IndieRPGs.com Checks Out Voidspire Tactics
Hey folks! Sean Hayden of Rad Codex was good enough to send a review copy of Voidspire Tactics my way. I was curious to see how it played, so I did what I customarily do in these situations: I sat down to play it with FRAPS a’frappin and headset mic a’ready for yappin’. Here are the first 45 minutes or so of Voidspire Tactics, complete with commentary:
So! What did I think?
I like it quite a lot so far! Let’s start our discussion with a look at narrative. There actually isn’t a whole lot to say about the story itself just yet. Hayden is clearly taking some story cues from classic jRPGs here and there, but this does not strike me as a jRPG story. The Voidspire setting reminds me a bit of Planescape, as it has that whole “cobbled together out of pieces of the multiverse” thing going on. This appeals to me quite a lot, but it also sets the bar really high: you simply can’t set a game in a place like that and then fail to do interesting things with it! It is my hope that Voidspire Tactics will take the time to really capitalize on the promise of its setting as things continue.
Also taking some cues from classic jRPGs is the musical score–it’s nearly impossible not to notice some striking similarities to Chrono Trigger’s Millenial Fair upon landing in Solport, and what I take to be the game’s main battle theme (at 28:10 in the video) is surprisingly reminiscent of the main battle track from Final Fantasy IV. I’m not complaining–the music is well done, and it tickles the nostalgia center of my brain pleasantly. If I had to make any criticism of the soundtrack so far, it would be limited to the track that plays in the Cathedral of the Elements, as it makes anachronistic use of NES-style sound samples amidst tracks that sound like they belong on the SNES. It’s a minor complaint, and those of you too young to distinguish will likely just experience it all as some undifferentiated “retro” thing and not even notice.
I was expecting Voidspire’s visuals to be the game’s weak point, and while I suppose they are, they’re honestly not bad in motion. Sure, Voidspire lacks a bit of polish in its tile transitions, and unit facing isn’t adequately clear on one of the character sprites I’ve seen, but on the whole the graphics work well. The scene is usually easy to parse, and the game’s animations largely make up for its otherwise spartan visual style.
“Okay Craig,” you’re probably thinking. “This is all well and good, but what about the game’s mechanics?” Well, it uses many of the same techniques that I used in Telepath Tactics, so you probably won’t be surprised to hear that I really enjoy Voidspire’s mechanics! Combat is deterministic, but there is enough complexity to the proceedings that there is seldom just one optimal choice in any situation–Hayden has clearly figured out a workable variation on the magic formula, and I’m having quite a bit of fun playing it.
Admittedly, combat is a lot smaller in scale than I tend to prefer (Voidspire’s 4-character party clocks in below even FF Tactics’s relatively small 5-6 character force!) It’s nothing that can’t be fixed with solid encounter design, of course. However…I confess that I’m actually a little concerned on that front: thus far, most fights have taken place in wide-open spaces with little in the way of differentiated terrain or choke points, which threatens to make things a little same-y after a while. That said, the presence of knockback abilities like Shove and Gust gives me hope that encounters are soon going to start taking place on more interesting battlefields; I’m reserving judgment on that point until I get further into the game.
Combat isn’t everything in Voidspire, of course–after all, it bills itself as an exploration game, and the game’s character customization systems seem to be well implemented. I haven’t gotten deep enough into either of these systems to intelligently comment on them just yet. What I can say, however, is that the small bit of this game that I’ve played so far makes me feel quite confident in recommending it.