I’ve had my eye on Tenderfoot Tactics for awhile but wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Combining a simple, yet experimental, art style with what appeared to be a variety of classes comparable to Final Fantasy Tactics, my curiosity was piqued. After sitting down with the title for a handful of hours, I can say that what this title offers is a unique experience with innovation in a few key areas that really differentiate it from its peers in the genre.
The World Is Your Oyster
Surprisingly enough, Tenderfoot Tactics is much more of a sandbox than I had expected. With only a brief introduction to the setting and gameplay, you’re thrust into an open world with a trio of goblins with little guidance. Exploration is not only encouraged but required, and you’ll often find yourself referring to maps that you’ve found along the way. Don’t let this offer you too much comfort though, they work like physical maps in real life and don’t come with a GPS system like they do in most modern releases.
The world itself is experiencing a catastrophe in the form of an expansive fog that has enveloped the land. It’s already absorbed many of your fellow goblins (yes, you’re goblins, congrats if that strikes your fancy) and turned them into smoky fiends dedicated to eradicating those who are not of it. To make matters even worse, your story begins with the realization that a powerful god-like spirit ally who you’ve gone to for aid is weakening while the fog grows denser. It’s up to your little pack to rescue the residents of the world from their fate. Welcome to one hell of an underdog story.
This exploration happens at whatever pace you decide that it does. If you want to continue to grind up levels, it won’t hurt as the experience can be quite challenging at times. If you want to see what the world has to offer, and maybe even clear some of that dreadful fog, go ahead! Every action you take is your own in the freeform narrative that you’re creating, with only a slight nudge from time to time that may catch your interest.
Introducing the Underdogs
Your goblins, quite simply, start out as level one goblins. This breed (read: class) is decently balanced without any real specialization into an archetype. Melee attacks, ranged attacks, buffs, and so forth are all present on their skill trees to customize them as you see fit, but none of these abilities are ones that make them truly excel at a specific role and although their health isn’t terrible, they aren’t designed for tanking either.
Once you seal in a few levels you’ll begin to unlock advanced breeds in a way that will very much remind you of Final Fantasy Tactics. For example, knights are unlocked for a character once you’ve achieved level four in the goblin breed with them, as are archers and wood witches. After that, further advancements are added to your repertoire by earning levels in one or more of the new breeds.
You’ll immediately notice that each class has its own base health that determines how durable it is on the battlefield, though its skill tree is equally as important. For example, while the base goblin breed has an ability that lets it use a bow at a long-range, it’s the archer that really excels in range right off the bat and not just in having a superior ranged attack. Each level gained grants a new ability point that can be used to purchase an ability from the breed tree and the archer has several attack abilities ranging from exploding arrows that hit everything along their path, flaming arrows that set the environment on fire and freezing arrows that slow down opponents. The clear benefit of a more specialized breed is that all of their abilities work in unison with one goal in mind, such as the archer’s passive ability that increases their damage for each level of height that they have over their enemy.
The Fog and Its Broken Souls
There’s more to the combat of Tenderfoot Tactics than meets the eye. Its grid-based tactical gameplay is reminiscent of many in the genre and is sure to bring with it many expectations for those familiar with others of the sort. It expertly meets most of these expectations while introducing a few concepts that differentiate it from its inspirations: time measured outside of basic turns and a particularly fragile environment.
Time is broken up into ticks, of which there are many in a single unit’s turn. These ticks are used to calculate the frequency of damage or healing over time and other status-related durations. They also tie directly into the environment where lengthy periods of time will cause the vegetation of the area to grow taller and thicker, slowing the speed at which creatures can move through it. This vegetation can also be a serious threat. For example, the more vegetation that covers the map, the more likely that a fire that’s started will spread across it unchecked causing serious harm to all in its path.
As for your foes, you’ll most frequently be facing off against goblin breeds that match what you have access to. It’s not rare to run into foes that aren’t of goblin lineage that you’ll have to develop strategies to counter by planning around their strengths and weaknesses. Tenderfoot Tactics offers plenty of real tactical challenges along the way so you’ll have to bring your A-game to every fight, but at least death isn’t permanent. Each time your squad falls in battle in you’ll have the option to either flee and return to the starting point with all that you’ve earned intact, or simply retry the battle.