system of strategy mechanics to really make that story matter. Fortunately, “Fae Tactics” does a good job here too. As mentioned previously, Peony is capable of summoning fae. The way this works is that by defeating fae in battle, they will sometimes drop a card which, if collected, will add them to Peony’s summon list. Each fae has a summon point requirement and you have a limited amount of summon point capacity to utilize at the start of each battle. For example, Peony starts with three points of summon capacity, so you could theoretically fill your capacity with three one-point fae like the Gremlin Thief, Grumble Bunny and Unilana. Or you could utilize a stronger two-point fae like the Glade Reaper in addition to one of those one-point fae.
It all depends on what you need because each fae features slightly or vastly different capabilities in addition to an element (Wind, Water, Earth, Fire, Ice, Electric, Arcane and Non-elemental) that affects their strengths and weaknesses against opposing elements. You have a chance to look around the battlefield at the start of each fight and see what fae and elements your enemies are composed of, and then make your decision regarding composition, so it invites a lot of exploration and thought into what fae you’ll summon and how they’ll synergize with each other and your gameplan.
A long and winding road through a splintered world
As mentioned before, the narrative of “Fae Tactics” is enjoyable, aided by a wealth of interesting heroes, villains and other characters, but it’s hardly a linear path. As you play through the game, more and more opportunities open up in different directions. You can part ways from a story path you’ve been taking and explore another arc that has opened up mostly to your heart’s content. For instance, will you explore the mystery of a missing prince at the hands of a dangerous syndicate or will you put that on hold for a different narrative to clear an area of bandits for a caravan and earn a rare and powerful spell talisman?
For the most part, the choice is yours without risk, but it’s worth noting that days pass for each event you choose. If you choose to leave a certain narrative path alone for long enough, it may become unavailable. With this in mind, “Fae Tactics” is a lengthy adventure going easily over 60 hours with side quests and optional story or bonus opportunities. There’s even an upgrade system in the game which can unlock various perks like bonus experience, the revealing of hidden items, or, perhaps most importantly, otherwise unreachable narrative events.
There are just a few bothersome things about the pace of things in Fae Tactics. For one, you go into each encounter totally blind save for indicators of how many fights there will be and if there’s a boss battle. “Fae Tactics” circumvents a lot of grindy nature of most other games of the strategy RPG genre and I didn’t find it demanding that I go spend a lot of time in extra battles other than to defeat and collect fae I may have missed. That said, it also doesn’t tell you anything about what kind of opposition you’ll be up against, such as if it’s many levels higher than your squad.
“Fae Tactics” has only a few bumps in its lengthy and magical road, but these are mere speedbumps along the vast and enjoyable journey full of deep technical strategy, colorful fae and characters, and winding stories.
This review is based on a PC Steam digital copy provided by the publisher. “Fae Tactics” is available in the U.S. for PC on Steam and the Humble Bundle store. For the latest information about videogames, visit http://www.shacknews.com.