A return to form and then some more, Fae Tactics is a refreshing callback to the turn based strategy games of old. While keeping up the aesthetics and turn based similarities, you’d be surprised to find that this is no Disgaea or Fire Emblem. Not only does it depart from the foundations of the turn-based RPG genre, it goes running even further. Fae Tactics presents an equal amount of inspiration and challenge, but still needs some improvement.
At a glance, you’d expect Fae Tactics to be a real run of the mill turn-based RPG looking to copy the likes of Fire Emblem, Disgaea, and others of the same kind. It has the look of an indie game for sure, with what can be seen in some menus; an archaic UI. Unfortunately the UI also tends to bug out if you try to open the ESC menu while leveling allies, but this is beside the point. For a game creator game, Fae Tactics actually looks very nice. It doesn’t feel blocky or amateurish like many Steam Store RPG Maker games, and has a lot of charm coming from the character designs and mechanics.
Set in a world of fantasy, Fae Tactics sees you playing as Peony; an odd human that’s able to use magic. With her sidekicks Chico and Payachin, you’re thrust into an adventure to fix your broken bike. The tutorial starts off very simple, introducing movement, elements, and combo attacks. This is very good for RPG familiar players, and incredibly easy to grasp. As you move further, however, you’re introduced to many more mechanics that might even catch a veteran off guard. Every time you move a character, you’re made to position yourself in one of the four cardinal directions. This impacts whether you’ll get flank attacked or not when the enemy takes their turn. There are different types of attacks, each with an element, and they follow a type-weakness policy. You have cards that allow you to do magic, as well as summonable monsters that join at the start of a level. Some enemies drop cards that you can use to summon them in one of your future battles, and boss enemies can also use magic cards to buff themselves or their allies. Verticality also plays a large role in the game, as a height advantage will see you being more accurate with your hits. It can be a lot to take in, and this is only in the first hour and a half.
The mechanics by themselves make Fae Tactics seem daunting to newcomers, especially to turn-based RPGs. While they are presented to you sequentially, a slog of tutorials to get to actual gameplay slows the general pace of the game, and the prologue seems like it lasts a lot longer than it does. That being said, being able to make use of all these mechanics together for the first time in some levels is incredibly satisfying. It really feels like you’re making full use of the systems given to you even with minimal action due to the “Wait” skills, which turns what would normally be a dead turn or a turn for positioning into another thought game of what you want to do. Bosses feel interactive as well, requiring keen positioning and ability use to even begin the fight. Due to these mechanics and the way the game brings you into the fray after the tutorial, Fae Tactics is deceptively challenging. While it can seem unfair at times, making use of your skills is key, and proper trait allocation is a must. Specializing into attack might be good for the early game, but you’d better make sure you have your healing allies ready to back you up, as well as another ally to combo with for harder enemies.
All in all, Fae Tactics has its heart in the right place. It can get a bit sluggish at normal speed and overwhelming with its many mechanics, but it is incredibly satisfying to play through once you figure out the systems it presents to you. The world and characters are charming, there’s a lot of variety, and the levels present a challenge I’ve yet to encounter in recent turn-based RPGs. If you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into that will challenge you in new ways that classics couldn’t, I recommend Fae Tactics. This one isn’t for traditionalists, but it can be fun if you give it a chance.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows 10 PC (Steam)