If there’s one thing online browser games and turn-based strategy games have in common, it’s probably their function as a blackhole for spare time – both are an incredible and lengthy time sink, and Almasy Tactics is both at once. Billing itself as ‘an online SRPG with an emphasis on theorycrafting and competitive play,’ Almasy Tactics is currently available in beta with a single player campaign or online multiplayer. Whichever you choose, I hope you have plenty of time on your hands.
Set in a fantasy style world that seems to be having some nondescript fantasy land troubles, you and your merry band of characters stomp your way through the terrain, cleaning up as you go. As you progress through the different geographical areas, you face a host of fighters, sorcerers and ne’er-do-wells, collecting gold as you beat them and pass through their levels.
Starting your journey
The campaign mode starts off with a series of introductory tutorial levels, and once you’re finished with them (they’re non-optional I’m afraid, but thankfully fairly speedy) you’ll find yourself traversing the map, one section at a time. Each section has a series of levels topped off with a final boss stage (which is structurally very similar to the basic levels to be honest). You start each level from the section overview, which also gives you a little glimpse into the background of where you’re at. Once the section is complete you unlock one or more paths to adjacent areas, and travelling through the game is quite straightforward and linear. The big focus of the game seems to lie not in the quest, but in the customisation of the team you take with you.
There are 35 different classes available (although you start with only 4 and then purchase extra character slots with your winnings). Each character has a unique skill and can pick from different skill categories for the other slots. There’s a lot of customisation you can work with, switching up each class with skills that will change their range of attack, have an impact on their speed and so on – there are even extra skins available for characters which adds a nice personalisation touch.
The gameplay has an equally impressive depth to it too. The turns are double blind; at the start of each level you pick your characters and place them in one of the designated starting spots, then each player maps out their moves for the next turn. You get a chance to watch an animated playthrough of your choices before you lock into the battle phase. The moves are then carried out one at a time from the fastest to the slowest character. Due to this mechanic, the game requires you to be careful about changing the speed of your characters as you play, as their speed updates at the end of each turn depending on the skills they used and whether they moved or not.
Story and scenery
There’s clearly been a lot of work put into the art for Almasy. The hand-drawn world map is beautiful and detailed, and the character designs are all varied, expressive and distinctive. The music in each area is suitably adventure-inspiring, and there are some nice visual and sound effects when you or your opponent use a skill. Although the actual level layouts are very simple, that works well against the busy UI, although they do feel a little repetitive once you’ve been through a few areas.
There are some unfortunate cosmetic issues that did distract me as I played. The UI feels overly cluttered and there’s an overuse of animation that makes you feel almost a little motion sick. Every transitional screen is full of text and image animation where it isn’t really needed. There’s also a motif of large, red, animated arrows to point you towards important information which feels unnecessary and overbearing. During the campaign levels there are occasional lines of speech from the characters, for which the screen zooms in on the character who’s speaking – it only really results in blurred artwork and considering there’s a portrait in the text panel, it’s a feature I could do without. There are a lot of great design elements, but in terms of style, Almasy has some edges left to trim.
Although the strategy section of its SRPG designation is very in-depth, the ‘RP’ element may be a little overstated. After my first hour of play I still wasn’t really aware of any major motives for this trek across the wilds, as the only interactions your characters have are in the stilted one liners during gameplay. Still, if you don’t go into the game expecting a strong traditional roleplay experience, you’ll find that it doesn’t really need one. While the shoehorned ‘narrative’ of the dialogue and the area descriptions seems surface-deep at best, the levels work just fine as individual challenges.
There’s a good amount of gameplay in the single player campaign, as well as some achievements and challenges to complete as you go. I found the AI to be fairly smart which made the levels decently challenging. Although I got quite far without having to make any changes to my characters at all, it’s interesting to see how they effect the way you play. It does feel like Almasy is working hard to evolve; you can give feedback right from the homepage, and it seems to be taken on board promptly as updates are frequent. Considering the game is lengthy and free to play, I’d recommend giving it a try if turn-based strategy is your thing.
You can play Almasy Tactics online at almasytactics.net, either by registering an account or giving it a quick try as a guest player (be aware that you can’t save as a guest).
- Plenty of campaign levels and multiplayer option
- Detailed team customisation
- Frequent updates with feedback taken on board
- Graphically busy, cluttered UI and overly animated
- Character customisation feels too in depth for the actual gameplay
- Still being worked on, so you might run into bugs
- Not a lot of online players yet