[Review] Templar Battleforce – Ode to RPG

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Templar Battleforce is a new tactical RPG from Trese Brothers known for Star Traders, Templar Assault and Age of Pirates, but Templar Battleforce is by far their most polished and impressive game. This review is basically a shout out to all hardcore tactical RPG fans to give this indie gem a try. With the price tag of $7, this game is absolutely worth it, and provides tons of gameplay time and fun.

Story

Star Traders is still a thing in the Templar Battleforce, and if you haven’t played that game, here is quick introduction to the sci-fi story. Human exodus, as seen by the developer, will take generations of star travelers, or traders, roaming the depths of the universe in their spaceships. Looking for the new home, the star traders have largely dispersed into the vortex of the unknown, with a smaller group settling their colonies on the new planets.

Templars are their protection. They are a military force that stands between the leftovers of the humans and what lays ahead, in the dark of the space. It’s nothing friendly, and quite a few hostile species fancy an idea of finishing off the new colonies of the star traders.

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Templar Battleforce are humans wearing the huge Leviathan combat suits. Initially designed to mine on the gas giants, these suits were evolved into perfect killing machines – huge, mighty, hi-tech. This makes me think of the suits the military wore in the “Avatar” – these must have been the prototype.

The game begins with your ships being attacked by the Xeno ships, a non-humanoid species that look like giant spiders. The story evolves throughout the missions, as you clear the areas of your ship, then travel to the colony planets and purge the grounds from the aliens, and so on and so forth.

Most of the story is presented in the form of the dialogues, inner monologs, multiple choice dialogues that define where your team of Templars travels next. There is no voice over, which is a good part. Why, you ask? Mostly because the voice over would do the story uncovering way too lengthy while the fast readers will quickly soak in the details and briefing and move on.

If you should consider the story part too lengthy or too distracting, the game offers a “Skip All” button that lets you skip all the cut scenes. However, I would not recommend this option, especially to the newcomers to the world of the Star Traders. First of all, because it’s an interesting part of the gameplay, which lets you establish an emotional connection with your team of Templars. Second of all, because the dialogue – monolog part explains the mechanics of the new elements in the interactive manner, sometimes giving the tips and clues for deploying the cunning strategies.

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Gameplay

The gameplay in Templar Battleforce consists of two major parts – managing the Templars (+ hanging around in the HQ while discovering the bits and pieces of the story and choosing the new missions) and battling the alien slime.

Let’s begin with the war part. Your group of Templars deploys to the area where the mission is due. Initially, you have only two templars, but as you progress you can recruit more and have a selection of them. The battle is turn-based, and during your turn you can deploy a variety of actions. First of all, you can choose whatever templar in any order – there is no limit to which order you use. Each templar can move only six steps on the grid. Besides moving, your templars have a selection of skills each. They all have different weapons and secondary weapons, sensors, shields, engineering abilities, protective skills and the like. Each skill has a range where it can be deployed. So, each templar has a limited number of AP, action points, he can use in a turn. Each weapon, sensor or special skill requires a certain number of those action points. You can use them all in a single turn, or you can use half of them and leave the templar in overwatch. Much like in The Walking Dead No Man’s Land, the overwatch ability will let your templar attack and defend his position during the enemy turn.

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The enemy turn is governed by the AI, and you will have to suffer the consequence of the alien advances. Note that you can enable the “Skip” button in the settings of the game if you do not wish to watch the enemy turn in real time, but would like to fast forward the attack and all the effects that come with it.

In some areas, you will capture the special control units – these will generate the currency you need to recruit new templars. Notably, once captured, these units keep producing the points you need, so over time you will be able to recruit high-level characters.

So, you eliminate the incoming waves of the aliens, complete main goals, side goals – this is all familiar ground. What sets Templar Battleforce apart from the crowd is how deep the strategic planning is, the huge number of factors to consider when making your moves – it’s a tactical RPG fan paradise! Even if you find the storyline too familiar, you will certainly lose yourself to the tactical part of the game because it’s immense.

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The second part of the gameplay is managing your templars. Each time you complete a mission, your heroes will get a set amount of points, and you will distribute them in your Head Quarters. The manager panel for each templar has several tabs. The first screen is where you assign the available points to the basic characteristics of your templar – Attributes and Skills. These are identical for all templars. The Attributes include Fortitude, Willpower, Focus, Strength, Quickness. The Skills include Gunnery, Warrior, Tactics, Evasion, Grenades. Hence, you get a chance to craft entirely yours, unique templars as you see fit.

On your left, you will see the four additional tabs – Talents, Equip, Design and Record. The Talents include templar’s unique skills and depend on the templar class (more on the classes below). You gain one talent point for completing a mission and you can assign it to one of the available talents, also class specific. Each Talent has several levels you can train, and they have pre-requisites you need to complete before they become available. The Equip tab lets you equip your templar with the class-specific weapons and ammo, or gear. Sensors, rifles, blades, gauntlets, shields, suits – each comes with a load of stats and the level of its own. You can not upgrade the available gear, thank goodness, but you can always see the list of available items for each class of the templar and re-assign the rare and epic items to other templars of the same class.

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One other important management panel is the Requisition Tree. Here, you will see the classes of the templars and choose which class you would like to evolve. I wouldn’t say you can expand in all directions, nor can you reassign the points you spent previously when you re-consider your choice. Captain, Soldier, Engineer, Scout, Hydra, Neptune, Berserk and Palladin are the classes you will unlock gradually as you advance in the gameplay, but you will also define how far you can evolve a character of each class in this Requisition tree, which is huge.

