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Review RPG Codex Review: Telepath Tactics

Crooked Bee

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Tags: Sinister Design; Telepath Tactics

Telepath Tactics is that tactical RPG you kickstarted back in 2013... You know, the one inspired by Fire Emblem... Er, does Final Fantasy Tactics ring a bell?.. Um, well, Telepath Tactics is basically like Blackguards except not randomized and it's made by Craig Stern who posts here on the Codex occasionally... Good. Got your attention now? If not, then maybe esteemed community member Zetor can explain it better.

So have a snippet from his review:

Telepath Tactics is an SRPG/TRPG (RPG-wargame hybrid with a focus on turn-based tactical combat) in the spirit of the console Fire Emblem series, released this April after being successfully Kickstarted back in 2013. [...] Make no mistake, behind the cartoonish 1990-era console graphics lies a hard and unforgiving wargame-ish RPG with impressive combat and encounter design that sometimes rivals the best titles in the genre.

[...] In the end, overcoming challenges in a mission is done through a series of risk:reward decisions, and this game has them in spades. In fact, one of its greatest strengths is that there are so many ways to deal with those. You can play it safe or be super-aggressive; you can kill everything that moves or win a map without really fighting any enemies; you can even re-arrange the map to create your own strategy for winning the battle. Some examples that came up during my playthrough:
  • Do I move in tight formation to protect my squishies, even though this exposes me to AOE attacks and getting flanked by ranged enemies?
  • Do I split up my team to deal with enemies attacking from three directions, or do I keep everyone together and try to block off some approaches?
  • Do I send off my fastest units to open treasure chests behind enemy lines, thus possibly exposing them to danger while leaving me with less units to carry out the main objectives? Or do I leave treasure chests alone until I've dealt with the main threats, thus risking their contents getting stolen by an NPC thief?
  • Do I keep out of movement/attack range of potentially dangerous enemies while I get everyone in position (possibly allowing them to get reinforcements), or do I rush to the most important targets ASAP and try to protect my vanguard?
  • Do I move slowly and methodically through the map, destroying all enemy forces for extra gold / experience / item drops at the risk of taking more damage and losing resources, or do I send a flier to beeline for the main objective to avoid getting outmatched?
  • Before engaging the main enemy force, do I constantly reposition my casters in reaction to enemy movement to keep them as safe as possible, or do I try to get them into a moderately safe position in the first turn and then pass their turns to gain 5 energy instead of 1 per turn (and perhaps keeping another unit back to babysit them as needed)?
  • Do I save that suicidal NPC and expose my own units to danger, or do I let them die and possibly miss out on a new party member or even a side mission?
  • Do I burn consumables to burst down an enemy with a dangerous attack, or save them and prepare to take the attack?
  • Do I partially destroy a bridge to create a chokepoint and take the risk of the bridge getting completely destroyed by enemy Crossbowmen as a follow-up?
  • Do I attack from max range with my casters to avoid exposing them to danger, or walk to a 2-tile range from the target (or even melee range with Mind Blast and some point-blank AOE attacks spells) to get more damage out?
  • Do I kill this target by focusing attacks on them, or do I just push them into the water to make them waste their next turn swimming to shore?
  • After gaining the upper hand and having the option of finishing the battle at any time, do I let my lower-level characters pick off the last enemies to gain experience and possibly expose them to unneeded risk?
  • Do I switch to a weaker/cheap weapon to dispatch a near-death enemy, or do I keep using the good stuff in case the character gets attacked and needs to make the counterattack count?
Now keep in mind that some battles are long... and some are VERY long. They are also mentally exhausting -- once I was done with a 2-hour monster of a fight, I was typically not up for playing the next mission immediately. This is definitely a game that's best played in bursts with some time to recharge in between!

