I received a free digital copy of this game from developer Craig Stern.
Telepath Tactics Liberated is an enhanced remake of the original Telepath Tactics from 2015, so I’ll first spend some time discussing the original. Telepath Tactics had many bugs, like painful slowdowns, freezes, and inventories which suck up your items, never to return them. Although these bugs made the game borderline unplayable, I still thought the game showed a lot of promise.
Mechanically, Telepath Tactics fused ideas from Fire Emblem, Bahamut Lagoon, and Disgaea/La Pucelle. As in Fire Emblem, fights are phase-based, characters require 100 experience to level up, and et cetera. As in Bahamut Lagoon, certain characters can manipulate terrain by freezing water or constructing bridges. As in Disgaea/La Pucelle, you can use some of Character A’s mobility, then move Character B, and then use the remainder of Character A’s mobility afterwards. In addition to these influences, Telepath Tactics includes custom skills for characters, resulting in a situation where every unit feels unique. It’s a very good system.
In addition to featuring a good core gameplay engine, Telepath Tactics utilizes that engine fairly well. The difficulty curve is challenging, but reasonable. Maps have multiple side objectives, make good use of terrain, and often have varied victory conditions such as escape, collect x items, and kill the boss.
Considering the totality of the game, I had to say that Telepath Tactics was “a very good game with very bad bugs.” It was not exactly a game I could glowingly recommend, but it was nonetheless one which had lots of potential. Critically, Telepath Tactics never made any foundational missteps; the core gameplay engine was solid. I can forgive many things, so long as the core gameplay is good enough. Because of this, I felt it was fair to try out Telepath Tactics Liberated.
And I’m glad that I did. This is Sinister Design’s attempt at redeeming the game, and it was mostly a successful one.
Here’s a list of changes you can expect in Telepath Tactics Liberated. I won’t go over them all, but I’ll try to mention the ones that stuck out to me.
This doesn’t affect the gameplay at all, but the art style is noticeably improved. Characters look realistic, while not falling into the “uncanny valley.” I dig it, although I’m not sure what my thoughts are on the open mouths…
Gameplay-wise, the biggest change – aside from the elimination of the crippling bugs – is the new ability to save at the start of each turn, a la FE4. Was this a bit too forgiving? …Perhaps, yet it’s much better than no saves at all. Battles in Telepath Tactics can take over an hour to complete, so it’s great that we don’t have to complete them each in one sitting.
Some new stats exist, such as “perception” which allows a unit to see further in the fog of war, or “reflex” which allows a unit to turn themselves around when backstabbed. Although small, these new stats do add something to the game’s strategic value, so I take them to be a plus.
The presence of new procedurally-generated characters is a plus, too. I’m not sure of every single location you can recruit these characters, but I’m very grateful that I got this guy:
Overall, Telepath Tactics Liberated feels a lot better to play than the original. This isn’t to say that the game doesn’t have its flaws, however. I felt that one recurring theme was that the game has many neat ideas which weren’t explored as well as they could’ve been:
- Morale, which provides a 10/20% damage bonus or penalty, like in King’s Bounty. I have no clue how to raise/lower morale.
- Hunger/food. In the shop interface, I always had “100 -1/day food.” No more, no less. From what I could tell, nothing was done with this mechanic.
- Protecting the base as a victory condition. This objective rarely comes into play, but it would’ve made for some fun battles.
- Promotions. I only found one promotion item in the game. Everyone else whom I promoted had to wait until level 20 (when they automatically promote). This was at the very end of the game. I was a little disappointed, especially because branching promotions are new to Telepath Tactics Liberated. It’s a cool new idea, but I unfortunately couldn’t have as much fun with it as I should have.
- Support conversations. There is only one section in the game where you can do any.
- Worldbuilding. Telepath Tactics works adequately as a linear narrative which focuses on the Strider sisters. However, it could’ve done more, especially with fleshing out the setting. Simply having a world map would’ve helped a lot; even a mediocre game like Royal Stone is made that much more interesting because of the physical map that comes with the instruction manual.
- Creatures/races. Continuing on the idea of worldbuilding: there are two unique races in Telepath Tactics (the telepaths and the lissit), but neither of them has a whole lot of backstory. I do not have a good idea of their societies, their cultures, their abilities, and whatnot.
- Limited teambuilding options. The roster has a decent number of characters, but could’ve had even more. I especially didn’t like how many classes only give you one character of each: one mantis rider, one ice mage, one fire mage, one engineer.
Also, the game still has a few bugs. (At least they’re not nearly as cumbersome as in the original.) In the above screenshots, you’ll notice that the enemy’s sidestab deals more damage than his backstab. This doesn’t make any sense. I found a couple of other areas where sidestabs deal less damage than normal stabs, which doesn’t make sense either. In terms of QoL, I’m not a fan of how the game handles start-of-chapter saves, and I still think the game should run faster if it wants to feel really seamless; enemy phases and animations feel like they take too long.
I wouldn’t say that any of these issues are dealbreakers. The fortunate thing with the game’s flaws is that they’re all things that can be fixed. It’s not like the game is making any fundamental missteps, like forcing players to grind.
All things considered, Telepath Tactics Liberated is a very good game which dispenses with most of the original game’s frustrations. Whereas the original Telepath Tactics is a shaky recommendation because of the bugs, Telepath Tactics Liberated is a game I can safely recommend any SRPG fan try out. I’d keep an eye out for Together in Battle as well.
Console: PC, Mac
Developers: Sinister Design
Sinister Design’s website: https://sinisterdesign.net/announcing-telepath-tactics-liberated/