I’ve been playing and thinking a lot about Tacticus of late and choose to write a little review. I publish it here because, honestly, among my flotilla of outlets this is the closest to a fit.
Anyways. Let us begin with the bad.
As I mentioned in another post, Tacticus subscribes to the gacha model of profiteering that so plagues contemporary gaming (and mobile gaming in particular). I get it. It’s profitable, far moreso than traditional pricing.
It’s also dangerous and exploitative, as I described in that other post.
So you get the game and the first campaign for free, but shortly thereafter you hit the paywall and you hit it hard. Your options at that point are to pay way too much money to get the stuff you want or way too much money to buy the in-game currency to roll the dice for what you want or to simply grind it out for free.
This is bad, but it’s not that bad. If nothing else Tacticus‘ pricing is transparent. There are many games following this type of monetization that unabashedly aim to deceive the user and wring every penny they can out of them for any frivolity, even something as simple as collecting the goods you’ve earned by completing a stage. In some you can get absolutely nothing without having to take your chances gambling on lootboxes.
Thankfully Snowprint (makers of Tacticus) do not do this. Yes, they are going to ask you pay $14 to unlock that one character you want, plus another $20 to boost their level up significantly, but you know you are paying that much. The cost is not directly obscured by way of confusing in-game currency. You can buy in-game currency (“blackstone”) to get those random lootboxes if you want, but you don’t have to.
For even if you choose not to spend a penny on this game the way forward is fairly clear. All the various game modes and factions connect to acquire the things you need in order to earn new characters and advance them. Unfortunately progression without paying is glacial. It will take a very long time to unlock much without paying. Thankfully the gameplay itself is very good.
But this monetization model is exploitative. As a grownup with a certain understanding of how money works, not prone to many impulse buys, wary of overspending, and suspicious of anything overtly capitalist anyway, it’s not that big a deal. I’ve not spent $20 so far and may or may not spend a bit more, as I suppose it’s within reason to put as much money into something like Tacticus as I would any other game. But for those prone to addiction, for children, and for others who just don’t understand the psychological tricks used in this type of model, it’s a real problem. Even the relatively tame model used by Tacticus is not without risk, though I am grateful it’s not deliberately predatory.
As I said, the gameplay is the thing. If it weren’t as good as it is then I would have deleted this app long ago and would not be writing about it now. Each game mode is centered on the core loop of turn-based strategy. Choose a character, tell them what to do, rinse, repeat. On its own this tactics-style gameplay is quite fun and enjoyable. What sets this game apart is the way in which it creates so many little layers of depth without letting Tacticus become needlessly confusing.
It’s challenging, but accessible. Even if you never read a tooltip (or whatever they’re called) or think about what attack you are using against what enemy and from what type of terrain, you could still play it and enjoy it. The UI is intentionally sparse, which almost becomes a problem but doesn’t, and this enforces accessibility while belying the level of strategic decision making available. Sure, the mean old meta will pop in from time to time, reminding you that, yes, you’ve got to level up those characters to make progress and by the Emperor didn’t ya not know we have a shop what can help you with that?
But, thankfully, the monetization rarely intrudes directly into the game. The two are well demarcated.
If the pricing is the rough and unsightly undercarriage, the hex-based strategic gameplay the engine, then the theme is the shiny coat of paint. You see, the monetization got me very riled up to start with, but the fun game mechanics tempered my mood. Then the fidelity to Warhammer pushed me beyond tolerance and into enjoyment. The character models look amazing and each has fine detail to reward the observant, just like those lovely miniatures that keep the Warhammer train a’rolling. Snowprint have a strong marketing/community presence that does far more than simply tell you what’s on sale that day – they highlight streamers and content creators and point users beyond Tacticus to the Warhammer hobby en masse. Updates aim to be frequent and quality. The stories are standard fare: one faction wants this while the other wants that. But the dialogue, as basic as it may be, rings true in the ears of those who know and offers a nice polish to the aforementioned paint job.
There is plenty more to critique but Tacticus has thoroughly grabbed my attention. I would much rather have paid $60 for a complete, polished experience (Splatoon 3, anyone?) but it’s what it is. I’d rather have this extremely decent Warhammer game on my phone than have it not exist at all.