Title: Telepath Tactics Liberated
Developer: Sinister Design
Publisher: Sinister Design
Release Date: March 14, 2022
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Strategy role-playing is a genre that is consistently good; there’s something just so satisfying in playing a virtual chess match against a computer controlled army. The genre has seen a surge in popularity too over the past decade, with Nintendo’s Fire Emblem franchise finally making its way globally, and other titles such as The Banner Saga, Disgaea, Valkyria Chronicles, Triangle Strategy, and more offering fans plenty of ways to wage strategic warfare.
Telepath Tactics Liberated is one such game, which borrows elements from a multitude of the genre’s best title to craft a strategy RPG for strategy RPG fans. An enhanced remake of a 2015 game, Liberated falls just short of being “the best of the best,” but still offers an exciting campaign to undertake.
Because this is a remake, I’ll be referring to this game largely as simply Telepath Tactics throughout this review, mostly due to so much being shared between the two titles. Liberated does make numerous improvements, though a lot of them are cosmetic in nature, such as more detailed battlegrounds and redesigned characters. I’ll be focusing on some differences in particular, but you can read about all the changes HERE.
Telepath Tactics follows sisters Emma and Sabrina Strider, who have been orphaned for ten years after bandits abducted their father and enslaved him in the mines. The siblings are taken in by the Lissit, a tribe of nomadic reptiles, who train them to become fierce warriors. Years later, Emma and Sabrina leave the tribe to seek revenge against the slavers and rescue the father they lost a decade ago. Along the way they recruit a multitude of powerful and colorful characters to their cause, and uncover sinister schemes much larger than they ever imagined.
The story here is much more than your average revenge story. What could be a story about simply rescuing one’s family and hitting back those that wronged you in the past is instead replaced with a tale that dives into some deep, mature themes, such as slavery and gender equality. It is refreshing to see two female leads in a genre that more often has heroes of valiant princes or beefy swordsmen. Telepath Tactics smartly uses this revenge narrative as a framework to work in these greater, more meaningful discussions of modernity and morality.
The standout in the game’s writing are in the characters, even if they can be a little one-note. Just as in Fire Emblem, your party members each have their own little personality quirks that they lean into. For example, one is obsessed with puns, and will try to work them in to every conversation she has. Another is a massive flirt who can’t pass up the opportunity to work their moves, and a third spends all their downtime drinking, and so on. This could be a bit bland, but the situations they find themselves in and the interactions your party members have with one another lead to very entertaining and often comical banters.
Many characters you recruit through simple story progression, but a lot can be found on the battlefield as well. Disgruntled units of the enemy can be approached by either Emma or Sabrina and talked to, leading them to become a turncoat and join your side. It’s thrilling to flip the script on your enemies by making one of their best units fight against them.
Speaking of such, combat is extremely enjoyable, and will be the reason most will want to stick around with this game to the very end. If you like any of the games that have inspired it, then you’re going to have a great time with Telepath Tactics’s battles.
Combat is phase based, with the player and the AI taking turns moving their units around a grid-based battleground. As is common in the genre, attacking a bad guy’s backside can score extra damage, while facing a foe from the front gives you a defensive advantage. Each unit has weapon strengths and weaknesses similar to Fire Emblem, though with much less focus; you don’t have to worry so much about being cut down in a single blow just because your airborne unit was attacked by an archer. Characters can also take advantage of higher terrain, giving them much better accuracy, and providing the perfect volleying point for all of your ranged fighters.
The environment is even more important than with most SRPGs. Borrowing a feature from Bahamut Lagoon, the terrain can be manipulated in a multitude of ways, from setting raging fires in wooded areas, to freezing waters to deal damage or create safe walkways. Construction is also a big feature in Telepath Tactics, as you will be relying on your units to lay traps, raise barriers, construct bridges, and more. Of course your enemies possess the same abilities, so you want to exercise caution so as not to fall into one of their dubious traps.
Characters will gain an impressive amount of abilities as they level up, especially in comparison to many of its contemporaries. These skills allow your units to have a broad range of uses on the battlefield, and prevents any one character from having a single role. For instance, you may have your tank lay traps to stun those that approach, or maybe have a healer who can also construct defensive walls, creating chokepoints for your army to utilize. Some of my favorite abilities are among the simplest, such as shoving a foe into a nearby ravine or off a cliff. Having such varied and numerous skills in my arsenal really opens up my strategic choices, and thus amplifies the fun.
