Tenderfoot Tactics wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s an unabashed, loving ode to turn-based, grid-based role playing games like Final Fantasy Tactics. This is certainly good news for this writer, who happens to love similar games and has played many over the years. The turn-based strategy genre is sadly one that’s been neglected. Many such games fail to capture mainstream attention, though there have been exceptions – such as the XCOM series.
Tenderfoot Tactics isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel of turn-based strategy. This game is definitely a well-done love song to the genre. However, we can’t help but think that there could be so much more that could be added to truly make this game shine. We understand that this is an indie game, and constraints like the budget or creative vision play a role. Perhaps over time, Tenderfoot Tactics can grow to become a truly excellent game.
Something is a(tender)foot
The premise of Tenderfoot Tactics revolves around a hearty group of adventurers (of course). This group, with the help of a friendly spirit, is out to stop the spread of the Fog, a malevolent presence which, predictably, corrupts everything it touches. To this end, Tenderfoot Tactics takes place on an archipelago, which players traverse directly via the WASD keys. Yes, you physically walk to places, which is definitely a nice touch, and gives the game a bit more of an open-world feel.
As you travel the map, you’ll inevitably run into portions of it controlled by the Fog. It’s your job to beat it back, after all. Enemies roam these areas, and when you run into one, that’s when the turn-based fun starts.
The battles occur on a grid, much like in almost every other game in the genre. Again, Tenderfoot Tactics‘ turn-based strategy isn’t particularly innovative, but that’s perfectly fine. It’s well done as it is and it has a few nice individual touches to make it unique.
One of these nice touches is the ability to interact with (and destroy) terrain. You can light the underbrush on fire, you can conjure water, and you can even manipulate the earth itself. The combat makes logical sense for the most part, but it’s missing a few components that would’ve elevated it to legendary status. More on that later.
Beat the bad guys in a Fog-controlled region, and you get access to the goodies within it. These include items, resting points, various plants that boost the experience of those in your party, and occasionally entire towns! In these towns you can barter for equipment (yes, barter as opposed to buy).
You can also change the looks of your party, get local maps of the area, and of course talk with the townsfolk. The Fog can reconquer these towns, however. To prevent this, you can leave one of your party members to defend it. You can pick up more party members along the way.
The nitty gritty
All of the above make for a good time in a turn-based strategy game. However, there are a few key omissions that are holding Tenderfoot Tactics back from true greatness. One of these omissions has to do with combat details that would make the terrain deformation at your fingertips far more useful.
For instance, there doesn’t seem to be any accounting for line of sight for ranged units. Any ranged unit can hit any other unit on the board, provided they’re within range. As far as we can tell, intervening terrain seems to have no affect on this. Being able to block line of sight would open up a whole new realm of tactical possibilities. Imagine summoning a wall from the earth to block enemy archers from being able to shoot at your troops!
One other aspect that could use some work, is visual information when navigating combat. When you select a unit to move, it displays icons on the unit’s movement radius to reflect how terrain affects it. However, sometimes these icons blend in with the terrain underneath. For example, X-marks over deep water are supposed to indicate water too deep for units to act in. However, when the water is a dark color, the X mark blends in, making it nearly impossible to tell if the water is too deep.
We understand that indie games don’t have (or need) AAA graphics. This is not about style, however, and it feels more like a visual flaw that should be addressed to help with accessibility.
So when it comes down to it, is Tenderfoot Tactics worth your cash? If you love your turn-based tactics and want to support indie game development, then this is the game for you. It does have its flaws, but they’re fixable. We’re hoping the developers plan on continuing to work to elevate this game to true greatness.
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