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Tactics Maiden

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Old maid

Product: Tactics Maiden | Publisher: Mangobile | Format: iPhone | Genre: RPG, Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.8.3
Tactics Maiden iPhone, thumbnail 1
Nostalgia is a blunt weapon, and it has two ends. One will bludgeon you with dewy-eyed memories about old games often being amazing. The other will stun you with reminders that you used to pay for that fun in time and frustration.

Tactics Maiden is an old school SRPRG of weaponised nostalgia, which will hit you hard with both ends of the stick at once.

It starts raining down those blows right from the start. The tutorial lets you play some initial encounters, but requires you to ingest an awful lot of text as well.

And while there's a fashion for artisan pixel graphics right now, Tactics Maiden doesn't make that cut. It just looks old, and tired.

Back and forth

But then you start to get stuck into the scenarios, and things get interesting. The instructions suggest the game is just a positional slugfest with some levelling up to keep you coming back. It rapidly becomes clear, however, that serious effort went into engaging you with tactics rather than just statistics.

The game revolves around capturing key terrain features. Unusually, units can respawn after spending a few turns knocked out. They can then reappear at a friendly spawn point. But you can only have a limited number of the field at once.

So to win you have to capture enemy spawn points and occupy them for a turn to convert them to your control. There are also magic pillars, which act in a similar maner, except controlling one allows you to put an extra unit on the board.

There's other terrain, like impassable squares and chests to capture. It's those key elements of points and pillars that determine the shape of the game, however.

The need to isolate and capture them and then, in turn, the new springboard for units they provide gives a real ebb and flow to the fighting. 

Back to front

Yet, like so much of Tactics Maiden, it cuts both ways. The solid AI on display here is grimly determined to hold on to these vital assets at all costs.

IAPs explained
Tactics Maiden is free to download, but if you want to unlock the whole game you'll need to pay £2.99 / $4.99.
Capturing one means wiping out a defending unit and moving one of yours on top, all in one turn. Then that unit needs to survive through the enemy turn. And they'll throw everything they've got at you to stop that happening.

With such entrenched opposition, scenarios can be very frustrating. Tiny things can swing the battle away from you when you're on the verge of victory.

If the random numbers give you one less damage than you were expecting, or a movement route is one square away, that's all it takes. The capture fails, a new unit is positioned to defend the square and it starts all over again.

The player does have a lot of levers to pull to try and stop this from happening. There's a complex web of different unit and damage types that'll keep you trying different combinations to win a scenario. And there's a lot of scenarios, strung together with a plot stitched from random gibberish.

But never mind that. The slow character growth and the challenge will pull you onward. Grinding for gold, experience, and new troops is addictive. And with all that variety, it's not short on depth.

Back to the future

You'll have to work, though, if you want to make the most of it. The old-school design extends to an unhelpful and impenetrable interface. You can find or buy new equipment for your characters but there's nothing to remind you to equip it.

This lack of communication occasionally reaches ludicrous levels. I was several scenarios in, and starting to struggle, before discovering that characters don't get their level-up bonuses automatically. You have to go an assign them manually. Unfortunately there's nothing in the game that communicates this.

With a game so determined to conjure past pleasures, you have to take the rough with the smooth. I haven't missed grainy graphics, cardboard plotting, or unusable interfaces.

But if you can get past those, Tactics Maiden is there to remind us how compelling games can be if they get the basics right. Solid strategy, addictive stat-building and plenty of variety are all the foundations you need for a fun experience.
Tactics Maiden
Reviewer photo
Matt Thrower | 23 September 2014
Super old-school, but it proves SRPGs still have plenty of depth and charm
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