Sometimes I miss the good old days of computing. Flying a line drawn Cobra from Diso to Lave rather than dropping from a bus and staying inside an ever-decreasing storm. Imagine my delight when Live By The Sword: Tactics from Labrador Studios arrived for me to review. It looked like a refreshing reminiscence of when days were simpler and swords were sharper. All this was wrapped up in an 8bit feel, the 80s, here I come. Time to polish my helmet and grip my weapon in both hands, I’m going in.
Live By The Sword: Tactics – May Lady Luck Guide You Well
First Impressions of Live By The Sword: Tactics are good, it’s a simple mouse driven game. There are various modes that are available, some need to be unlocked by playing the story mode though, but that’s always a good place to start. The tutorial is short as there’s not a lot to explain, after all, how hard can it all be? The truth is that the difficulty isn’t in learning what to do, it’s how to bring it all together in a battle.
The story is flimsy and cliché at best, but it serves its purpose of learning about the different classes. You travel from A to B via various ‘surprising’ ambushes. Sometimes I actually wondered if getting to B was really that important and considered returning to A and having a cool pint of mead whilst harassing a wench. I didn’t, I eventually got to B and discovered a plot, well, of sorts.
In Live By The Sword: Tactics you take part in a battle on a 10 x 10 grid. Each character moves in turn performing a move and an action. The aim of the game is to use the skills at your disposal to overcome the enemy. There are some good elements and there are some not so good elements. In theory, a better tactician should always triumph, hold the archers back, send in the grunts and so on, but this is counteracted by the luck element. Each attack has a chance to hit, miss a few in a row and the tables are turned on even the most perfect tactics. Imagine playing chess and manoeuvring your queen to take the last pawn and claim a checkmate. Victory is yours, but you roll a one on a die and the pawn survives the attack sending the queen back from whence she came. Maybe the game should be called Live By The Sword: Tactics and a Little Luck? Some may argue that you need good tactics to endure the bad luck. I am not some. Overall, this makes playing a little frustrating, and whilst in story mode you just get another shot at it, in adventure mode death is permanent.
Once again, I find myself reviewing a game advertised as an RPG? Once again, I find out that it’s not truly what I would consider an RPG. Your characters do not advance in ability, and there are minimal decisions to be made in terms of quest decisions. Other than choosing which characters to start a battle with, which skills to bring and where to start, there was one decision made in act I. Fortunately finishing act 1 unlocked adventure mode.
In adventure mode the gameplay is the same, but there is a mild improvement to the mechanics overall. Start in a little tavern and conquer a little territory at a time. Return and rest to heal, spend money on buffs or debuffs and hire new characters to join you. Each battle victory yields financial rewards that can be spent on improving your squad, death is permanent though, so less suicidal charging in to act as a distraction is advisable. I was hoping that maybe I could be able to find items that enhanced my power and defence, but alas, no ‘King Tarquin’s Armour of Radiating Beauty’ or ‘Lord Lovechild’s Pokey Thing of Death Bringing’. Treasure is just money, but at least there is treasure. The aim of adventure mode is to take over the entire region. Watch out for the demon’s head though, tough times lay in wait.
I did skirt around how exactly the battle works earlier, and as it is the best aspect of Live By The Sword: Tactics (and Luck) I shall revisit it. Place your 5 characters (or less) on the battlefield. Where you start does matter so think wisely. Each character has either a ranged or a melee basic attack and four special attacks. The special attacks can cause buffs or debuffs, or simply do more damage or area damage. These all have cooldown durations before you can use them again, so use them wisely and in the correct order. If you can get the high ground, the Obi-Wan has taught you well and you will have an advantage. There is also cover to hide behind. Use your characters as a flowing force of destruction and you will conquer all, but one mistake or overlooked strategy could mean a swift demise.
In case there wasn’t enough for you to think about you can unlock tactician mode by completing act 2 of the story mode. This is a host of pre-set battles to fight where you have to defeat the enemy quickly. Choose your characters and choose your skillset and go postal. You will be rewarded with either a gold, silver or bronze (I’m guessing, I only ever got a gold) trophy and bragging rights.
If you get fed up with the computer beating you, then why not try out multiplayer? There is an option to play local in a hot seat format or online. I only managed to play local as there was much fear in my enemy’s eyes around the world. I did however beat both my kids and they are now washing up for the rest of the week.
Graphics & Audio
The word is Retro and Live By The Sword: Tactics is everything that you would expect to find. The 8-bit graphics are excellent and the backgrounds are well designed to represent different landscapes. I loved the rotate and zoom in for each action as well, something that wasn’t around thirty years ago. Get up close and personal with the wrong end of an anchor! The menus are easily navigable and easy to read, in fact I can even play without my glasses. I felt young again whilst immersed in my gameplay.
The retro feel of the graphics is also fully embedded into the soundtrack and I was very nostalgic to head the sound effects and the background music. The audio of Live By The Sword: Tactics is perfect for the task it is required for, and the team have hit the nail on the head with both the look at feel.
The team behind Live By The Sword: Tactics are still making changes and are very much engaging with their players. Changes are coming with nine new classes being made available, a board builder to customise terrain and traits for your characters. There is no doubt that Live By The Sword: Tactics is going to evolve into something great, but for me it still leaves a lot of boxes unticked. The gameplay of the battle is the core of the game, and this is by far the most satisfying aspect. I am genuinely excited to see how much more Labrador Studios bring to the table and look forward to reliving an update of my youth. I suspect that a dedicated fan base will be picked up and provide the momentum to flourish in its genre.
Live By The Sword: Tactics has a lot going on in terms of variety of modes, but I fear that it falls short in a couple of areas, the most important being advancement, carrying your characters through test and trial and mastering the bow and the sword to greater levels. Would be nice to find the odd item, maybe scrolls or warhammers of doom? The team at Labrador Studios are on the case though and hopefully soon my wishes will be granted, in the meantime I shall enjoy the odd nostalgic hour or so fully emersed in 8-bit battle.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.