Telepath Tactics: Liberated Overview
Telepath Tactics: Liberated is a remaster of Telepath Tactics, a Fire Emblem-inspired game that was released back in 2015. In Telepath Tactics, you control a large number of unique characters in turn-based combat. One of the game’s sticking points is how Telepath Tactics places a focus on using the environment to your advantage. Shoving enemies into the water, blowing up bridges, and forming chokepoints to name a few.
You can find a video version of this review on my YouTube Channel
You move between story missions where the actions you take or the characters you bring can have an impact on the game’s direction with some missions never appearing, or others becoming available. If you rescue one particular guard, she may lead you to a mission to rescue another character, for example. Both will join your party if you succeed.
I’ve never played the original game or any of the Fire Emblem titles which caused Telepath Tactics to challenge both my skills and my preconceived notions about a genre I’m very well versed in. This was a difficult game to review as I had to slowly come to terms with design decisions I didn’t agree with.
It’s always interesting when games force you to evaluate your own biases against the merit of what they are offering. What they are, versus what you want them to be. For me, Telepath Tactics: Liberated is one such game.
|Gideon’s Bias||Telepath Tactics Liberated Information|
|Review Copy Used: Yes||Publisher: Sinister Design|
|Hours Played: 25+||Type: Full Release|
|Reviewed on: PC||Platforms: PC|
|Fan of Genre: Yes||Genre: Turn-Based Tactical RPG|
|Mode Played: Soldier and Veteran||Price: $24.99|
The story follows the journey of two young women, Emma and Sabrina Strider who attempt to liberate their father from slavery. As a result, they cross paths with a large number of unique characters that can join them in their struggle.
The story can feel rushed or short-handed, and it’s not unique or terribly gripping but interesting enough to keep your attention. The dialogue can be a hit or miss of oddly placed sarcasm or jokey quips that give the setting a bit of an identity crisis. The characters are constantly staring down death and slavery is a heavy issue. Yet, it feels like they are in a Saturday morning cartoon at times.
Every character has a unique personality that can be somewhat one-note. One’s a flirt, one’s a heavy drinker, another one loves puns, and so on. At the same time, they are all easily identifiable through their quirks and that does give you a kind of attachment to them.
A lot of characters join you, and you can take a dozen of them into some battles, yet I always know who is who and can call them by name. That’s rare in a tactics game where I didn’t name the characters myself.
There are a few weird plot hiccups. The first real villain you’re shown vanishes from the game with no explanation. Emma, an 18-year-old character who was sheltered by lizardfolk most of her life, manages to infiltrate a bandit fortress by pretending to be one of them with absurd ease.
The story and writing, while shallow and rushed, do attempt to be inclusive with a great many strong female leads and a same-sex relationship. That’s nice and worth mentioning.
Telepath Tactics offers several choices of difficulty that go a bit further than most games. One thing I’ll point out is that the settings themselves aren’t simply listed, they have explanations detailing what they do.
The lowest one gives the main characters literal plot armor. While the hardest one dials down the amount of gold and exp you gain in addition to other changes.
In higher settings the enemies are smarter, moving to target weaker characters or even turning your own tactics against you. I sat dumbfounded the first time an enemy shoved one of my characters off a cliff. However, I went from being mad to being disappointed in myself that I somehow didn’t see that coming.
I played on Soldier and Veteran. Veteran feels like the way the game is meant to be played as it features permadeath, and the absence or presence of different characters alters your mission paths. With the Soldier difficulty, characters don’t permanently die, they instead lose some max health as a consequence. That’s an interesting trade-off.
I can’t enjoy games without a challenge, so I’m a pretty heavy advocate of difficulty settings so that I can crank it up to the level I enjoy. It’s rare for games to have settings as detailed and forthright as the ones in Telepath Tactics. I appreciate both, the settings themselves and the transparency.
Combat is the centerpiece of Telepath Tactics and is where the game truly shines. The battles grow larger as the game progresses, so taking them on requires you to bring all of the game’s combat systems to bear in your favor.
