Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire - Turn-Based Tactics RPG


#1

I thought this project might interest some here (I know there are a few Shining Force fans amongst us). It’s a good time to be an old school gamer.

Kickstarter project page


#2

Not quite on topic but with the mentions of Shining Force…

If anyone is super jonesing for a game in that style I highly recommend giving the game Spectral Force 3 a chance. It seems to be a total love it or hate it kind of deal from the feedback I’ve seen, and objectively there’s enough to hate I suppose. But here’s my own take on it:

DON’T come for the “graphics”, that’s what half the people probably can’t get past in the first place, it “looks bad” and stuff. Whatever, from what I have gathered at least 2/3rds of the assets are ripped unchanged from an earlier PS2 game, even then it’s very uneven, some of the models are very appealing and some like most of the generic enemies can be quite ugly. And there’s low production beyond a few anime interludes and otherwise all static pictures with occasional mediocre voice acting.
OTOH: most of the characterizations are quite good, although the protagonist is (intentionally I think) the most generic hero of all time, I’ll get the cringing out of the way for you right now… his name is “Begina”. lol
Also animation is actually very well done and consistent, which is more important than anything else to me. The game has an action game quality to it in the way you actually run units around when moving, and there’s a standard attack system that’s almost identical to the original PSO, which also feels very immediate.

DON’T come for the story, it’s also about as rudimentary and generic as it gets. Again aside from a handful of animes it’s all played out in extremely basic dialog exchanges, and the lack of production is an obvious deal breaker for those who are inclined to let it be.
OTOH: it is interesting and unusual for the fact that your own group is sort of inconsequential to the story, yes you still basically have to save the world or something like, but again from what I have gathered the game is effectively a Gaiden entry for the series canon, and as such the majority of exposition you get is incomprehensible yet intriguing fanservice references to all the back stories and connections between the recruitable characters. It gains a pleasing sense of scope from that, like you are just an interloper in a world you don’t quite belong to anyway. And you can just glean / impress what you want from the characters you like.

DO come for the actual game, the battle system, I will even go so far as to call it brilliant. Apparently the series began as a Dragon Force clone on the PSX, so this is a departure from the mainline system, but there have been different games closer to the Shining Force style before, I’ve seen references to a PSP game that this game apparently takes its system from but from what I can tell SF3 is distinct in many ways. I don’t know for sure and don’t care in the end, all I know is that THIS game can be thrilling to play. I’ve noticed a few complaints from people who say it is slow paced, and all I can figure is they just have no clue how to play the game then. There’s only a handful of missions at most that can’t be completed inside of ten game turns, because the whole system is wired for breaking turn limitations. You are limited to only six units, two of which are fixed, but I will say that until you’ve seen / experienced annihilating a dozen strong enemy units in a single Teamwork combo you basically don’t understand what the game is about. I think it is actually too deep even for the average SRPG player, they like to think about their positioning and attack attributes each turn and think they’re being all strategic and stuff, but most games don’t genuinely demand long term thinking or give out such broken rewards for intricate plotting. If you really dial things in, wading through missions where you’re outnumbered five to one, and finishing in seven or eight turns, is almost a matter of routine.
One other notable plus is the interface, once in a mission there’s I think only nine total menu selections you will ever need to mess with for each unit, three each in three sub-menus, everything else is handled with direct controller inputs and an impeccable control key system, which again keeps things pleasingly immediate and fluid if you get past the initial learning curve. It is by far the best console interface of its type I have ever personally experienced.
OTOH: the more valid problems people might have are with some uneven challenge spikes, limited and recycled arenas, and general sketchiness of the package as a whole. There are a few choke points in the campaign where people get frustrated because you are forced to play a mission regardless of how prepared or not you might be. I recall getting a little desperate the first time myself, but you do have many options available, and it should always be possible, again I think most people don’t like to face challenges that don’t conform to their expectations. If the meaning of a JRPG/SRPG experience for someone is all about over leveling the characters so they can dominate weaker enemies then this is definitely not the game for them.
Also seeing so many of the same maps over and over might be disappointing, but only if you want to let it be. Superficially they are just functional, but they actually grew on me over time, they are quite well crafted and deceptively nuanced. Like making a good friend, you get to really know and appreciate them.
And at its essence it is clearly a low budget project given to a low priority platform, but if someone can’t make peace with that then oh well, it’s their loss imo.

Maybe this has done nothing but bore everyone who might read it, in a way I hope not to oversell the game, but these thoughts about it have been with me for a while and so they had to be said once I started. I REALLY like and enjoy Spectral Force 3 personally. (obviously) And I think it is another perfect example of the kind of thing I’ve talked about with PDS as well, it’s very very easy to dismiss the game based on what it isn’t: it isn’t slick or impressive or a riveting story, maybe someone who actually follows the series could be upset that it’s different from the other mainline games, and it’s definitely not like other typical squad/grid SRPGs in many small respects. But appraised for what it actually is, I see it as a very inspired, carefully executed, and clearly passionate creation.

