When you’ve got a colorful grid-based and turn-based strategy RPG, it’s bound to draw comparison to some of the greats. After all, this is a genre that has previously been filled by legendary franchises like Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea. Make no mistake, Endlessfluff Games and Humble Games’ Fae Tactics definitely feels like it's paying homage to those classics. However, there’s something wholly unique about what Fae Tactics has for players. The story is there. The strategy is there. The mechanics are present. But it’s all built within a solid system that both reduces the historical grind of these games while presenting plenty of opportunity to explore and master its depth. Put all of this together and it truly makes Fae Tactics feel like its own unique treat.
When worlds collide
The story of Fae Tactics is one of a disastrous overlap of the world of humans and the magical fae. In the long past, an unknown being attempted to bring the two worlds together, but it was a haphazard process to say the least, and the combined world was left devastated and chaotic in the aftermath. Some humans and fae chose to coexist tentatively. Others went a more violent route of war and attempted eradication. Still, some powerful beings hid in the shadows, taking advantage of the fear and confusion to achieve their own goals.
In the midst of all of this, players take on the journey of a young girl named Peony and her many companions. Peony is capable of using magic (a taboo thing for humans) and can wield different elements as well as casting spells and calling fae that she has defeated to aid her. With her special powers, Peony is engaged in a quest to find her long-lost mother and help others in need wherever she can.
Fae Tactics has perhaps one of the more enjoyable worlds I’ve recently explored in these types of games. The various fae players come across are fun and interesting and the companions Peony discovers along the way are equally enjoyable. Whether it’s the faithful canine companion Chico, the water flinging baby bird Payachin, or the nature-attuned centaur Orowantus, a lot of these characters make the journey through Fae Tactics all the more fun. In particular, I love Pichon. He’s a Pio-Pio (a race of bird people) that’s also a prizefighting boxer and a bit of a womanizer. Imagine if Don Flamenco from Punch-Out!! was both more honorable and bad a**, but also a bird person. That’s Pichon.
It helps that the enemies that you meet throughout this game are also decently done. Many are simply the victims of their own corner of this broken world just trying to get by, but it makes the characters that are truly nefarious all the more vile, so it feels fantastic when you put together the winning strategy that will wring their necks for good.
A deep well of winning strategies
Of course, narrative is only half the equation of a game like Fae Tactics. A game like this needs a great system of strategy mechanics to really make that story matter. Fortunately, Fae Tactics does a good job here too. As mentioned prior, Peony is capable of summoning fae. The way this works is that by defeating fae in battle, they will sometimes drop a card which, if collected, will add them to Peony’s summon list. Each fae has a summon point requirement and you have a limited amount of summon point capacity to utilize at the start of each battle. For example, Peony starts with three points of summon capacity, so you could theoretically fill your capacity with three one-point fae like the Gremlin Thief, Grumble Bunny, and Unilana. Or you could utilize a stronger two-point fae like the Glade Reaper in addition to one of those one-point fae.
It all depends on what you need because each fae features slightly or vastly different capabilities in addition to an element (Wind, Water, Earth, Fire, Ice, Electric, Arcane, and Non-elemental) that affects their strengths and weaknesses against opposing elements. You have a chance to look around the battlefield at the start of each fight and see what fae and elements your enemies are composed of, and then make your decision regarding composition, so it invites a lot of exploration and thought into what fae you’ll summon and how they’ll synergize with each other and your gameplan.
In addition to them, you also bring up to three leader characters including Peony to each fight. Much like the Fae, each leader has an element and various skills and abilities. For instance, the water bird Payachin is capable of throwing water shots in a long range arc that can devastate magic barriers and Fire element enemies at range, but once she levels enough, she also has a Magic Barrier aura that activates to give allies in range a small protective boost at the start of her turns. Meanwhile, Pichon can buff his own speed or the speed of allies if he’s not attacking in a round, can parry and counterattack if attacked directly, and can strike multiple times on his own attacks. Each leader and fae has an unique attack, waiting action if they end their turn without attacking, and assist ability they can use on allies, which adds a tremendous wealth of versatility to fighting force composition and strategy execution in the game.
