Editor’s Note: Review was based on v. 18.104.22.168. The current version includes a total grammar overhaul, fixes for the camera, and remedies pretty much everything that was a serious issue, technically, in the game. So you should officially try it out, keeping in mind the following review is your benchmark for how far the game has progressed.
I detest preamble, so I’ll just come out and say it: Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes is a good game trapped in a bad game. It’s a witty parody covered with a poorly done translation and awkward control that rob it of its essential nutrients; much like a turducken. And, much like a turducken, it sounds awesome until you try it. Then you’re simply left with regret and a funny taste in your mouth. Read on.
Drake is a soldier of the nation of Glory who failed his military academy exam. Since nobody ever fails the exam, he decides to off himself by facing down a carnivorous mushroom. Fortunately for him, Glory’s greatest hero, Holy Avatar, rallies him to the cause, convincing him to fight against the forces of the Dark Church and their leader, Mother of God. From there on, Drake devotes himself to saving Glory. In the process, he winds up recruiting a ragtag bunch of soldiers including three scantily clad maidens, a goblin thief, a psychotic angel, an even more psychotic barbarian with war flashbacks, and a goth vampire.
As you can probably tell, Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes (GT: EH) is intended to be a complete parody of RPG and SRPG clichés, from the emo hero to predictable and overused plot twists. The problem is the translation. Silent Dreams is a German company and whoever they got to translate the dialogue did so poorly. Idiomatic expressions are garbled, spelling and grammar errors are rampant, and nothing flows. It’s a shame too, since I can see that the story must have been clever and the jokes witty in the original German, but the effect is almost totally ruined with the awful translation into English. I wish I could say that it’s excusable, but when one of your two main selling points is the dialogue, it just doesn’t work.
Speaking about selling points, the other big draw the designers had in mind was a throwback battle system to SRPGs of old, such as Shining Force. In this respect, GT: EH performs solidly enough. The team is sent on missions from the hub town of Station Wish. Each mission’s goal is to defeat all the enemies and sometimes collect the treasure that they drop. When you agree to the mission, you are teleported to an area where you roam around and eventually encounter enemies. Upon encountering enemies, you go into a turn-based SRPG battle mode. Each character’s turn order is displayed on a sidebar, and on a character’s turn, s/he can move around and attack, use one of two skills (gained on level ups and costing MP), wait, defend, or loot something. This should sound simplistic to any SRPG fan, and it is: that’s the point. This isn’t a Front Mission game, or even a Tactics game; you don’t have much in the way of options. Every new weapon or piece of armor is better than the last. There are only two skills per character, and you gain both upon reaching a certain level (3 and 8, I believe.) If you want some customizability, look elsewhere.
The interface is incredibly simple, though, and can be accessed either using the mouse or number/arrow keys. What’s more, if there is only one enemy a character can interact with, selecting attack, skill, or loot will automatically carry out that action. While this automation can seriously backfire (positioning is important) most of the time, it was a welcome addition to play.
The only true sticking point with gameplay itself is the “obsession” meter. Obsessions are like limit breaks, except instead of Omnislash it’s stab-your-teammates-in-the-face… slash. Each character has his or her own obsession, and upon taking/receiving enough damage, it will activate. Drake’s is pretty good: he increases his and any nearby teammates’ attack power. From there, though, it’s pretty downhill; Holy Avatar puts everyone around him (friends and enemies) to sleep, the maidens will randomly shoot an enemy or ally that is standing near Holy Avatar, psychotic angel Angelica will beat up a teammate (because you’re not protecting the healer), West the barbarian will go berserk and hit anything near him for extra damage (usually your party members), the goblin will blind everything around him and teleport away, and the vampire will… wait for it… suck your blood! Obsessions were more of a hindrance than a help and were often worse than anything the enemies could do. On top of that, you have no choice about activating them. Activation just happens automatically.
Still, that niggling problem aside, while I can’t say there’s much depth to the gameplay, I’m one of those people who likes my SRPGs simple, and in that respect GT: EH delivers.
Normally I save talking about control until the end, but in this case it goes hand-in-crippled-gnarled-hand with gameplay. The controls are awful. Moving the mouse even a little bit can cause huge swings in where the camera is located. Even when I changed the mouse sensitivity, the camera felt incredibly floaty. Often I would select a tile for my character to move to, only to have him/her move one space short. There was also no way to swivel the camera, making it a chore to select enemies that were behind pillars or other obstructions. The sum total of all these control issues is serious interference with gameplay.
Meh. Characters and environments are rendered with polygons and the models work well enough. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of enemy types and each has at least one palette swap. Fortunately, changing your characters’ equipment changes how they look, so that’s a nice touch. On the down side, the camera is a real problem as mentioned earlier. Sometimes it will zoom in so close that I can’t see where I’m going, and there’s no way to correct it. While it didn’t seriously detract from my enjoyment of the game, it was yet another obstacle that could have been remedied with a little more QA.
See: Graphics. The musics is nothing special and is more atmospheric than anything else. Sound effects are sparse and mainly consist of grunts and slashes. Nothing much to see here, move along.
I came in with low expectations for this game and I think that’s why I rated it as highly as I did. There is the seed of an interesting, enjoyable, funny, and simple SRPG in Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes, but it’s buried in fertilizer. An awful localization, noisome controls, and a spate of glitches requiring a reload make this a game to avoid at the roughly $20 price tag. Hopefully for everyone, something verdant and strong will grow from Evil Heroes, but we’ll have to wait until Grotesque Tactics 2.