There were all types of exhibitors on the show floor of this year's PAX East, but my favourite were probably the indie developers. They didn't have the largest of booths or loudest of sound systems, but these self made presenters had the blood, sweat, and tears to create a their own unique brand of content. One of those indie all-stars was Craig Stern, creator of Telepath Tactics. Michael A. Cunningham recently had the opportunity to interview Craig about his upcoming strategic RPG, but myself and Q&A Columnist Michael Apps were lucky enough to have our own hands-on preview. The demo won us over pretty quickly, and you'll be in the same boat if you’re at all a fan of Shining Force, Fire Emblem, or Disgaea.
Telepath Tactics takes place in a fantasy-steampunk universe that purposefully deviates from a number of the fantasy norms we've become accustomed to. Instead of magic, the world of Telepath Tactics uses psionics and steam-powered technology reliant on a volatile, crystalline substance called vibra. Your cavalry will not ride on horses, but rather giant, armored praying mantises (which happens to be the stuff of my nightmares). Elves, dwarves, goblins, and dragons are nowhere to be seen, but a number of cool new species are likely to garner some attention upon release. The narrative logistics of commanding units on the field also had an interesting twist. "I've never understood how [in strategic RPGs] so many units in different locations were able to receive orders as they do," Craig told me. "In Telepath Tactics, your units do what you want because you are telepathically issuing commands." Neat.
He went on to note that the inspiration for Telepath Tactics came from wanting to play Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance with a friend, only to be limited by a single player experience. Most gamers in his situation would begrudgingly accept this, but Craig resolved to create his own strategic RPG instead. With a few tweaks, that is. Telepath Tactics features the same excellent turn-based gameplay that fans of the genre love, but includes over twenty familiar and unorthodox character classes, the ability to throw and push enemies on the field, environmental damage, in-battle terrain alteration (building bridges, fencing, etc.), up to six player local multiplayer (for team battles or battle royals), and modding capabilities for user-generated content. You can actually use Telepath Tactics' framework to create new maps, unique campaigns, and even scripted dialogue sequences between your characters. I didn't get to check out any of the edit tools myself, but I've been assured that it's going to be pretty comprehensive. Providing the online community that supported the game really takes to this feature, Telepath Tactics could have new content for years.
Naturally, there will be a fully fleshed out single player experience for those who would rather not create their own, but the concept of a "moddable Fire Emblem" is pretty sexy in itself. So much so that Michael looked ready to pull out his wallet and start flinging stacks of cash in Craig's face.
Telepath Tactics, planned for an April 2014 release, is still going strong on Kickstarter. It was fully funded within a week, but is looking to hit a few more stretch goals. Definitely keep your eye on this title and consider backing it if you're a fan of the strategic RPG genre.