Welcome to This Is Not A Review. In these articles we discuss general impressions, ideas and thoughts on any given game, but as the title implies, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s an exercise in offering a quick recommendation (or dismissal) after spending enough time to grasp the ideas and gameplay of a thing without necessarily playing it from A to Z.
The subject of this installment: Wintermoor Tactics Club, developed by EVC and published by Versus Evil.
The quick line on Wintermoor Tactics Club is that it’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses lite.
Set in a New England boarding school in the early ‘80s, Tactics Club follows the adventures of a trio of friends who are united by their love of a strategic-play RPG called “Curses and Catacombs”. When the headmaster of the school declares a “war of the clubs” based on snowball fights, they begin applying their knowledge from the game to real life.
Battle, whether in C&C or snowball, takes place on a square grid. Each character has unique capabilities and special attacks, but the fundamentals will be familiar to anyone who’s played a strategy RPG. Only three characters can go into each fight, at least on the Tactics Club side, so the system feels restrained and simplified. That said, there’s an option to make every fight dead easy if you’re not feeling it and just want to follow the story.
Wintermoor’s narrative is set in the school and mainly involves protagonist Alicia walking around, talking to various students and retrieving items they’ve left somewhere or lost. Conversing with allies and developing friendships unlocks new powers for the slowly-expanding team. The cast is charming and believable (if a little prone to stereotypes) and the dialogue is sharply written.
Alas, this is not a review because I can’t stand to play this game, and the problem is load times.
The bulk of Wintermoor takes place on a map of the school, from which one selects buildings to enter. Going into a building, changing rooms in a building, and going back to the overworld all have loads between them. On its own this would be annoying enough, as the shortest load I ever got was on the order of 5 seconds. However, the true situation is much worse than that.
As my playtime increased, so did the loading times. At one point I clocked a loading screen at 58 seconds, with a further 12 seconds of soft-lock afterwards. This sort of thing rendered a major part of Wintermoor too frustrating to play, particularly since many of the activities in the non-combat portions involve a lot of traipsing back and forth between buildings.
The lengthening of the loads with playtime (and they got this long after about an hour, so not a LOT of playtime) has the smell of a memory leak issue. I can’t rule out, however, that the problem is my wheezing, launch-edition PS4, and I would hate to dissuade people from playing on a more tolerable platform because of my PS4’s geriatric issues.
Loading times are apparently not a problem in the PC version, so if this option is available to you, I encourage you to give Wintermoor Tactics Club a go on that platform. I found the writing in the first three chapters charming and the combat competent, but on my PS4 the loading times were simply too much of a burden to continue.
Currently Sparky works as a scientist in Rhode Island, and works gaming in between experiments and literature reviews. As a writer, he hopes to develop a critical voice that contributes to a more sophisticated and interesting culture of discourse about games. He is still waiting for a console port of Betrayal at Krondor.
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