[...] There is basically no randomness involved in combat. I consider this to be -- arguably -- the best feature of Telepath Tactics. Consider that in a typical 'tactics' game, your plans may be thwarted by your sniper missing a 97% headshot (and this will happen every 30 shots), or the last remaining near-dead troll rolling a natural 20 and hitting your fighter for 30 HP, instantly killing him. In some cases this can increase tension and force the player to think of a backup plan... But let's be honest here, most of the time people will just reload a save, restart the fight, and possibly post an angry rant about the unfair random number generator (RNG) while conveniently ignoring the fact that the RNG can screw the AI over just as much. Not so here! If you miss with an attack, it's because you're deliberately using a risky low-hit move, trying to hit someone in defensive stance or attacking while blinded. Similarly, if an enemy one-shots any of your party members, it's your own damn fault for overextending or exposing them without controlling all potential threats first.​

But really, just read the full review because it's good and I couldn't really find the best snippet to quote from it: RPG Codex Review: Telepath Tactics
 

mindx2

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Very good review Zetor! However, the bugs are really starting to annoy me. The infinite hourglass after an enemy dies by a trap, the massive slowdown if battles last long and not having a mid-battle save system is really wearing my enjoyment down. The battles can get pretty long and drag out even further with the animation slowdown. The most annoying part is putting in over an hour or two for one battle (because of the map/enemy army size and slowdown combination) to then have the game hang indefinitely because an enemy soldier stepped into a trap and died is... :rage:

The thought of having to reload again and replaying the same map again is just rage inducing and nigh unplayable at this point. Since there is little to no randomness as the enemy AI and damage are pretty static not having some type of mid-battle save really hurts the overall enjoyment. Not sure if I want to continue playing until these issues are resolved which is unfortunate because I've really enjoyed it when it plays bug-free.
 

Anthedon

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If you are on the fence, wait until the performance issue has been fixed. Anyway, good review.

Relevant Codex discussion thread can be found here.
 

Mustawd

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I think that was a pretty spot on review!


Very good review Zetor! However, the bugs are really starting to annoy me. The infinite hourglass after an enemy dies by a trap, the massive slowdown if battles last long and not having a mid-battle save system is really wearing my enjoyment down. The battles can get pretty long and drag out even further with the animation slowdown. The most annoying part is putting in over an hour or two for one battle (because of the map/enemy army size and slowdown combination) to then have the game hang indefinitely because an enemy soldier stepped into a trap and died is... :rage:

The thought of having to reload again and replaying the same map again is just rage inducing and nigh unplayable at this point. Since there is little to no randomness as the enemy AI and damage are pretty static not having some type of mid-battle save really hurts the overall enjoyment. Not sure if I want to continue playing until these issues are resolved which is unfortunate because I've really enjoyed it when it plays bug-free.


Agree on most of these points. However, I did find the AI moved and attacked a bit differently even when reloading the same maps over and over. So at leas tthere's that on the randomness scale.

But yeah...the performance issue and lack of soft in-game saves are about the only reason I don't play this more often.
 

Zetor

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I couldn't really find the best snippet to quote from it: RPG Codex Review: Telepath Tactics
This review has been meticulously assembled to be as unquotable as possible. The mind control sequences encoded in it only work if people read the entire thing, after all! 'Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.'

a tactical game that cant handle elevation is not encouraging
It's really strange, because it does handle elevation on a gameplay level: attackers get tohit/damage bonuses if they're on higher ground, you can't attack someone who's on a very different elevation level, there's a UI element showing elevation of each tile, I'm pretty sure that falling damage takes the elevation difference into account, etc. The main problem is that the bird's eye perspective makes it very difficult to tell elevation differences in most cases (in that pub example, the entire upper-right-side part between the two stairs is supposed to be several elevation levels higher than everything else on the level). Unfortunately I don't think this is "fixable" in the current engine. Maybe Craig can make an isometric engine with 3D rotation for the next game!

edit: also, I spotted a micro-issue in the review (aside from my usual typos/brainfarts) that may benefit from clarification -
melee weapon against a ranged attacker
should be 'melee weapon against a melee attacker', though I think most people will figure out anyway. :P
 
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tuluse

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Nice review Zetor

Unfortunately kind of reinforces my original impression that I don't think it's my cup of tea.
 

