Redemption Reapers

I have always loved the genre of turn based strategy RPGs, a bit of a slower paced game than is expected in this era and one that has sadly been dying out and kept alive mostly by indie developers. Whenever one of these games comes out, I want it to be good so it can be a bit of a downer when it’s lacking.

Redemption Reapers lets you know what they were trying for pretty quickly, you are part of the Ashen Hawk Brigade haunted by something unforgiveable in your past while facing a massive horde of orcish beings called mort. The ragtag mercenary company versus all odds isn’t a bad starting point for a story, but at some point you have to move past it, and story progression is extremely plodding. It takes place after everyone’s dead, after the invaders have destroyed civilization, and after the band’s gone through the regret of some sort of major failure which is referenced constantly… which all sounds like it could have been an interesting scenario to go through with plenty of character development. Instead, there’s basically no growth in anything for most of the game, it amounts to there are orcs, and now more orcs, and we hate them, and hate ourselves for what happened that one time. Even the choices basically amount to saying I want to kill more orcs, which the guy that really loves killing orcs likes, or saying I want to run away and survive, to which the guy that really loves killing orcs calls you a coward… and that’s effectively the story development for almost the entire game.

The presentation is not going to save it either, cutscenes are short and abrupt, the dialogue’s a bit dry and campy like its written for personalities not for characters, and the voice acting can be a bit wooden at times. It generally looks fine if it were for a game that came out three console generations ago. There’s not much negative or positive about the UI or between missions screen, it’s basic and functional and gives the information you need.

Skills and the progression system are very simple, but a little flawed. There’s generally three types of characters- a tank that deals heavy damage, a mid armour heavy damage dealer, and a low armour low damage dealer. Tank abilities basically do nothing to help tanking, enemies will go for the weakest ally they can reach, there is no zone of control for slowing enemies that pass a tank, crowd control, taunt or even attacks of opportunity… so unless you can create a barrier of bodies, enemies just walk around your tough guys and two shot the others. There’s a swarm of foes, generally three to five times as many as your party in every fight, combat is thankfully quick so this part only drags a bit. What drags the game far more is that most battles consist of the same structure most of the time; a bunch of fodder which try to shave some health off like attrition, followed by a beastly boss which you may not even be able to harm, and if you fall to the boss you’re going through that full plodding, unchallenging level over again.

Leveling gives skill points and increases stats, skills include follow up attacks, abilities and straight up damage or defense bonuses. The latter are particularly important since damage is based on a flat amount, as is armour- so if your weapon does 5 damage, and the enemy has 5 armour, you do zero damage. I would find myself going through a level where fodder would be two shot while doing no damage at all, then the boss would hit me with a debuff reducing my damage to zero making him untouchable. This makes finding all treasures, which is where you get better weapons and upgrade materials, more or less not optional as even a few extra points of damage can turn an encounter from impossible to easy. In turn, this makes the game’s durability system baffling, as characters can carry multiple weapons, and every strike costs durability. This sort of system would generally suggest you’re meant to go through weapons, but the strictness of the damage reduction system means you’re required to use the best gear. To top it off, upgrade materials, experience and gold can be farmed in skirmishes, but at such a gruelling pace that it can take multiple battles for a single upgrade, and the durability repairs cost so much that I would find myself earning nothing at all after hours despite not having spent gold on anything but repairs.

Combat itself is very simple, there’s not much in regards to strategy beyond surrounding enemies so you can get follow up attacks. The follow up system requires inputs, but there’s no timing to make it a skill thing or combo multipliers to create some sort of strategy, and no real reason not to do them which makes me wonder why follow up attacks aren’t simply automated. It is very easy to understand and get into, animations and killing enemy after enemy is satisfying and while you don’t gain much from skirmishes, they do feel individually quite quick paced.

Overall, Redemption Reapers is an easy to understand, retro feeling game with a generally low skill curve that has occasional and unexpected challenge spikes. It does not reward grinding much but can put you into situations where it feels like you’re expected to get some more damage before you can even damage certain foes. I almost am hesitant to call it a strategy game, it feels closer to a beat’m up game using strategy RPG gameplay and there are some disconnects between how the game is supposed to feel and the actual progression and combat. That said, it is mostly average and functional, easy to pick up and play, and moderately fun, and while there’s a slew of better games in the genre, it’s a solid twenty plus hours and is still above a stock average game even if only by a little.

~~Alex Cumming~~

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