Tales & Tactics merges two genres that are pretty hot right now: roguelikes and auto battlers. It also adds in a narrative twist, so it’s not just all about the action. Thanks to a demo that’s playable via Steam Next Fest, we’ve delved into one of the game’s stories, and discovered that while its mechanics are easy to grasp, they’re hard to master. Though it’s perhaps to be expected: all roguelikes are challenging, after all.
Playing out like a narrative adventure, jump into a new run and you’ll get some flavour text, setting the scene. Ultimately you’re on a journey, and along the way you’ll meet many adversaries who you’ll engage in combat. But you won’t be fighting yourself. Instead, you’ll be purchasing units with skill points, and then placing them on a board to face off against your opponents’ collection of monstrosities.
The trick to success is choosing the most effective units, but it’s not easy as there’s much to consider. Firstly, three general unit types are available, strong with physical attacks, magical attacks, or taking damage. Then you need to consider their traits, as well as their archetypes. If you have multiple units of the dragon archetype in your army, for example, then you might receive a bonus. And maybe one of those dragons might have a trait that’s compatible with other units to get a benefit there, too.
Things get even deeper when you consider that if you purchase three of the exact same units, they’ll merge to become one powered-up unit. And in further pursuit of making your army as powerful as possible, you can also equip your units with items such as shields or weapons. You can even combine items to create better ones. There’s considerable depth, then, but only if you can survive long enough to open up your options.
Like any roguelike, things start out rather easy. You’ll be fighting a single enemy one-on-one. But as you progress, you’ll eventually have to bring more units into battle and face off against more powerful opponents. Win, and you restore a heart, keeping you in the game. Lose, and two hearts are forfeit. Run out of hearts and it’s game over – you’ll have to start over from scratch. Not all is for naught, though: in the full game you’ll unlock new features and challenges as you play, opening up new opportunities and options in subsequent runs to keep things fresh.
In any case, from what we’ve played of Tales & Tactics so far, it seems like an engaging affair. Like in any roguelike, it’s fun being presented with options between battles, where your choices could affect the future of your run. Coming across some weapons, for example, do you pay heed to the sign that says you can take one for free, but you’ll be cursed if you take more? And what do you purchase from the shop? Something that helps you now, or perhaps further down the line?
It’s the combat that going to be the biggest draw to Tales & Tactics for many, though. To beat the most challenging opponents, you really need to consider the make-up and placement of your small army before hitting the battle button, especially with this being an auto battler. Once a fight is started, all you can do is sit back and watch it play out, after all. If things start to go awry, you can’t step in to try and steer things in the right direction; you just have to observe and try to learn from your mistakes.
If you think Tales & Tactics is something you might enjoy, we recommend you give its demo a go. It has a tutorial for you to play through, and then you can try your hand at one of its campaigns and more. It should give you a taste of what’s to come when Tales & Tactics launches into Steam Early Access on 3rd August.