You’re almost always outmatched, and the enemy can be surprisingly smart. On the difficulties I played, I always had something to lose. Each battle is an intense chess match where the enemy is free to sacrifice as many pawns as it wishes, but your army is made up of unique characters that either die or weaken if they go down.
The environment matters. Attacks from elevated terrain, the side, or from behind deal more damage. Characters and objects can be pushed or pulled, and the environment is destructible.
Forming chokepoints, taking out high-level threats or healers and rotating frontlines are just a few of the many tactics that you will need to employ. Those tactics can change based on who you send into battle, as there are a bunch of classes. Everything from Telekinetic Psychics to Assassins, Bronze Golems, and Mantis Mounted Calvary can join your Warband. Each one has distinct strengths and weaknesses.
Every battle is handcrafted, and optional chests litter the field full of money and gear that you will regret missing out on. Trying to balance winning the fight, keeping your people alive, and obtaining the loot is a satisfying strategic challenge. Although, it can make the game feel more like a puzzle, albeit one with many moving parts and several solutions.
The combat is simply excellent, seemingly small features have drastic impacts. One such feature is that movement is split between some actions. For example, Sabrina can move, place a snare trap and then finish moving. Archers and cavalry can move after attacking. Having that kind of flexibility allows you to maneuver and plan in a large number of ways.
Characters also expend energy to use abilities, but there is a passive rest mechanic that lets them regain some of it if you don’t move them. It’s a small but significant cog in the strategical machine. You can recharge your healers and spell slingers by finding a moment to let them breathe.
It all comes together to form an exceptionally strong and addictive combat system, but one that does make me wish it was in another game.
Everything that Telepath Tactics Liberated does well sadly comes into conflict with the structure that holds it together. The difficulty settings without permadeath can feel like cheating because of the game’s structure. Telepath Tactics is a strictly linear game. You bounce from mission to mission with no agency in between.
That means everything from gold, to exp, battles, and even people are finite. Losing too many people early on can result in you being locked out of the game many hours later. As the battles become insurmountable with the ones that remain.
On my first go at it I was confused. When I lost a character and failed to recruit another, I was given several procedurally generated characters to make up for it. I kept waiting for it to happen again, but it never did. It’s particularly strange that this set of procedurally generated characters only appear at a single point in the game AND have special traits the story characters don’t have!
I love permadeath, especially when I get to make or name the characters (which you can’t do in Telepath Tactics). It’s one of the reasons I take so strongly to games like Wildermyth, Battle Brothers, and Phoenix Point. However, it’s hard to stomach it in a linear story-based game with predetermined characters. It’s not like a replayable rogue-lite.
Starting over means replaying the same handcrafted battles that can last for over an hour, and going through the same dialogue. The thing is, you can have these issues even without the permadeath. Your weapons degrade, and you only get to shop at specific points in the story. If you have failed to accumulate enough gold or loot, you can have issues.
There is no grinding to make up the difference. If you under-leveled or miss leveled characters you want to use, you’re out of luck. There are prestige classes that I only unlocked as I was nearing the end of the game.
All of those design decisions feel like they are in direct conflict with each other, and I had a hard time coming to terms with them. When I realized the game wasn’t going to give me new recruits and I was doomed three-quarters of the way through the game, I was ready to throw in the towel.
The combat, however, was not so easily forgotten. Annoyed as I was, I found myself wanting to play it again because I enjoyed the combat that much. As I begrudgingly started the game a second time, something clicked, and I viewed the game in a different way.
My issue stems from what I want turn-based tactics games to be, and what some of them are. I want them to be customizable, replayable, and procedural. Telepath Tactics is none of those things. It’s linear, handcrafted, and you don’t customize the characters beyond the equipment you give them.
I still believe half of the design decisions conflict with each other. After doing some digging I learned that Fire Emblem does similar things, and if I were to play them, my stance would remain unchanged.
However, upon starting my second playthrough. My joy of the combat, its intensity, and the tactical variety led me to embrace the game in a different way. I might not be in love with the design decisions that led to the game forcing me to start over. But the reality is, the game placed a set of challenges in front of me and I failed them. That’s why the late game became impossible. The game didn’t take those characters from me, I lost them.
