Redemption Reapers by Binary Haze Interactive is a strategy role-playing game (SRPG) where the player controls a team of special operatives fighting off a horde of monsters, called the Mort, in turn-based combat. Vastly outnumbered and subject to increasingly harrowing experiences, they do what they must to survive and eventually free their homeland.
While Redemption Reapers shares some of the core mechanics of the Fire Emblem series there are enough mechanical variations and flourishes that even those who enjoy that style of gameplay will enjoy the change of pace that Redemption Reapers offers. It features alternating team turns, incremental weapon deterioration, a specific zoomed-in style of fighting, and a particular lack of any sort of line of sight or cover. However, beyond this core it has a number of mechanical flourishes that allow it to stand out as its own entity.
The first of these is the action point system. Rather than having the single discrete move + single action system featured in many SRPGs, individual characters have an ever-increasing menu of options that can be used on enemies or allies. These action points are generated each round, with individual ones carrying over to the next round letting characters either combine multiple actions or use a significant action that is only possible with saved AP. Unlike other action point systems, these are entirely unrelated to a character’s movement, so instead of a single move + action a character ends up with the option of doing a single movement + one or more actions. This is pretty well implemented and results in a pretty diverse set of options for any particular character, with the variety of possibilities increasing as the characters go up in level and unlock more abilities.
The second is the combo system. When any of the melee weapon characters are in the range of an enemy when one of the characters attacks them, the player can hit a button to trigger a follow-up attack from that unit. The implementation, however, is a bit confusing. There is a timing element that feels completely out of place and pointless. It also creates a bit of an individual tactical puzzle element that borders on pushing it into a puzzle tactics game without ever actually crossing that line.
User Interface Frustration
Redemption Reapers’ User Interface (UI) is frustrating not because it is completely horrible and makes the game difficult to play. It is frustrating because so much of it is so good that the areas where it is lacking are that much more noticeable and distracting.
The game shows the amount of damage one of the characters will do as well as additional damage from supporting hits but doesn’t take into account extra attacks for characters who can make them.
It provides movement and attack ranges for units, but the color is such that those who struggle with red-green blindness will have a really difficult time telling how far enemy units can actually reach.
It provides smooth and easy-to-control movement options when using a controller but is actively painful to play with a mouse and keyboard.
It also doesn’t provide definitions for what the stats are used for. It is pretty easy to figure out for some of them based on how derived stats change as characters equip accessories with stat buffs, but some are more… ambiguous. For example, I have no idea what faith does even after the amount of time I have had with the game and the fact there.
Probably the biggest and most frustrating UI issue is the lack of description of what units can actually do. The user interface provides a given basic stat block, but deeper into the game, enemies have abilities beyond the basic stat block and there is no indication of what they are.
That being said, none of these complaints are about things that are game-breaking. I’ve learned to adapt to the damage preview, not accounting for double attacks, and to be extra cautious to avoid enemies hitting the wrong hero. Not knowing what faith does is undoubtedly annoying but it doesn’t stop the game from being smooth and the game facilitating easy play. These also feel like things that are easy to fix, and there is a chance they may have even been fixed by the time this review is released..
Good Stage Design
Redemption Reaper’s stage design is good. It doesn’t start well. In fact, after the first few stages, I was pretty sure that Redemption Reapers was not for me, but it gets a lot better as time goes on and the game plays around with lay-out, enemy activity, and goals between stages. The variance allows the player to try out different strategies and will frequently force the player out of the comfort zone provided by the more traditional stages. Encouraging the player to split the party, desperately balancing stage goals with the need for treasure, and giving varying degrees of pressure rather than allowing for some degree of leisure as they move through the stages.
I also appreciate how much the game focuses on the stage and the gameplay around them. More recent Fire Emblem and Fire Emblem-style games have added extensive social mini-games that, for me at least, feel a lot like chores rather than the exciting tactical combat and attractive character building that I play these games for, and Redemption Reapers’ decision not to focus on them is a relief.
This is limited somewhat by the mechanical conceits of the core system. Things like cover and elevation aren’t directly meaningful though obstructions and being unable to be reached by enemies are, and Redemption Reapers does very well with what it has to work with.
Interesting Character Build Choices
While not expansive, Redemption Reapers’ character-building options feel authentic and exciting. Every time a character goes up a level they get two skill points which they can use to purchase upgrades to various passive and ever-increasing active skills. Pushing down different paths in these skills can result in a character shifting their overall role and how they are used. The abilities are generally solid and interesting too, and even with ones that have more incremental upgrades, every investment step feels meaningful.
Beyond skills, characters can be further customized with weapons and accessories. Weapons have a mixture of accuracy and damage modifiers, with some possessing special abilities as well as a weapon condition trait that declines as they are used. Accessories simply provide a special ability to the character, most commonly some sort of stat modification.
Gold can buy new weapons, be combined with materials to purchase weapon upgrades, or buy items that provide permanent stat increases. Money is tight enough, and the need to repair weapons (especially upgraded weapons) is so high that most money will be spent on repairs rather than things that will directly increase character capabilities. This leads to some tough decisions, and for players who like feeling at the edge of disaster, the tightness of the gold will be very enjoyable.
Redemption Reapers is an effective iteration of the Fire Emblem formula. While the game is not perfect, it does effectively enough that I think that players who appreciate Fire Emblem-style games will find a lot to like. Those who are more skeptical of that style of the game are unlikely to find Redemption Reapers to be an innovative enough title to change their mind.
Personally, I liked but didn’t love Redemption Reapers. I think in a year where there was a lower density of exciting tactical and strategy games, I would be a bit more enthusiastic about exploring Redemption Reapers deeply, but as it is, I fear that the game is going to get swept past. It is close but didn’t quite do enough to justify intense play in a time period when so many fantastic tactical games are being released.