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Shuuda avatar 3:11 PM on 05.10.2013  (server time)
Telepath Tactics Early Alpha Impressions

Telepath Tactics is the turn-based SRPG set in a strange steampunk world. Currently being developed by Sinister Design, this game was the subject of a recent successful Kickstarter campaign. Though their first attempt failed to raise the goal of thirty thousand their next attempt managed to raise forty two thousand, despite only asking for fifteen thousand that time around. As a massive fan of Fire Emblem I could hardly ignore the turnaround success of this game, so I decided to drop a bit of money on it myself and see where it took things. Thus I have gotten a taste of the early alpha release given to backers. I will be giving my impressions of what I have seen of the build so far as well as my ideas to improve it.

In Telepath Tactics you take control of two sisters, Emma and Sabrina. They are swordswomen in the employment of an army in Kovit, which is currently the only singleplayer campaign up for selection. There are only three missions so far which involve tackling bandits, as seems typical in fantasy SRPGs, as you take back villages and thwart organised attacks on vital locations, and it soon becomes obvious there is more than meets the eye. The game is set in the same world as Sinister Design's previous games, including Telepath RPG: Servant of God.

Being a fantasy turn-based strategy game it would be difficult to look at Telepath Tactics without making comparisons to games like Fire Emblem. The developer make no bones about having taken a great deal of inspiration from that series, but there are many notable distinctions. In Telepath Tactics for example, you cannot move your characters through each other. If one of them in blocking a path you need to move them before any more of your own characters can get through. While this means you need to think more about the order in which you move your units, it could also be frustrating to often have to undo movements.

Attacking enemies from different sides also effects how much damage your characters will do. Hitting from behind gives a back-stab bonus for example. Enemy AI will always try to strike your characters from behind whenever possible. This makes the combat perhaps familiar to those experienced in Final Fantasy Tactics, but it does sometimes seem rather silly to watch units always trying to walk around each other.
Characters in the Telepath Tactics campaign level up after besting their enemies. This grants them increases of their stats and new abilities. The announcement of these level ups are rather understated, and it was difficult to tell what was going on when it first happened.

There are many different abilities for you to make us of in battle, from engineers who can build bridges to shoving and drawing opponents to and fro. In one mission in the campaign you can fight your way into a building and then build wooden barricades to hole your army up to recover while enemy reinforcements bears down on you. The number of skills can make fighting with them confusing at first, and checking what abilities characters all have can take some time. Having a screen in which one can view their character's data is of vital importance to being able to pre-plan quickly and keep tabs on all the different characters.

Another criticism I have Telepath Tactics so far is the slow pace in which everything plays. Even though there is an option to make troops move instantaneously, they still seem to get to their destination rather slowly. The way in which actions selected can be fiddly and slows things down even further. This is opposed to Fire Emblem, there the action menu is brought up automatically after moving and the turn ends automatically once you have used all the characters, and movement can be done in fast forwards at the press of a button. The issue of waiting is even more noticeable while the enemies are making their move. Having a way of speeding up the CPU team's actions would definitely take away from the frustration of boredom. The game could benefit from having some convenience features added in.

The visuals of Telepath Tactics are simple, but effective. They present everything in the game in a very clear fashion, leaving little confusion. All the characters have animations for attacking and moving. The battles happen on the map with no flashy cut scenes or gratuitous, spectacular attacks. This might be a dividing points, but I for one love fancy attack animations in these kind of games (I yearn for the days of the ridiculous critical hit animations of the GBA Fire Emblem games). That said, the simplicity does nothing to harm the game. Already Kickstarter updates have shown us a promise of more enticing aesthetics further down the line, all thanks to the success of the crowd funding campaign. I look forward to seeing how the appearance of Telepath Tactics will take on new forms in the future.

Perhaps more interesting than the appearance is the oddness found in the game world. Telepath Tactic takes strange twists with some of the classes. Cavaliers do not ride horses, but instead they behead their foes from the backs of giant grasshoppers. There less of a focus on straight up magic and an introduction to more bizarre mystical elements. Your army fights alongside towering golems and gargoyles with powerful breaths. These come with the more familiar kind of units that include, swordsmen, archers, crossbowmen, and healers, who perhaps do not seem to interesting than their more unique comrades.

So far, I am very impressed by what I have seen from this small budget indie game. I do not regret putting money down on it and instead I look excitedly forwards to what improvements and additions await Telepath Tactics. When things have progressed I will certainly write up more impressions. For those of you who want a little taste of what Telepath Tactics has to offer, I recommend taking a look a free demo Sinister Design's web

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