Add to this the fact that Peony is not only versatile on her own with the ability to change her element and style of attack with various scrolls, but also has a grimoire of spell talismans that can be used to cast things like haste or magic barriers on allies or area-of-effect magic attacks on enemies. Put it all together and you have a massively customizable arsenal of tools at your disposal, for which Fae Tactics invites you to experiment to your heart’s content as you discover your playstyle.
A long and winding road through a splintered world
As mentioned before, the narrative of Fae Tactics is enjoyable, aided by a wealth of interesting heroes, villains, and other characters, but it’s hardly a linear path. As you play through the game, more and more opportunities open up in different directions. You can part ways from a story path you’ve been taking and explore another arc that has opened up mostly to your heart’s content. For instance, will you explore the mystery of a missing prince at the hands of a dangerous syndicate or will you put that on hold for a different narrative to clear an area of bandits for a caravan and earn a rare and powerful spell talisman?
For the most part, the choice is yours without risk, but it’s worth noting that days pass for each event you choose. If you choose to leave a certain narrative path alone for long enough, it may become unavailable. With this in mind, Fae Tactics is a lengthy adventure going easily over 60 hours with side quests and optional story or bonus opportunities. There’s even an upgrade system in the game which can unlock various perks like bonus experience, the revealing of hidden items, or, perhaps most importantly, otherwise unreachable narrative events.
There are just a few bothersome things about the pace of things in Fae Tactics. For one, you go into each encounter totally blind save for indicators of how many fights there will be and if there’s a boss battle. Fae Tactics circumvents a lot of grindy nature of most other games of the strategy RPG genre and I didn’t find it demanding that I go spend a lot of time in extra battles other than to defeat and collect fae I may have missed. That said, it also doesn’t tell you anything about what kind of opposition you’ll be up against, such as if it’s many levels higher than your squad.
I found myself up against over-leveled enemies several times only because I pursued a certain narrative path for long enough without branching that every monster there and especially a boss was overwhelmingly stronger than my characters. An indication of these situations or perhaps what level range you’re expected to face would have been nice. I also found myself annoyed by the fact that if you leave a multi-battle narrative before finishing it completely, you have to start at its beginning if you pick it up again.
There’s also a cooking system in the game which supplies the possibility for bonus stats ahead of fights, but it feels half-baked. It’s a timed guess-and-match game in which you gain bonuses for matching ingredients. Guessing wrong or revealing a rotten food item takes time off the clock, and when you run out of time, you’re left with the bonuses you scored (extra attack, higher maximum health, status effect resistance, etc.). You only get one chance to pursue the cooking bonus before each fight, and sometimes the bonuses can provide crucial stat boosts for a hard fight, but it feels a little too left up to chance for how important the benefits can be when you handle the cooking mini game well. I feel like there was a better and more reliable way to implement a system that can be as beneficial as this.
A tactical taming of chaos, fate, & fae
Fae Tactics has only a few bumps in its lengthy and magical road, but these are mere speedbumps along the vast and enjoyable journey full of deep technical strategy, colorful fae and characters, and winding stories. It’s easy to compare Fae Tactics to the best parts of Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea, but it also doesn’t take long to see just how much of its own unique flavor it brings to the turn-based strategy RPG genre while mostly avoiding the more annoying grind points of these types of games. What this makes for is a compelling and inviting tactical RPG full of experimentation and triumph when your formula for battle works well, and only a few inconvenient hiccups along the way.
- Lengthy branching story with plenty of sidequests
- Rich, colorful world and cast of characters
- Fun system of defeating and collecting fae
- Extremely versatile turn-based strategy mechanics
- Vast and varied heroes and monsters
- Solid soundtrack punctuates battles and story
- No indicators of how difficult an encounter will be
- Leaving a multi-battle encounter forces you to start it all over
- No skip on cutscenes you've seen before.
- Flimsy cooking bonus stat system
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Fae Tactics review: Fairy clever strategies
No true overworld in the traditional sense. The last screenshot in the review wrap-up is a look at how you interact with locations and the events in them.
No sign of a Switch version just yet, but the game will be retailing at $19.99. I'll be following this one closely to report on a Switch edition. I feel it's only a matter of time.
Looks to me like there's a screenshot of the "map" screen/menu in the article.