Redemption Needed

HIGH Team-focused combat mechanics.

LOW Uninteresting story and characters.

WTF Give orcs a break.

There are some games that are uncompromising in their difficulty. They offer no easy mode and no handholding — they’re all trial and error, with players finding only the occasional success.

Redemption Reapers is one of these games.

It is an unforgiving take on the Strategy-RPG (SRPG), deriding some of the niceties that have become standard in the past two decades, and instead opting for a demanding — sometimes frustrating — experience.

The story is a simple and generic one, based in a grimdark low-fantasy world where an army of orc-like monsters known as the Mort are sweeping the land. The protagonist, Sarah, is a member of the elite Ashen Hawk Brigade, one of the last fighting forces left holding them back… And that’s about it.

Players are given little information either through dialogue or cinematics about the state of the world or its lore. There are supplemental texts to collect, but otherwise the storytelling leaves much to be desired — as do the characters. Built on blasé archetypes like the stoic leader, the jaded spearman, and big guy with an axe, the Hawks struggled to make me care. Sarah, at least, approaches being interesting as she’s regretful of a massacre she was a part of, but SRPGs rarely focus on story or character. No, the tactics are generally the focus and here, at least, Redemption Reapers has some nice toys to play with.

In some ways, it’s cut from the same cloth as older SRPG classics like the early Fire Emblems or even Final Fantasy Tactics

Players direct the five members of the Hawks, each with their own weapon type — dagger, sword, spear, axe, and bow (no spellcasters). They’ll  control free movement within a range determined by their stats and abilities determined by available action points that recharge each turn — but not enough to use the most powerful in quick succession.

There are no pesky social mechanics that the kids seem so fond of these days, but instead a series of menus to navigate between engagements regarding equipment, weapon repair, and more. And within the confines of the grid, there are no mulligans or time rewinds — one wrong move and a character will be out of the fight (or at least until a game over or retry). 

All of this is rather standard for the genre, but the defining feature of Redemption Reapers’ combat are the formation follow-ups. When another party member is within range of a targeted enemy, with the press of a key (quick-timed prompts lasting only a few seconds) that second teammate will land an additional blow before the enemy can counter.

This isn’t just a neat trick to deal some extra damage, it’s an absolute necessity since each of the characters are glass cannons, dishing out damage but able to take very little in return. Some are more fragile than others (there is only one true tank) so defensive formations and support buffs are also crucial.

Healing is limited to one-use-per-battle heals that can be restocked at rare waypoints within a mission and some high-cost healing spells unlocked later in the game. As such, players will not win a war of attrition.

When the system works, it sings as a satisfying cavalcade of attacks and positioning, especially since party members can often still move after attacking. Sadly, it doesn’t work all that often. Instead, it just feels limiting — due to the difficulty of encounters, it doesn’t pay to try any fancy flanking or pincer maneuvers. Instead, it’s more about moving into formation, defeating waves of enemies, and then rinse and repeating…

…Well, in most cases anyway, because Redemption Reapers is also a ‘character build’ game meaning you’ll be choosing to specialize in certain skills over others.

Leveling up comes with skill points to be put into various attacks and passives, and more are unlocked through progress. These choices might come back to haunt a player, though, as they did for me when I opted to avoid investing in abilities aimed at making one character operate out of formation, only to later have a mission start with that character isolated from the party.

The mission structure is also lacking. Most missions I played were either ‘eliminate all enemies’ or ‘defeat the commander’, which is essentially the same as ‘eliminate all enemies’ because of the design of the maps, which are generally linear paths through a series of small arena sections rather than a truly open field with multiple approaches.  And don’t get me started on the mindless AI companions that are useless if not detrimental within the missions they do appear, dealing little damage or dashing ahead of the pack to be killed.

Despite strong foundational combat mechanics common to the genre, Redemption Reapers is weak in just about every other aspect. Those flaws in combination with its punishing difficulty make it hard to recommend, and I’d say that it’s likely to produce more groans than thrills for all but the most hardcore SRPG players.

Rating: 6 out of 10

— Stephen Cook

Disclosures: This game is developed by Adglobe and published by Binary Haze Interactive. It is currently available on PS4/Switch/PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 15 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the main storyline was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Mild Language and Violence. This is a strategy role-playing game in which players lead a small band of mercenaries as they battle a rampaging army of goblins. From a 3/4-top-down perspective, players maneuver their mercenaries around grid-based battlefields to fight goblins in turn-based combat. Players use swords, spears, and bows to kill enemy forces. Battles are highlighted by sword slashes, cries of pain, and blood-splatter effects. Cutscenes depict additional acts of violence and blood: a man impaled though the abdomen; a woman slashed across the neck; a corpse lying in a pool of blood. The word “bastard” appears in the game.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available. 

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. There are no audio cues or effects necessary to play. The game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers partially remappable controls. Keyboard controls can be customized but controller controls cannot be changed.

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