The combat gives me all the options I need to form a plan to tackle each level. This time I wanted to also smash open all the chests for the loot since I had missed many the first time around.
Letting go of the fact that Telepath Tactics isn’t Final Fantasy Tactics or Battle Brothers let me enjoy it in a different way, all carried on the back of its phenomenal combat system.
It’s incredibly satisfying to complete a level with your whole party intact and all the chests opened and looted. The game itself doesn’t rely on luck or dice rolls, most attacks are completely deterministic. You almost never win because of a lucky break.
On one particular save I even stubbornly remained in a battle that I was meant to retreat from, simply because I wanted to see if the game allowed me to take out an overpowered boss character. It took me two hours of intense and careful combat. Picking off enemies, funneling them into chokepoints using barricades I created with the Engineer. I had to rotate my front lines in and out, recharge my healers and knock enemies in on the water. But I succeeded.
Not only did the game allow me to do it, the boss dropped special gear for me to take. It was incredibly challenging. The battle forced my brain to go into overdrive, and it was incredibly satisfying to overcome such a challenge.
Sure it felt very meta-gamey. Going out of my way to fetch random chests in a battle where I could lose characters felt wrong. As did remaining to fight an enemy I was clearly meant to retreat from. But I learned to enjoy a style of play outside of my comfort zone. That’s a testament to just how strong the combat is in Telepath Tactics.
Would I be happier if the combat from Telepath Tactics was dropped into a game with a style closer to my tastes? Absolutely, it’s not even a question. But at the end of the day Telepath Tactics is still a good game, in spite of my disagreements.
Funny thing is, I’ll be getting my wish. Sinister Design is aiming to release Together in Battle this year which takes the combat in Telepath Tactics and places it in a rogue-lite wrapped in the procedural generation that I crave so much. I am very, very excited about it.
Verdict on Telepath Tactics: Liberated
My feelings on Telepath Tactics are complicated. Its story is ho-hum but inclusive. The difficulty settings are varied and deep but feel at odds with the game’s design. The combat is brilliant but restricted to its linear nature. I came across a few minor bugs as well, but nothing game-breaking.
There are a few other oddities too. There is a morale and food system that never really comes into play. Or the fact that a single set of procedurally generated characters can appear AND have traits the others don’t.
The combat carries the game further than I could have imagined because it keeps me playing in spite of the things I strongly dislike about it. It’s a brilliant mix of mechanisms that makes it so you can’t brute force your way through the battles. Yet, the tactics you employ feel intelligent rather than cheesy.
Not to mention the game also features a very deep campaign editor where you can make campaigns of your own. They can be complete with fully customizable characters, cut scenes, and dialogue that you can then upload to the Steam Workshop.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Telepath Tactics has the potential to be one of the best platforms for user-created storytelling, all backed by a stellar combat system that makes them a blast to play. I’m really excited to see folks get their hands on it.
Pick Up Telepath Tactics: Liberated from These Stores
- Inclusive story
- Deep custom campaign creator
- Varied and detailed difficulty settings
- Stellar combat with a strong tactical focus
- Using the environment and pushing/pulling characters and objects is a ton of fun
- A large number of unique characters and classes
- Permadeath and unique irreplaceable characters is a poor mix
- Fairly bland plot and dialogue
- Linear nature and weapon degradation means you can have issues in the late game since exp, gold and loot are finite
- Linear handcrafted battles limits replay value
Who Would Like Telepath Tactics: Liberated
- Telepath Tactics is heavily influcnced by Fire Emblem and is a safe bet if you enjoy those games.
- If you want a cerebral tactical challenge.
- You enjoy strategizing how to not only win a mission, but master it.
- You want a turn based tactical game that jumps from battle to battle with no wasted time exploring.
Who Wouldn’t Like Telepath Tactics Liberated
- While the game has easy settings, a large part of the game’s draw is the creative tactics you need to win. If you don’t like a challenge, it may be hard to enjoy either way.
- If you value replayability, customization, and procedural battles in tactics games. Telepath Tactics has none of it.
- Knowing your actions now can screw you over later can be stressful or lead to obsessive save scumming. Steer clear if you’re sensitive to that.