Sometimes great things come from small teams. That’s the thought that circled my head after spending time on Tenderfoot Tactics, a game I never heard of until an email I received last week. Yet while the game is great, it won’t appeal to everyone and that includes myself.
Tenderfoot Tactics was developed by a team of six, with only five contributing directly to the game. It’s an open-world tactical role-playing game that allows you to go where you want and do what you want. The core developer of the game, Badru, started working on the game after the release of another indie title Eidolon back in 2014. Tenderfoot is a labor of love as it received no funding to develop and released on October 21. I graciously received a copy of the game and decided to dive in and see what its all about.
The game’s premise centers around a magical fog that’s been covering every corner of the world. You play as a party of goblins seeking magic from the friendly spirits of the lands to fight back against this growing threat. Over the course of the game you need to save the many goblin towns you come across, discover the truth of the fog, and possibly put an end to it. When the game starts you are given no marker on where to go. The only guidance you given is to go west. You’ll find the game gives you no compass and the map you find doesn’t make it clear which way is west.
Here lies the beauty of Tenderfoot, you can go anywhere. While the land you stand on is surrounded by water, your party will travel by boat to whatever lands you want to visit. While you control goblins, you also can get a birds eye view of the world from the help of a literal bird. Scroll up on the mouse wheel and you control a bird that can spot landmarks, points of interests, and towns to aid your exploration. The game also states the more birds you collect in your journey the higher you can go and the farther you can see. The game truly gives you the world from the beginning and your only limitation is your party’s strength.
As you travel, the world display like a pop up book. Landmarks will seemingly appear out of the water and can be full on mountains. I mentioned it earlier, but you can find maps at various towns along your adventure. However, don’t count on them being much help. Each one is designed differently and one town’s north can be another town’s south. I feel the developer wanted the maps to be like this to showcase how different each village’s perspective is.
If you look at maps over the course of history, it makes sense. They all varied depending on who drew them, where they were from, and how much had been discovered by that point. While it makes sense, I didn’t like this. I wanted something to show me how vast this open world is or what direction I traveled in. If I could suggest a quality of life update, better maps would be near the top.
The colorful yet simple art style will slowly be washed away into shades of black and gray as you adventure into fog covered lands. While the style caught my eye, it took time for me to get used to it and like it. I don’t believe in the idea that games need to be realistic or have fine details to look great, but a little more details would have helped.
This definitely holds true in the character designs. Nearly all the characters in your party look identical to each other. You can throw different color shades on them to help with setting them a part, but it’s not enough. Too often I felt I mistook who I was controlling in battles and would make incorrect moves to find out I put a ranged attacker too close or vice versa. It becomes easier to tell them a part as you unlock classes, but I still felt a little more detail wouldn’t hurt.
Shape the Course of Battle
Speaking of battles, in the fog you will find goblins looking to wipe your party. Those goblins will run full speed at you to start an encounter. Here is where I feel Tenderfoot shines. The early battles are not complex with some melee and ranged fighters. All attacks land, so you don’t need to worry about accuracy and all damage is shown, so there is no critical hits. While I said they aren’t complex, that doesn’t make them easy. A few hits from the fog goblins and you will see your character die. This forces you to think about positioning, terrain, and the capabilities of your team.
You can delay a characters turn by hitting them from the side or back. In some fights if you get really good at it, you can prevent the enemy from ever attacking. As the fights play out you will see time affecting the map. You may see grass or bushes pop up where they once weren’t. If you or your enemy archer has fire arrows, make sure you aren’t standing in those areas. The fires from the arrow can also start at one bush and quickly spread to adjacent brushes or grass making Smokey Bear very unhappy.
As you battle, you will gain experience through victories or picking up dropped spirits of your enemies. This will eventually unlock new classes for your goblins similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, which the game is an homage to. As you increase skills, you’ll start to gain the ability to alter the land around you. You can throw a grenade to create a chasm or use spell to create a cliff. The terrain can be adjusted to help or hurt your fights.
The worst part of the battles is easily the camera. You can adjust the camera using the the mouse or by using the keyboard. You can move the camera forward, back, side to side, or rotate it to your liking. While I cannot pinpoint exactly what is wrong with the camera, I just always felt it never would go where I wanted. I prefer a camera like FFT or XCOM and Tenderfoots just never felt right. It may not be a problem for most, but I felt I needed to share my gripe.
Not For Everyone
Now to why I say while the game is great, it doesn’t appeal to me. When I read the game was an homage to Final Fantasy Tactics, my optimism went through the roof which is my fault. FFT continue to be my favorite tactical RPG and putting this indie title in that category was a mistake. The trailer hooked me with the battle sequences and the simplistic art style grabbed my attention. However, the biggest flaw to me is its open world. FFT resonates with me so much through its story, not just its battles.
Tenderfoot brought the same thought to my mind over and over, “I feel this needs a little more.” My review also states that several times. I felt it needed a little more guidance on where to go, a better map to aid you, a little more work on the battle camera, a little more details on your party. All of this would make Tenderfoot appeal to me more. However while I want a little more, for others its just enough. They want the minimal guidance. They like the idea of exploring to uncover the secrets. They like the minimal art style and find no issue with the character design. They would disagree with me completely. That’s why I say this game doesn’t appeal to me, yet its still a great game.
You can tell the love that went into every detail and aspect of Tenderfoot Tactics. It’s a mysterious game with a lot of secrets to uncover for those who want to make the world their oyster.
Press Start gives Tenderfoot Tactics a 7 out of 10
Tenderfoot Tactics is available now on Steam.