Set amongst the foggy woods and hills, Tenderfoot Tactics from developer Badru (@sonofbadru) of Ice Water Games is an SRPG currently early in development. I was lucky enough to get to experience the current alpha build, and what a treat it’s been.
Inspired heavily by Final Fantasy Tactics, your party is a group of goblins classified by their professions: knights, battlemages, scouts, and so on. Each offers a distinct set of skills that you can upgrade through ayourskill-tree, while kitting out your troops as you see fit. Battles are grid and turn-based affairs, but unlike your average SRPG, battle here is purely deterministic, with no random chance for missing or hoping to deal the max damage in the spectrum that your attacks lie within. Instead, you know exactly how much health your arrow salvos will drain, each sword swipe will always connect, and it’s purely down to the player’s strategy to work for a win.
One of the interesting quirks of fights, though, is how the play field evolves over time. Not only do your attacks have the capacity to shape the structure of the land either by raising or lowering spaces, but you are also at the mercy of mother nature as plants grow around you, either passively or from relevant skills. Harkening to Viridi, another title from Ice Water about nurturing cacti and flora, the game works in a simulation aspect with the changing battlefield. Overgrown bushes become hinderances to movement, slowing you to a crawl, and must be cleared before you can move easily through the space. However, this works against your foes as well. Should you spend a turn chopping down the foliage, or simply give that turn over to limited movement and hope it hampers your opponents in the same way?
Outside of battle, the alpha I played allows for a degree of open world exploration; in the “Foreverlands” you have a field to wander and, in that, there are packs of enemy goblins to slay, small fortresses, housing yet-to-be-unlocked, class evolutions, and lost goblins who you can recruit to the cause. It lays the foundation for what will eventually be a story mode about fighting back against the dreaded Fog blanketing the land, as well as serving as a nice buffer between fights.
The pacing of the game is excellent if the sliver I played is anything to go by. Battles never feel slow, instead they move at a speed that works toward encouraging you to think about your actions, and they feel as if they have meaningful weight behind them. The music evolves with the state of the battle, each slaying altering the track playing, eliciting a great atmosphere and tone related to the fight. From the outset, fights carry an ethereal nature, the music spooky and vast. But as opponents and your own troops fall, the songs begin to twist into fast-paced things, at once more melodic and dramatic. It makes for an interesting feeling, evolution of the music paralleling the ever-changing growth underfoot.
All-in-all, Tenderfoot promises to be something excellent. It already offers seven fleshed out classes to play with (four of which must be unlocked by challenging fights against parties composed of the class), and will eventually have more than 25 variants to choose from. Between its extremely tactical battles that are purely in the hands of the player, and its intriguing use of natural growth within those battles, it seems to be off to great start that will satiate even the most veteran of strategy and SRPG fans.
Catherine Brinegar is a trans game developer and filmmaker who explores the surreal and abstract in her work. Beyond her creative endeavors she enjoys losing herself inside other worlds, interactive and not. Finding inspiration in everything, Catherine aims to see all the world has to offer, through the continual conversation of art. You can keep up with her on twitter @cathroon.