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Once again, I cannot stress more the depth of the available customization options for each templar and the overall variety of the aspects you get to manage in this game. It is definitely overwhelming at first sight, but the good part is it’s all very intuitive, and before you know you will be micro-managing and hopping from one task to another automatically. The fact is the depth and variety is so enjoyable I found myself nodding in agreement as I was discovering the features for the first time – yes, this is right, this is how it should be, I am loving it.

Money

One of the greatest aspects of the game is the no-IAP system, no ads either. You do not rely on the hard-to-grind currency or the IAPs, and the control units keep generating the points necessary to recruit more templars. What I haven’t sorted out yet is where I can see how much I have at the current moment, to know how to plan my recruiting process. But it hasn’t limited me in the recruiting thus far, so I am happy.

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Replay Value

The game lets you have multiple instances of the game, and choose which one to play at any given time. Provided there are over 30 missions and 8 difficulty modes, you might be out of sight of your friends and family for a very long time. You can’t replay the completed missions, unless you choose to Replay a mission when you complete it successfully. Overall, Templar Battleforce is so huge, with a great variety of maps, some of them very large, and the multi-layered missions, it is well worth the price.

The addiction factor is further fueled by the emotional connection you develop with your templars, as you spend hours upgrading and equipping them, discovering the back story, investing all the time and effort into working out their talents, skills, and experimenting with how all that complexity plays out on the battlefields. That is why I am never playing the perma-death difficulty modes.

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Difficulty

As I said, the game offers an unprecedented number of difficulty modes, and the players familiar with the Star Traders and Trese Brothers take on RPG should feel confident enough to start with a Normal, or Demanding, but the newcomers should definitely go with the Easy to get the hang of the basics. The Easy Mode restores defeated templars each level, meaning you will still have them for your next mission. The Demanding mode, for example, introduces perma-death in case of the victory, and resurrects the dead templars in the case of the defeat. The Nightmare and Ironman difficulty modes introduce perma-death in all scenarios – be it victory, defeat or abort.

[Upd.] Apparently, the failed auto-save was a random problem on my end, because the game should be auto-saving after every turn.

One other aspect of the difficulty here is a no auto-save option when you’re on a mission. If you should get interrupted and exit the game, your current progress within a mission is lost. It’s all or nothing. You may view it as a flaw, but I see it as yet another difficulty factor to consider when starting the gameplay session. I always estimate whether I have at least 20-30 minutes free from distractions – both because I want to finish a mission and because the game is so engrossing my girlfriend starts throwing things at me because my brain does not register what she’s saying.

The templar management panel will seem overwhelming to the newcomers, but thanks to the developers’ focus on user experience, all the tabs and features are self-descriptive, intuitive and easy to remember. I’d say the micro-managing part does not have a steep learning curve, but the battling strategy and tactical part does. There are just too many things to take into account when making each move – the templar class, his position, skills, Action Points, offensive, defensive skills, enemy disposition, potential direction of the incoming waves of the enemy, formation building or splitting up. Even choosing the direction to move can sometimes be a case of trial and error.

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Design

I have heard some players express slight disappointment with the 2D top-down view, which may seem somewhat outdated. Not the way I see it. I am loving the design. First of all, the menus, buttons and icons are wonderfully intuitive and feel right – I couldn’t care less for the animations when I need clarity in the first place.

The design of the templars is impressive while I am totally digging the looks of the spaceships – these remind me a lot the Out There spacecraft. If you have played Wayward Souls, The Enchanted Cave 2 or Stories of Bethem, or Shattered Planet and enjoyed the style, you will most likely appreciate Templar Battleforce design, even though it’s not pixel art. There’s just so much going on on the battlefields you need to have a clear understanding of the tactical aspects rather than marvel at the tentacles of the alien. They’re gross enough to look ominous.

I wish there was more variety of the templar helmets, or the “faces” you see on their portraits and icons in the missions and HQ. I fail to recognize who is who unless I see the description, or when I get used to the names. Notably, you can edit the names and the looks, but while you can choose whatever name you like, the looks options are limited. Yet, I find the design quite unique and definitely worth a praise.

The sound score may get a bit repetitive over time, but you can disable it and play your favorite music in the background.

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The Good

  • Perfect for the tactical RPG hardcore fans
  • Worth its price
  • No ads, no IAPs
  • Excellent character building options
  • Excellent strategic mechanic and technological development
  • Superior tactical gameplay
  • Good 2D top-down, retro style design, which makes it feel even more like an old-school hardcore classic of the genre
  • A lot of play time
  • Nice story, likable characters
  • Gameplay customization options (skip buttons)
  • Flawless performance
  • Strong personality, addicting
  • Big variety in environments
  • Branching story, different endings
  • 25+ enemy units
  • 30+ levels, 8+ difficulty modes

The Bad

  • The sound score gets repetitive
  • The sheer depth of the game may seem overwhelming to the impatient player, which is a shame – get that patience and study your basics, it’s worth the time

Clipboard-5Templar Battleforce RPG

Developer: Cory Trese
Genre: Role Playing
Price: $6.99 (-30% at launch)
Download from Google Play
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The Verdict

Templar Battleforce is a superior tactical RPG for the hardcore fans of the genre. Even though some players may find a few faults with the lack of voice over, a typical sci-fi story and the retro style in design, these factors are secondary, if not irrelevant under the circumstance. The depth of the brilliant character building, a fantastic tech development tree, strategy planning and tactical battling is unsurpassed and is one of the best on mobile. The game delivers that old-school classic feel and the hard challenge of the past when the games weren’t made to be snackable and lightweight. A solid and robust RPG, Templar Battleforce is easily the best in its niche I’ve played this year.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Overall Gameplay
Art, Sound
Replay Value
Performance
Price
Difficulty
Story