Review by · May 31, 2024

Superheroes have found themselves represented in a multitude of genres over the years, from action-adventure to match-3, but the principles of patient strategy and slow control haven’t really been explored in the turn-based RPG space. While a few examples exist, they’ve had questionable success for one reason or another. Spitfire Interactive seek to change that with Capes, a tactical turn-based RPG with a dash of flawed superhero characters and a smattering of dastardly villains. They’ve enlisted the support of Morgan Jaffit (writer on 2002’s real-time RPG Freedom Force) to craft a story that would sit comfortably among weekly comic series of the last forty years. Although Capes’ graphics and mission design never soar to the greatest of superhero heights, the tight focus on tactical battling and team-based synergies offers a breezy romp worthy of a double-page spread or two.

Capes is set in the fictional metropolis of King City. Decades ago, the supervillains of this city emerged victorious in a lethal battle against the heroes of the day. Since then, they’ve made the use of superpowers a crime, and no one dares oppose them. The villains’ plans quickly gain traction in the story, with the revelation of a shady enhancement programme used to strengthen their ranks. It’s down to a small team of rebel superheroes, led by an old-time superhero survivor of the original conflict, to stand up to this injustice. The pulpy story has enough twists and turns to hearken back to the Bronze Age of superhero comics and those darker themes and characterizations. It’s important to note that the world and characters are all new designs, much in keeping with the ethos of the original Freedom Force. This choice keeps the narrative and setting fresh and avoids the often-tricky business of interweaving established lore or timelines from licensed properties.

To stop the villains, you take control of this growing roster of superheroes as they battle the opposing forces on small tactical maps. These combats are turn-based and feature a maximum of four superheroes, each with their own skill set and role. The system of a two-action economy, and the grid-based movement and engagement zones should be very familiar to anyone who’s played an XCOM-like of the last decade. A solid, well-designed UI holds all of this together. The combination of information panels, tooltips, and ability grouping works well, particularly on gamepad. The screen is not overly cluttered and visuals, symbols, and markers are all intuitive. Given how even one wrong move can scupper a mission and there is no undo feature, this is a vital quality.

Screenshot showing Rebound attacking enemies on the battle map in Capes.
Now you see me…

Character design is varied in appearance and combat roles, and there are several superheroes to meet and recruit. Facet, who can grow crystal shards to protect himself and others from enemy attacks, is the main tank and protector of the team.  Weathervane can damage groups of enemies with a chain-lightning attack and can push and pull them around to set groups for damage. Rebound, on the other hand, is a fragile attacker, adept at teleporting in and out of combat and striking from behind for increased damage.

All hero abilities are well-balanced and varied in how they can be applied. They’re not earth-shattering either: hero abilities and vulnerabilities are suited to lower-power protagonists, further evoking the legacy of Bronze-Age characters and series. But it’s in the Team-Up skills that Capes offers a more unique twist. When standing close enough to another hero, the current hero can add a unique ability to an existing power by drawing on their colleague’s influence. For example, by standing next to Rebound, any other hero can use her to teleport them across the battlefield. Rebound can use Facet’s Team-Up skill to empower her backstab attack with a crystal shard, causing more damage. It’s cool to explore these synergies, and with the number of heroes to meet, there’s a vast range to find and test out. Finally, all heroes have an Ultimate ability that powers up as they use their base abilities, or fulfill other conditions. These abilities are often game-changing, so knowing when to use them and ensuring you’re powering them up is key to many battles.

Success in battle garners XP, unlocking upgrades and new abilities as the hero levels up. Once an ability is available, a pool of SP (skill points) is currency to purchase it. These points are pooled for the whole squad and are rewards for completing objectives and optional objectives during missions. Most characters have no more than a half-dozen basic ability choices by the end of the game. This might seem restrictive, but it keeps the tactical focus on using powers and synergies at the right times and with the right superhero to take advantage of a Team-Up. There are very few redundant abilities over the course of the game’s challenges.

Battle map showing a hero setting the map alight with multiple enemies in sight.
Those red barrels will lead to a world of pain for the enemy goons here.

Missions are a selection of the usual types: elimination, survival, extraction, and protection objectives are all present and correct. Each map has multiple optional objectives, such as completing a certain number of Team-Ups or disarms, and these set a sort of soft challenge to those who want to earn every last SP. Terrain effects occur widely and are vital when facing the sheer number of foes existing on most missions. Enemies take increased damage (or die altogether) when pushed off a high ledge, and burning tiles deal damage every turn that is compounded for each burning tile entered.

