Publisher: Versus Evil
Review Context: I enjoy playing turn-based tactics games. I appreciate playing games that try something new within their genre and games that feature good storytelling methods.
Date of Playthrough: May 3, 2020
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-9700F CPU @ 3.00GHz
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER
Disclosure: This review is based off of a review copy provided for free.
Wintermoor Tactics Club, developed by EVC, is a game that I did not have on my radar at the beginning of 2020, but a game I discovered through the trailer and it immediately caught my attention due to the game involving turn-based tactics combat. Wintermoor Tactics Club takes place in 1981, Wintermoor Boarding School, featuring Alicia, plus her friends Colin and Jacob. As members of the Wintermoor Tactics Club, they are soon forced into the “Ultimate Club Tournament” using “snowball fighting” to crown the winner. The “snowball fighting” is the turn-based tactics combat. You learn that a supernatural force of great darkness has consumed the clubs, a premise that sets the stage for the entire game.
The first thing that must be said about Wintermoor Tactics Club is that it you shouldn’t expect it to be anything like X-COM or Gears Tactics, primarily because the turn-based tactics element of the game is both part of the gameplay and acts as a plot device. The turn-based tactics part of the game serves as a supporting character itself. Alicia, Colin, and Jacob are members of the Wintermoor Tactics Club, and they play a game called “Curses & Catacombs,” which resembles Dungeons & Dragons, with someone telling a story and using figurines on a map. This is how you are introduced to the turn-based tactics combat, featuring characters created by the members of the club. There is plenty of dialogue whenever you are interacting with the Tactics Club to flesh out the backstories of each character.
I was a bit skeptical about the turn-based tactics element of the game, but I feel there is enough there that is impressive. Each character has several skills, but each skill can be modified with ability upgrades as you progress in the game. Alicia’s character, Anjaya, is a mage, Colin has a knight character, and Jacob has a rogue character. The actual stages are mostly the same, but forgivable due to the lore of the game featuring a club with a single game board, with the snowball fights featuring snow of course. The visual of the board being tilted and on an angle helps add to the storytelling of this game that you are moving actual pieces on a game board. There are many things about the turn-based combat I really like, particularly the combat animations of the portraits when in battle. Sometimes moving and clicking abilities to do them can be rough, it’s manageable. Like other turn-based tactics games, the game does have a battle rating screen at the end and is presented very well, but was mystified when I didn’t get a perfect rating after beating a battle in one turn!
Most of the time you’ll be moving Alicia throughout the Wintermoor school in various settings like classrooms, stadiums, her room, and more. As Alicia walks throughout the school classmates can be talked to and they can sometimes provide side quests to go along with your main quest of defeating the other clubs in tournaments. One of my few gripes with the game is the quest tracker on the bottom right of the screen, which may be the most bizarrely implemented quest tracking presentation I’ve ever seen in a video game. This forces me to always go into the actual menu to get a better view of my quests. Completing side quests can get you ability upgrades and I did some of them, but I found out that I was missing a lot of upgrades from not doing side quests by the time I finished the game, The game does sort of give you a prompt near the end of the game that you wont be able to do anymore side quests if you proceed, so don’t forget that if all side quests is your goal. The game also has challenges you can do to get upgrades within the Tactics Club menu.
The art style, presentation, and introduction of all the characters is done extremely well, as the game humanizes almost everyone to really connect you to the story. As you defeat clubs like The Equestrians and other clubs you will add new members to your Tactics Club, each with new abilities and backstory that you get to take part in creating, although its unclear if the choices you make affect the character’s abilities. When I initially saw I had to do this I was a bit annoyed, but as I kept doing it with each new character I began to appreciate how everything tied together. In this visual novel type of experience you can imagine a lot of dialogue in the entire game, there is, and I felt most of it fit. There may have been a few times I felt the dialogue dragged a bit and felt a little too preachy and on the nose, but the writing is generally tight and well done.
I can’t talk about Wintermoor Tactics Club without talking about the soundtrack and even-flow of the storytelling, which makes the experience what it is. There are a bunch of tunes from the game I can’t get out of my head, particularly the song in the trailer. As someone who watches movies, a good soundtrack can really add to the storytelling when you put the right track in the right scene and Wintermoor Tactics Club does exactly that. To the credit of the artist and composer, Mike Sennott, everything fits perfectly with the emotion of every scene. The even-flow of the storytelling going from chapter to chapter, talking to students, moving between the Tactics Club combat that tells each character’s story, the Ultimate Club Tournament match, and adding a new character to the Tactics Club until end of the game is something I felt made the game very accessible. It always feels good to know the pace of the game and where it is going, but I was extra satisfied with the ending of the story because I did not expect it to end the way it did. There was one aspect of the story that is very predictable and I was ready to write this review and destroy the story, but it played out much differently than I anticipated. The difficulty of the game starts out easy and progresses to get more complicated, and I wasn’t too thrilled with design of one of the battles in the end because I felt it could have been executed better and fairer.
Wintermoor Tactics Club is the total package and exemplifies why I enjoy covering indie games. The passion of EVC is clearly noticeable, the storytelling is excellently uplifting, and the turn-based tactics combat is implemented creatively and good enough for what the game’s premise is. I definitely recommend Wintermoor Tactics Club and can’t wait to see what they develop next!
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