Anyone who has a 360 and likes these sort of games would be doing themselves a disservice not to at least give it a chance imo. It should be cheap enough if you can even find it, or hopefully I’m not wrong about that.


#3

Tahira doesn’t look too good to me. Shining Force is over two decades old and yet looks much better. Maybe I don’t like the art, but it looks plain to me.


#4

I still plan to play Dragon Force one day, mainly because it took full advantage of the Saturn.


#5

I appear to have overlooked Spectral Force 3. I sold my 360 not long ago, so it’s too late to try it now.

What I’ve found is that leveling up characters isn’t necessarily what makes these games fun. If the strategy is solid, the stats can become secondary to the experience. It would be interesting to see how well these games would hold up if they were reduced down to their core strategy elements.

One thing that’s appealing about Tahira is the lack of filler. At least that’s what they’re claiming: “We’re shooting for 4-5 hours for Episode One. We’re not adding any filler, it’ll just be you playing through the best story we can write, fighting battles in unique scenarios and having lots of conversations with your traveling companions.”

I think the art style was deliberately chosen to look the way it does. It’s not a matter of age, but rather a stylistic choice. Although the art is minimalistic, the animations are quite detailed.


#6

Well I suppose I should have at least mentioned it long before now, but it’s one of those games I just sort of liked when I first played it but not enough to hype, or maybe even would have felt sheepish in a way, like a guilty pleasure. It was certainly never on my radar or anything, I just saw Spectral Force 3 in a shop one time and it called out to my taste of the moment, I’m even sure I was half expecting buyers remorse but something about it looked promising. I’m actually fond of the visuals overall and the old-school clean aesthetic attracted me, but they hinted at something like real personality as well, perhaps paradoxically. Right away I was pleasantly surprised by the snappy and smooth 60fps update, not that it’s any great achievement for what the engine is pushing but I have seen so many 360 games that look even less demanding and still have an ugly frame rate. I’m pretty sure it will render native 1080p as well, so despite the “bad” graphics it’s not such a low grade product as most people seem to think either.

I didn’t get to the ending the first time I played, I think I got a little annoyed with failing a mission that seemed like it should have been possible too many times, even though it was optional. I didn’t quite realize I was basically in the endgame though, and you’re more or less expected to grind up as needed at that point. There’s some other curious systems in play that indirectly scale the challenge according to your performance grades, if you do better in missions your Mercenary company ranks up faster, which in turn triggers the gateway missions earlier, which can make them harder. But it’s all quite obscure which contributes to the potential frustration factor until you understand everything a lot better.

Anyhow I’ve seriously picked it up again two or three times since then, and it’s one of those things where I appreciate it more and more each time I return. I’ve now confirmed almost all the questions I still had about it, since there’s no comprehensive info out there that I’ve seen, but I was last working towards a sort of God save where I could have all the recruiting missions available before I unloaded almost all my games and systems last year (not including the Saturn collection of course) which I will probably return to again, it’s actually one of the handful of 360 games I kept since you never know when a game like that could become difficult to find again. :smile:


#7

Please do make a topic if you come across any rare gems like this in the future. I’m sure some people here will be interested to hear what you’re playing.

Looking at Wikipedia and GameFAQs there is no mention of a PAL version. That could be why I’ve never seen Spectral Force 3 in stores before.


#8

Minimalistic is the right word. Nevertheless, look at the graphics in Warriors of the Eternal Sun for the Mega Drive which is western medieval fantasy and is ancient by today’s standards. The art is less plain and more imaginative. Good game too.

I suppose I shouldn’t let art make or break a game for me, but what I am saying is nothing is stopping the art from being more imaginative because it has been done before with ancient graphics.

This makes me miss Dungeons and Dragons lore.


#9

Another Shining Force style game recently came out on PC: Telepath Tactics.

It’s not going to win any awards for the graphics, but the gameplay looks interesting. “Everything on the battlefield is manipulable: cut down trees, bust through walls, build bridges, lay traps, and fling your enemies off cliffs”.


#10

Tahira is out now by the way. Positive reviews.

It’s a shame that there’s no controller support, which doesn’t make me want to rush out and play it. A PC exclusive through and through I suppose.

What other turn based tactics games are worth looking into these days? The Fire Emblem series appears to still be going strong. I recently tried one of the Disgaea games but wasn’t too impressed. I guess the cutesy anime style doesn’t appeal, which is one reason why Tahira sparked my interest.