Reverie Knights Tactics - Play It Smart
I feel like tactics games are such a hard act to balance. That’s not just in the obvious – you need to keep the challenge up so as not to bore the player, but also can’t let them wall themselves into an impossible situation – but also in balancing the past with the future. There are certain expectations players of tactics games have going into these types of experiences; most games only offer slight tweaks on a tried and true formula, if they sway from the path at all.
Reverie Knights Tactics is one such game that tries to do a lot of things at once – provide a contained tactics experience that doesn’t drag on forever; offer juicy battles that don’t blow out to simply throwing endless numbers of enemies at you; while also offering up a few fresh mechanics and adjustments to stand out on its own two feet. Some might say it does so quite well.
At its most basic, RKT is your classic grid-based tactics game. You move your units around a battlefield, taking turns with the enemy forces. Your units have 2 action points that can both be spent moving, one move and one use a skill, or stand still and perform a stronger version of said skill (with the occasional skill being able to be used twice). You have HP and MP, you can spend an AP to use an item if you so wish, and you only have a limited set of skills on any given character.
The mouthful that is Reverie Knights Tactics comes in a couple of flavours. Normal mode presents the default challenging combat and narrative – HP and MP don’t heal between battles, for example, requiring the use of food items or heading back to base camp for a rest and restock. Story mode pulls things back a bit – enemies are a bit weaker, your party is refreshed after every battle and items are more plentiful.
The challenge is well balanced for those looking for it – you need to be smart about your item and skill use, thinking not just about what’s required in the moment, but what you need to conserve for the long term. You have to make use of every advantage you have available here – heading back to base camp often is something you’ll find yourself doing often, not only to heal up, but also to cook up extra helpful dishes and unlock more powerful Tomes, or items your characters can equip for extra buffs or other combat advantages.
Combat itself is decidedly more interesting than simple grad based whack-a-mole. Where I’ve seen other tactics games offer environmental hazards and obstructions plenty of time, they are crucial for gaining the upper hand in RKT. Battlefields are quite small, and all units can only move up to 3 or 4 squares at a time.
Even with a decent amount of skills having a range of 5 squares, taking into account where you can move is key. Positioning then plays a key role, with flowers that shoot spikes that can cause heavy damage; hazardous tiles that incur significant HP loss as well as status effects like burn or sleep; exploding barrels, spilling cauldrons, spiked barricades… When your team has a maximum of 4 units while the enemy may harbour a dozen, making use of every tactical advantage is a must.
There are a few more extra flourishes that help RKT branch out from usual classic tactics fodder too, which helped keep the pace fresh. There are a few major puzzles along the critical path – one I actually got stuck on for quite a bit before realising the solution was quite literally staring me in the face the whole time – with a few lock picking puzzles off the beaten path should you wish to scrounge around on the occasions the game affords you the option.
There is also a choice based scale that is touted quite heavily by the game, but having only played through it once, I couldn’t tell you how affecting it is to your journey. All I can say is that my choices lead to a path that made sense, but it was difficult to see what might have happened with different deviations. Thankfully the shower game length means that if this appeals to you, multiple playthroughs are much less of a monumental task than with, say, a Fire Emblem or XCOM.
RKT opens up with a hint of something intriguing – not just simply a story of elves vs hobgoblins, but a murky history of war and oppression between two sides that both contain ugliness. I was so ready for this game to flip the idea of the righteous elves and the evil, sinister, ugly goblin creatures to be challenged, but… unfortunately, that’s not quite the tale being told here. Not yet, at least.
See, even up to the final battle, it wasn’t overly clear if I was playing through the first act of a much larger, world-spanning plot, or if I was closing in on rolling credits. Reverie Knights, I think somewhat smartly, sticks to the latter. It was in a lot of ways refreshing – a 12-hour tactics experience that sees you play through quite a few battles hit a few set pieces and then round out a smaller scale story in a much larger world. For a smaller team putting together their first game, it’s the wise decision, and it pays off nicely – while of course setting up certain plot threads to continue on in future instalments.
The smaller scale is actually quite fitting, honestly. You play as young scholar Aurora on their first expedition, with the goal of finding your father and returning either with him in tow, or his memories and knowledge intact. She isn’t some mercenary general/secret royal/budding swordswoman prodigy – Aurora is a student of knowledge. Sure she can hold her own with some sweet ice magic, but at the end of the day, her group consists of her, her best friend with a giant shield, a vengeful spear-wielding elf and a machine built as a conduit to the God of knowledge. These four beings are not going to take on an entire invading army – they are going to sneak around and take the wins where they can get them, completing their goals and maybe helping what few they can along the way.
There’s enough here to be satisfied with the arcs of each of the main and side characters without it getting too bloated or convoluted. I can see some people, especially those in the mood for the usual twist and turn shenanigans the genre is so susceptible to falling into, but a more restrained and considered approach here was definitely the right move.
I don’t know if I’m going to be screaming from the heavens any time soon about this little tactics game that could, but I’m also very happy I got the chance to play it. Reverie Knights Tactics somehow manages to be a juicy, gritty collection of worthwhile battles while also not taking weeks upon weeks to conclude a universe-shattering narrative. RKT knows what it wants to be, so it sets out and does it. What more could you ask for?
Reverie Knights Tactics was reviewed on the Switch with code kindly supplied by the publisher.