Voidspire Tactics is advertised as having a “heavy emphasis on exploration, character progression, and highly-tactical combat.” The only true thing about this description is the exploration part. When it comes to character progression and combat, the game fails on almost every level.
Let’s discuss the positives first: for the most part, the exploration segments of the game are designed well. Voidspire Tactics takes place on the titular “Voidspire.” Throughout your playthrough, your goal is to explore the entire spire and find a way off of it.
There are several different environments in the spire, such as a marsh full of pink liquid, a tall fortress, a mineshaft, and a mountain. While exploring, you can interact with the environment and search your surroundings for loot.
Unfortunately, most loot in the game is rather useless. After a certain point, I stopped making an effort to explore things meticulously because I wasn’t rewarded for doing so. Instead, I would only loot equipment that looked appealing to me. Given that I had no problem beating the final boss, I’m led to believe that this was a good choice in hindsight.
On the exploration front, there’s not a whole lot that you can do. Exploration in Voidspire Tactics consists entirely of wandering around and gathering resources. Compare this to Minecraft, where you could do things like craft minecarts, create houses, configure redstone networks, domesticate ocelots, and so much more. Furthermore, Minecraft is procedurally-generated, meaning it offers infinite replay value. Voidspire takes place in a static world, so once you’ve explored the spire once, you’ve seen it all.
This isn’t to say that exploration in Voidspire is bad. On the contrary, I found it to be the best part of the game. It is designed enjoyably. I’m just saying it’s not the most groundbreaking, amazing exploration system out there – certainly not for 2015. Several procedurally-generated games like Minecraft, Terraria, and The Binding of Isaac had already existed by the time 2015 rolled around. By this time, there were countless other games that did exploration better than Voidspire, despite lacking procedural generation: Skies of Arcadia, Dark Souls, and even the original Final Fantasy 1 to name a few. If you want SRPGs with enjoyable exploration, then Shining Force 2, Energy Breaker, and all the Arc the Lad games come to mind. King’s Bounty exists; the original 1990 King’s Bounty actually used randomization for the locations of treasures and troops, allowing for virtually infinite replay value.
The music is great, but it’s not uploaded anywhere that I could find. This is a tragedy. I also like the “retraux” graphics.
…I wish I had more good things to say about the game, but I don’t.
Character progression was very disappointing. Starting off the game, you can decide the races of your four playable characters. Each race has little perks, but the best one is undoubtedly the Scurio. Scurios have a bonus to initiative, meaning they can act before other races. In a game like Voidspire Tactics, where most battles take 3-4 turns, having the initiative is of paramount importance. Acting before your enemy is a tremendous advantage which cannot be overstated.
Unlike Rachel Dolezal, your characters can’t
lie about change their races, so you should be careful about which races you choose. I recommend a team of 4 Scurios. The other races aren’t anywhere near as good. +1 mobility sounds nice, but it comes at the cost of initiative, so I don’t recommend the Fareem race. +10% experience sounds nice, but your characters cap out early and stop learning new abilities after the midgame, so I don’t recommend the Human race. Blindness immunity is about as useless as you’d expect, so I don’t recommend the Rasmen race.
Progression in Voidspire Tactics is handled by way of a job system, like in Final Fantasy Tactics. As you’d expect, it’s awful.
Supposedly, Voidspire Tactics allows you to “learn and upgrade 100+ abilities.” This is a specious claim at best, and downright dishonest at worst. Allow me to explain.
Although 100+ abilities do exist, they’re mostly useless or they lack variance. Take the Mechanist class as an example. Mechanists learn four skills which do the same thing: fire devices, frost devices, air devices, and heal devices. They learn a fifth skill whose only function is to activate those devices. This is technically “five different skills,” but any honest person would realize that it’s just one basic functionality.
Thus, saying that “there are five different skills in this screenshot” is technically true, but misleading.
This is one of the hallmarks of Yasumi Matsuno’s appallingly bad game sense. His trademark is providing players with a plethora of meaningless options:
- In Ogre Battle, there are dozens of different units and classes, but most of them are useless because Tarot Cards trivialize the entire game.
- In Tactics Ogre, there are dozens of different classes and spells, but most of them are useless because Wizards are overpowered.
- In Final Fantasy Tactics, there are hundreds of class combinations and skills, but most of them are useless or redundant.