Ninjerk

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I couldn't really find the best snippet to quote from it: RPG Codex Review: Telepath Tactics
This review has been meticulously assembled to be as unquotable as possible. The mind control sequences encoded in it only work if people read the entire thing, after all! 'Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.'

a tactical game that cant handle elevation is not encouraging
It's really strange, because it does handle elevation on a gameplay level: attackers get tohit/damage bonuses if they're on higher ground, you can't attack someone who's on a very different elevation level, there's a UI element showing elevation of each tile, I'm pretty sure that falling damage takes the elevation difference into account, etc. The main problem is that the bird's eye perspective makes it very difficult to tell elevation differences in most cases (in that pub example, the entire upper-right-side part between the two stairs is supposed to be several elevation levels higher than everything else on the level). Unfortunately I don't think this is "fixable" in the current engine. Maybe Craig can make an isometric engine with 3D rotation for the next game!

edit: also, I spotted a micro-issue in the review (aside from my usual typos/brainfarts) that may benefit from clarification -
melee weapon against a ranged attacker
should be 'melee weapon against a melee attacker', though I think most people will figure out anyway. :P
Leave it to Cleve-r
 

Zetor

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edit: also, I spotted a micro-issue in the review (aside from my usual typos/brainfarts) that may benefit from clarification -
melee weapon against a ranged attacker
should be 'melee weapon against a melee attacker', though I think most people will figure out anyway. :P
Leave it to Cleve-r
Not a single true writing error remains. All typos, grammar mistakes, and other such microissues are obviously the fault of the Kodex Editorial Krew!
 

SausageInYourFace

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I guess I gotta give this game a try once most bugs are fixed, it kinda reminds me of the good old days of playing Shining Force (which I think was also part of the inspiration). Thanks for the review, Zetor!
 

MicoSelva

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That is a really well-written, informative and entertaining review. Great job, Zetor! :salute:

Game looks nice - I already was somewhat interested in it, but the review convinced me that giving it a shot is a must at some point.

EDIT:

Too bad about this, though:

there is no mid-battle save. Obviously this has its positive side (no savescumming, though there's not much of an RNG component to savescum for in the first place), but with battles being as long as they are (I had one go on for 3 hours), the lack of a mid-battle save can be a huge pain for those who can't play that long in one sitting. Not to mention that hitting a serious bug (one that results in character death or the game locking up) 1,5 hours into a battle and having to restart the fight all over again
Three-hour session of gaming? Yeah, maybe when I will retire. :/
 
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Applypoison

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Only 3 missions in and already have more minorities in my force than white male characters!
:incloosive:

On a more serious note, glad you guys wrote about this game. It turned out to be great and worth every penny :)
 

zero29

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However, I did find the AI moved and attacked a bit differently even when reloading the same maps over and over. So at leas tthere's that on the randomness scale.
that's the second party uncertainty craig talkes about here.
 

thesheeep

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I honestly find this game kinda tedious.

Everything takes so long (even with turbo speed), and you cannot do even a single mistake or you a screwed.
Game's maps are too big.
This is not about TB or not, I love TB, but not in giant maps like these, when there is no pause in between, no possibility to save or restock. Whole game seems more like a puzzle than a tactics game.

To add insult to injury, you can't even save after each battle. Nor can you go shopping after each battle. I just had to quit in the midst of a (half an hour already) battle because real life was knocking on my door. And it was the first time I actually was winning the battle.

There is no way to know when is the next time you will be able to buy something again, so naturally you do not use a single item until it is almost too late.
And when you do use items, you find yourself drained of everything in the next battle, as naturally there was no restocking in between.

Might be the first time I'm giving up on a game that I might actually like. But I have no patience for its lack of save points/auto saves. The game is just too challenging to have battles without auto saves.
 

mindx2

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I honestly find this game kinda tedious.

Everything takes so long (even with turbo speed), and you cannot do even a single mistake or you a screwed.
Game's maps are too big.
This is not about TB or not, I love TB, but not in giant maps like these, when there is no pause in between, no possibility to save or restock. Whole game seems more like a puzzle than a tactics game.

To add insult to injury, you can't even save after each battle. Nor can you go shopping after each battle. I just had to quit in the midst of a (half an hour already) battle because real life was knocking on my door. And it was the first time I actually was winning the battle.

There is no way to know when is the next time you will be able to buy something again, so naturally you do not use a single item until it is almost too late.
And when you do use items, you find yourself drained of everything in the next battle, as naturally there was no restocking in between.

Might be the first time I'm giving up on a game that I might actually like. But I have no patience for its lack of save points/auto saves. The game is just too challenging to have battles without auto saves.