Some missions start with the heroes undetected and offer a stealth element. In these missions, turns continue as normal, but enemies move along predetermined routes. You can track these routes and enemies’ field of vision to move around and eliminate individual enemies without alerting the rest. In principle, it’s a solid idea, but the mid to late-game examples are often long and ponderous. There’s also no satisfactory alternative: it’s difficult to succeed if you go in all guns blazing when the mission indicates it’s a stealth start. You need to take out some enemies quietly, and you need to consider at least some of their patrol routes.

There’s a wide variety in enemy design, from brutish goons to super-soldiers and androids, all with unique and cleverly integrated skills. Androids have an additional attack each turn that fires a projectile across the map in a straight line, ignoring cover. Other enemies can teleport towards your heroes and make an immediate melee attack. It all serves to add more strategy to combat and has you constantly considering which superhero abilities best match up to nullify the threats. The fights with the game’s supervillains are the stand-out moments. The main triumvirate each have their own method of twisting the heroes’ powers and abilities, such as confusing their targeting or flooding the map with explosive drones. These combats test your grasp of hero abilities and synergies the most. Which combination of Team-Ups and Ultimates can stop a villain who can clone himself every time he’s hit? When do you use them?

Graphically, Capes is a mixed bag. The story is told primarily through fixed 2D montages using comic book-inspired frames to progress the narrative. The problem is this art style doesn’t match the character assets on the tactical maps. Once in the field, characters are not as well-defined and suffer from awkward animations and a lack of polish on their models. They don’t always feel like the same people. The field maps fare better: there’s a wide range of distinct urban areas to battle through, including rooftops, underground labs, and other locales that you’d expect to see in superhero battles. Alongside some solid voice-acting, there’s also a decent music score that pounds and throbs at the right moments.

Two of the games characters discuss the difficulties of fighting for justice.
Story scenes and side stories offer quite a bit of soul-searching.

While it was clearly not the intention to swamp the game with additional systems (gear, items, base-building, etc.), the lack of additional pursuits does mean the game begins to lack variety by the halfway mark. Outside of chasing down optional mission objectives and unlocking some side-story scenes, there’s not much else to do other than fight. Capes offers a solid amount of content, though. The main story missions take upwards of forty hours to get through, and the optional mission objectives do make grinding for additional XP/SP to spend on upgrades less of a chore.

You need these upgrades, too. The game can be a punishing experience on normal difficulty and there are some nasty spikes on the main story maps. This does come back to the game system: there are maps and objectives for which some heroes are just the wrong choice and Capes is not a TRPG where you can persevere through bad choices. There were multiple missions where, three rounds in, I realised I’d made a positioning mistake, or prioritized the wrong enemy and had to restart or reload. Given that most later missions have multiple phases that add enemies or change the nature of the objective, it was especially frustrating when it looked like a team seemed to be working initially. Having to play through missions to discover all their phases and then realizing that the team was never going to work was an annoying blip in the game experience for me.

Capes offers a fresh theme in the TRPG market, with a story of flawed superheroes fighting for justice in an oppressed city. The turn-based combat is sleek and well-balanced and the unique Team-Ups offer a bevy of approaches to address mission challenges. The UI is clear and concise, and the game does a great job of presenting key information to make effective tactical choices. It’s a pity that a few hindrances, both graphically and in the repetitive combat, hold the game back from being truly epic, but if you want a little bish, bash, and boff with your tactical, turn-based RPG, you could do a lot worse than playing superhero with Capes.


Well-balanced heroes and abilities, team-ups offer tactical complexity, UI is efficient and smooth, decent story holds the combat together.


Graphics are inconsistent, focus on combat can make the mid/late game repetitive, stealth maps are hit and miss.

Bottom Line

Capes uses a clever twist on team skills and discrete abilities to offer a solid, tactical turn-based RPG evoking Bronze-Age era superhero tales.

Overall Score 81
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Mark Roddison

Mark Roddison

Hi, I'm Mark! I've spent most of my life in the education sector, but away from this world I like nothing more than to slip into a good fantasy or sci-fi setting, be it a good book film, TV series, game, or tabletop option! If it is a game, you won't find me too far from the turn-based games. From Final Fantasy, to Shadow Hearts, to Baldurs Gate, to the Trails series, all have me hooked. When not indulging in cerebral turn-based nirvanas, I enjoy soccer, fitness, and music where I tutor keyboard and guitar professionally, as well as having an unhealthy obsession for progressive metal as well as some 80s synthwave. I nearly forgot I also have a lovely wife and little boy who also make great co-players! :-p