- In Tactics Ogre’s PSP remake, there are hundreds of skills, but most of them are useless because Archers and Canopus are overpowered.
The frustrating thing with all these games that take influence from FFT is that they all make this same basic mistake: too many options, too little substance.
I’m not principally opposed to customization in SRPGs, but the more sensible way to implement customization is by following something like Grand Guilds or Super Dungeon Tactics. Those games didn’t have as many options as the Matsuno games, but every option is viable and meaningful. Quality over quantity! Wouldn’t you rather eat at a restaurant with 5 great dishes instead of a restaurant with 200 bad ones?
At least Voidspire Tactics doesn’t require any grind, so that’s a point in its favor.
Classes aren’t designed very well. The most glaring example is the Mechanist class. They are utterly broken in their ability to instantly win most battles in the game. They can just throw a bunch of their devices on the battlefield before the fights begin, and then trigger these devices immediately once the fight starts. This will typically kill the enemy in one turn, like this:
You can quite easily cheese 90% of the game in this fashion. Mechanists are completely broken.
Yet, there are some battles which prevent you from preemptively throwing any devices on the battlefield. For all of these battles, Mechanists are abjectly useless. They’re overall a very poorly-designed class.
What I would’ve liked to see was an effort to bridge the gap between their two extremes: lower their ceiling and raise their floor. Limit the maximum number of devices on the battlefield so that they can’t cheese things as easily. Let them throw two or three devices in one turn so that their damage can keep up with other classes’ damage. Give them the ability to set up two or three devices before the battle starts, so they can still function even if they’re ambushed.
It’s not even like Mechanists are challenging to use either. Despite being one of the more complex classes in the game, they’re still remarkably basic.
Another problem with Voidspire Tactics is that after a certain point, characters stop learning new skills. You’ll be using the same skills in hour 10 of your playthrough as you were in hour 2 of your playthrough. Because of this lack of progression, the battle system severely stagnates. Why should I try new strategies when the basic beginner-level ones work well into the endgame? How can I try new strategies when the game refuses to give me new meaningful options?
It’s not like the skills are very complex; they’re all basic things like “damage enemies within 2 tiles” or “cast an AoE spell that hits in a cross shape.” Langrisser 1 had more complex spells back in 1991, and that was the first SRPG to ever feature AoE spells.
I used very basic strategies to get through the entire game. There is nothing about Voidspire Tactics which is “highly tactical.”
All things considered, Voidspire Tactics is the epitome of “mixed bag.”
Exploration is good. However, even though there’s nothing wrong with it per se, it’s not exceptionally good. What does Voidspire do better than Minecraft or Terraria or a bunch of other games? Nothing, really. Furthermore, it’s not especially unique either; it’s not like Voidspire was the first game to come up with the idea of an exploration-based SRPG. Expeditions: Conquistador had already been released in 2013, and even if it’s not my personal favorite SRPG, I can recognize it was designed a lot more competently than Voidspire was. In addition to Expeditions: Conquistador, the Arc the Lad games, the Shining Force games, the King’s Bounty games, and Energy Breaker had already included exploration as part of their formulae, as I previously mentioned.
On the other end of the spectrum, combat and character progression are absolutely terrible. This is no surprise, given the FFT influence. I feel like a broken record whenever this comparison comes up, but it’s so relevant: imagine how much better Voidspire Tactics would’ve been if FFT had never existed. FFT has had such a horrendous and wide-reaching influence upon the entire SRPG genre; is it any wonder I consider it the worst game I’ve ever played?
After you beat the game, you unlock two new races and can replay the game on a higher difficulty if you want. But why would you want to do this?
The exploration was the best part of the game, but now that I’ve already explored the spire, why would I want to do that again? There’s nothing new for me to discover. The only real replay value in the game is in its combat… but combat was the worst part of the game! Compare this to a game like Into the Breach, which not only had a far better battle system, but more replayability due to procedural generation.
Rad Codex later developed two more SRPGs: Alvora Tactics and Horizon’s Gate. Maybe I’ll get around to them eventually, but they look like more of the same, so I’m not sure how enthused I am to try them out.
Console: PC, Mac
Developers: Rad Codex
Translation patch/script if applicable: https://babelfish.com
Steam page: https://store.steampowered.com/app/415920/Voidspire_Tactics/