Using any of your skills will consume energy. While some games will require a character to drink a potion or something similar to gain their power back, Telepath Tactics allows players to strategically regain their energy by having them take less actions. Simply moving your unit without taking an action will recover some energy, while having them just wait will recover much more. This method gives more control to the player, and allows for no turns to be wasted in the process.
Liberated does introduce branching professions, where units become stronger by changing to a more powerful class after acquiring an item or reaching max level. This is a great idea, but isn’t implemented quite as well as I had hoped. For starters, there’s not enough variety in the professions, largely due to the wide range of skills that are learned, which I mentioned earlier. In games where classes are clearly defined, promotions make more sense as units are learning abilities to take on roles that weren’t possible before. Here, it feels like simply gaining more levels above the original maximum. Sure, more abilities become available, but my characters already have so many uses that these skills are a lot harder to notice.
In addition, during my initial playthrough I only located one item that could be used to promote a unit, while the others only gained access to new professions towards the tail end of the game. I never felt like I had enough time to get a firm grasp of these more powerful classes, which is a real bummer.
Another shortcoming of Telepath Tactics is in its linearity. For the most part, you’ll have a story sequence, followed by a mission, which flows directly into another story session, followed by yet another mission. Occasionally you’ll have the opportunity to purchase new gear with the gold you’ve collected or speak to your crew, but there’s no real freedom in how you conduct your campaign. Not only does this rob the player of any sense of agency, but it makes many attributes of the game essentially finite; all of the gold, experience points, and items to collect have a maximum amount that you can obtain in a single run. With no optional content, there’s no ability to “grind” for gold or to train characters that I don’t use that often. This can really back the player into a corner late in the game, especially if they have permadeath turned on and can lose units forever if they fall in battle. Should the player have lost too many characters, or neglected some in favor of others, or spent their hard earned gold on less important things, then there’s no chance to correct these mistakes without starting over from the very beginning.
It’s fortunate that Telepath Tactics does offer a bevy of difficulty options to choose from. Unlike a lot of games (of any genre), this game provides a helpful description of what specifically is different between each one. The easiest difficulty is perfect for those just wanting to see the story, test out strategies, or feel like an absolute God among men, as the protagonists cannot die in battle. On higher settings, enemies behave much smarter, and will target your weakest units first, as well as utilize every ability to their full potential.
Playing on the standard “Soldier” setting, I did find the AI to be far too forgiving. Plenty of times the computer would ignore a unit that was near death, instead choosing to go after stronger characters or even take no action at all. Most bizarrely, enemies would sometimes attack harmless rocks or other objects on the battlefield rather than pursuing my squad. My only thought is that they gain experience by just using an action, even if it’s against an inanimate object, but that’s only a guess.
I would recommend for SRPG veterans wanting to get the most out of the game to go with the “Veteran,” or second highest, difficulty setting. This turns on permadeath, forcing players to carefully plan each and every move. Depending on who you recruit and if you can keep them alive, new missions are made available, extending your play session, and letting you get the absolute most of what the game has on offer.
I have to mention that the game does feature a robust campaign editor for all the creative gamers out there. This mode allows players to construct their own stories by creating their own characters, writing dialogue, designing battlefields, and more. I can certainly see this feature becoming one of the more popular aspects of the game as more people get their hands on it; the amount of options here is truly impressive, and I can’t wait to see what campaigns other players design.
Lastly, I want to note that while I have not played the original 2015 release, in my research I found that one of the major setbacks of the game were the massive amount of bugs and glitches that players could encounter. Liberated mostly ran smoothly for me, with the occasional hiccup here-or-there. The main issue I had performance-wise is the sheer amount of screen tearing that goes on. It felt like every time I pan the camera, the game would pull at the seams. It could be distracting during a heated battle, but never caused any real serious issues. The art design is greatly enhanced from the original though, making for a much more vibrant and interesting world to inhabit.
Telepath Tactics Liberated is absolutely an experience worth seeking out if you’re a fan of strategy RPGs. The game brings together many elements that have made the genre so enjoyable, and crafts a memorable adventure in its own right. The game does suffer due to its linearity, and some optional content would go a long way in making this quest truly legendary. Ultimately though, there’s a lot of freedom due to the wide range of skills available, making this a game worth playing through time and time again.
Verdict: 4/5 stars.
Images Source: Telepath Tactics Liberated
Josh Cornett is a lifelong gamer who enjoys games across all platforms and genres. He has gone by the alias of “Block” ever since college, when he was nicknamed “Blockbuster” for his extensive video game and movie collection. Currently, he reviews a wide variety of games on his Youtube channel, and talks about all things gaming related on his Twitter and Facebook pages.