What is this about?
- Fae Tactics is an isometric SRPG that has the same turn system as Shining Force GBA, the graphic style of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and a elemental monster system like Pokemon.
- The game takes a minimalistic approach featuring a menuless combat were actions are taken based on context for a fast gameplay experience.
- The world and characters are rich and well done with short but on point dialogue. Non-linear progression and NG+ allow for replayability and more exploration of the world and characters.
- The mechanics are accessible and always on display but their number and capacity for interaction give an interesting layer of tactical depth to each battles.
Fae Tactics developed by the indie couple at Endless Fluff Games was published on Steam on July of 2020 and is an Isometric SRPG that, as one would clearly expect of a game that puts “Tactics” in the name, takes heavy inspiration from Final Fantasy Tactics, specifically the GBA version of FFT… but it is far from being just a FFT clone, it has it own twists to the isometric formula, a lot of personality and a simplifies menus and action for accessibility and fast gameplay.
Presentation wise the game looks gorgeous. Everything has a pixel art style, the characters have beautifully animated sprites and colorful designs that actually fit into the gameplay in an intuitive way. The games uses a lot of the classic JRPG tropes one come to expect of the genre but they are used effectively and makes you enjoy a new, yet familiar, experience and not just another tiresome repetition of cliches.
The story of the game is build around its characters, because of that it has a slow start until you’re introduced to the first few additions to your party but once that happens you can clearly divide the game into “character arcs” with our main character “always ready to help” Peony as the treat that joins all this stories. Once the tutorial ends, we’re face with different “Story” missions to take, and a non-linear approach to advance through the game, for example we can go down different paths, helping the last centaur avenge his tribe, join a cocky prizefighter in his fight against a mafia boss or avoid them all together and keep looking for Peony’s mother. This non-linear approach makes replaying the game an interesting and enjoyable experience since you can see how different characters react to events by recruiting them in different order. Obviously by the end of the game you are going to have the same core party and played all the main arcs.
There are some optional story arcs and characters, and the last update added extra missions as challenges were each fight is a though boss fight that rewards you with extra equipment. One those side stories has some of my favorite scenes, the Story of the Gremlin King. That arc could be considered “filler” in a way, it doesn’t advance the main characters or the main plot and you don’t obtain anything special by completing it, but every interaction between Peony and the Gremlin King is a beautiful piece of dialogue that packs a lot of meaning behind every line, making a secondary character like the Gremlin King feel alive and sympathetic. And this is were the game story shines, everything feels alive and full of lore, and you get to experience it all through the optimistic eyes of Peony.
The game wants you to feel the emotions of traveling this world. And it does a great job at transmitting these emotions, it is not just the presentation, everything is handled with care to make sure that you feel something. There are moments of fun, there are jokes, there are gags… but there are also moments of introspection, moments of sorrow, moments of tension and fear, and beautiful heartwarming moments. And all this with a simple soundtrack, beautiful 2d graphics and short but great dialogues were each word matters. This is a game with a lot of heart, a really f**king lot of heart.
With that all of that said, one question remains, how does it play? The game employs an initiative based turn system with order determined by the speed stat, were each unit moves once per turn. Characters have a limited array of actions, they can move and attack, support an ally or wait before choosing their facing. Here waiting actually has the added effect of “Wait Skills” that tend to be different kinds of buffs that last until the next turn, so units are always doing something. Now one of the core features of the game is that there are two types of units, the main characters function as “Leader” Units, they have a full set of skills and allow for certain customization with different equipment and passive trait points. On the other hand there are basic units as monsters, here called Fae, that Peony summons to aid her in battle. The Fae don’t have reaction skills neither allow for any customization but are summoned at the start of every fight no matter how many times you lose them. Fae are not only an interesting addition as expendable units, but also add a bit of a “catch’em all” feeling since to get a new summon you need to obtain the “Fae talisman” as a drop from said Fae.
The reason why you would actually want to get all the different Fae to summon is that different Fae have different summon costs based on their skill set and that the game uses an Elemental system to determine Weak and Critical Attacks, for example a Water unit will always deal critical damage to a Fire unit, but the same unit is going to deal minimal damage to Wind, Eletric or Ice units. Critical attacks became important when enemies start having Magic Barrier (MB), this barriers reduce incoming damage from any non-critical attack, so having the right set of elements for a fight makes a big difference.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg, the game has a lot of mechanics to unpack, and giving them all away can feel pretty daunting. But the game does a good job of slowly introducing the different mechanics, for example reaction skills and ultra attacks are locked behind low level requirements so basically they don’t appear until you have enough battles under your belt to understand the basics of the game, later they became second nature since you are going to play around 30 hours to finish a playthrough. All in all, the game is accessible and features a good amount of interacting mechanics to give the battles a good tactical and strategic depth with a lot of options to try different party compositions.
I think I have hyped the game a fair amount for any “Tactics” fan out there, but sadly there is no game without flaws and the ones on Fae Tactics while few can became a turndown for some players. The most important flaw but that is not immediately noticeable is that you cannot skip dialogue scenes, at first this is a non-issue because every scene is new and interesting, but with the option to play NG+ or try another run on Hard Mode, the inability to skip scenes or even set them to auto-advance so one can go do other stuff while the scene plays starts to get in the way of your enjoyment of repeated playthroughs. The other low points is the long tutorial battles, they have little plot development to get the game going and are really simple demanding the most basic and streamlined tactics to finish them, certainly a non-issue on the first playthrough but when I have to think of passing those 6 battles again before getting into the meat of a NG+ mode, man that made me wish for a “skip tutorial” option. Another minor issue is that bosses, while always build around the idea of using certain strategies to beat them, relay to much on big HP pools and/or big MB pools, with the added mechanic of Apex, a shield that nullifies critical damage and armor reduction until destroyed, this makes boss fights get really long in some cases, on one hand long fights give a chance for things to get interesting mid-fight if you get too cocky, but half the time you have totally nullified a boss and are just chipping away at their HP until their inevitable death. The last thing that bugged me was that you can’t set a resolution for full screen mode it always uses the resolution set in windows, my issue with this is that I like that my pixel art games have integral or pixel perfect scaling, something that Fae Tactics lacks, choose the wrong resolution and you’re gonna start seeing all sort of artifacts in the animations and menus, nothing the general user would notice but really something to irk pixel purists like me.
Fae Tactics has the honor of being the first game that I can recommend to anyone since I have started writing for this site, the game is accessible but with a lot of different mechanics to play around, the plot and characters are fun and enjoyable with really well done emotional moments and a great pay off in the end, the art is colorful and cheerful, and animations are beautiful, the issues of the game mostly appear on repeated playthroughs and could be corrected in the future since the developers are still updating the game. This has been a game I enjoyed a lot and had a lot of fun playing, I could see myself coming back if a content update or DLC appears in the future, and I really wish to see what other stuff Endless Fluff produces.