I don't have any issues with map size at all. Especially considering the size of the armies you face later on. The lack of resources is actually quite "fun" in the sense that it makes me go after those chest and loot drops that are scattered across the map. I cringe every time an enemy solider picks up a loot drop from an enemy I killed!! Also, you can save after each battle it just puts you right into the next one which is what would happen anyway so.... I'm not sure how that's a negative?
 

Lhynn

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Why does this game not feature character creation? Why? Does craig hate rpgs?
 

thesheeep

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Also, you can save after each battle it just puts you right into the next one which is what would happen anyway so.... I'm not sure how that's a negative?
No, you can't. There were multiple battles that did not have the typical save/manage items menu before them.
When I lost such a battle, I was back at the beginning of the battle before it.
And when each battle takes 20 minutes at least, there is no way I want to replay it all. Too many games on my list that are more enjoyable.
 

mindx2

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Also, you can save after each battle it just puts you right into the next one which is what would happen anyway so.... I'm not sure how that's a negative?
No, you can't. There were multiple battles that did not have the typical save/manage items menu before them.
When I lost such a battle, I was back at the beginning of the battle before it.
And when each battle takes 20 minutes at least, there is no way I want to replay it all. Too many games on my list that are more enjoyable.

Huh, that must be a bug I've not encountered as I have saved after each battle. Always been the little pre-battle menu box where I can click the little disk icon. You have the updated version that included manual saving?
 

Mustawd

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Also, you can save after each battle it just puts you right into the next one which is what would happen anyway so.... I'm not sure how that's a negative?
No, you can't. There were multiple battles that did not have the typical save/manage items menu before them.
When I lost such a battle, I was back at the beginning of the battle before it.
And when each battle takes 20 minutes at least, there is no way I want to replay it all. Too many games on my list that are more enjoyable.

Huh, that must be a bug I've not encountered as I have saved after each battle. Always been the little pre-battle menu box where I can click the little disk icon. You have the updated version that included manual saving?


Same here. I was always able to save after every battle as well.
 

Archibald

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I didn't really understand part about random elements in the game. At first reviewer claims that there is very little random elements in the game but then mentions spell effects that seam rather powerful (freeze, blind) that seam to have 50% chance of happening (asides of modifications from items). I don't know, that sounds pretty random to me. Are these spells very rare or are the counters freely available that it doesn't skew the game towards "wow, got lucky with that freeze, gg"?
 

Zetor

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I didn't really understand part about random elements in the game. At first reviewer claims that there is very little random elements in the game but then mentions spell effects that seam rather powerful (freeze, blind) that seam to have 50% chance of happening (asides of modifications from items). I don't know, that sounds pretty random to me. Are these spells very rare or are the counters freely available that it doesn't skew the game towards "wow, got lucky with that freeze, gg"?
See zero29's link above for a long essay re this design decision: http://sinisterdesign.net/unpredictability-and-control-in-turn-based-combat-an-examination/

tldr: if you don't have a super AI, some randomness is necessary to keep battles from becoming stale... and if you want status effects to be powerful enough to be worth using, 100% chance of application turns them into I WIN buttons.

The 50% base chance on status effects is just right, imo -- it requires the player to formulate a plan to cover both options (if it was 90%, say, everyone would just assume it was going to 'always hit' and complained on the forums when it didn't). And yes, the counters to it are freely available. The fur cloak I mentioned in the review (that turns freezing from a coin toss into a 1/3 chance) is available from vendors, and the immunity orb is also vendor-bought just before you start encountering freezing enemies. The pyrokineticist is also one of the first characters you recruit, so she'll probably be available to thaw out anyone who needs it as long as you deploy her for all missions against frost spriggats. Blind can be removed with eye drops, a somewhat common consumable in the second half of the game (I don't think there's any ability that removes it otherwise), or you can just use your blinded character for support actions until it wears off normally.

What I don't like in the implementation of freeze is its raw disabling power. Stun and mind control are fine disables: they last for 1 turn, and can potentially cause a lot of damage... but you can recover easily afterwards. Blind is really annoying and lasts for a long time, but it leaves the character free to move and act -- plus, some types of units aren't really hindered by it to begin with. Freeze completely disables a character for 4+ turns, which is a LOT. It can be a game-ender if it happens to a key unit with no pyrokineticist available for thawing. Worse yet, most of the freeze abilities are AOE! It's also probably an overpowered PITA effect in multiplayer (which I never tried).
 
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