TROUBLESHOOTER: Abandoned Children


Review by · February 8, 2024

It’s always been an intriguing thought exercise of mine to imagine a near-future, “JRPG”-inspired roleplaying game setting working alongside the sort of crunchy, tactical combat more associated with genre heavyweights such as FF Tactics, XCOM, or Disgaea. South Korean developer Dandylion published TROUBLESHOOTER: Abandoned Children (T:AC) back in April 2020, and it certainly has ambitions to fulfil both those briefs and therefore place itself in an intriguing niche of the RPG pantheon.

The story of TROUBLESHOOTER: Abandoned Children is based in a near-future representation of Valhalla, a mega-city with a soaring crime rate where private companies, called Troubleshooters, are established to tackle growing gang violence. You play as Albus, who has recently formed his own company. Whilst supporting the city in suppressing crime, he meets and recruits further members into his force whilst also being drawn into a city-wide conflict between police and rival gangs. Over time, Albus and his team begin to make connections to their past, and further mysteries about their shared history as youngsters in Valhalla emerge. T:AC‘s story is earnest enough, and the melodrama of the plot and hidden character motivations are all on display. The characters are all very different and the cast offers an inclusive range, both thematically and personality-wise. Although the main characters (and the antagonists) don’t develop the emotional heft of Rean/Estelle and crew from the Trails series, the feisty and offbeat nature of team members like Hero Irene and Giselle add welcome variety and humor to the narrative.

However, the narrative structure is where problems start to emerge. There are quite a few characters to keep track of, most with motivations and histories that are not explained well. The story wants to craft an interlocking narrative where past decisions and relationships come to light and explain why characters are acting as they are, but translation and exposition issues make this hard work. A weak translation diminishes some of the more emotional reveals, and it is hard to puzzle through who or what is being referred to and how that fits into the larger story. Don’t get me wrong, I love a Trails-sized cast and interlocking stories/histories as much as the next RPG fan, but the written narrative, pacing, and signposting would have benefited from more clarity and nuance.

Three character portraits appear during a cutscene. Two of the characters are dressed in military officer uniforms, while a third wears a more casual outfit. One character, Alisa, says, "Don't mind her. She's still immature."
Characters look distinct and memorable in the drawn story scenes; dialogue, less so.

The main gameplay loop is a familiar cycle of downtime at the Troubleshooter base, a rented bar where the team can rest and resupply, and turn-based strategic missions in a 3D field. The majority of these maps have multiple cover sources and traversable locations, and verticality is used well to provide alternative routes and strategies. As the story progresses, additional mission types (rescue and escort, timed) become available and maps begin to contain special rules or specific details that need to be navigated. Missions are tied to different areas and neighbourhoods of the city, and offer monetary, experience, and other rewards for making these areas safe.

Enemies are the usual mix of melee or range-focused, and consist of mostly male, human gang members for the bulk of the story. Some of the elite units and bosses display clever abilities, such as teaming up for additional attacks or reviving from their first KO. Their design variation is pretty limited, and when dealing with dozens of bad guys on the map, I struggled to tell one apart from the other. Indeed, even epic and boss characters are sometimes only distinguishable by the little crown icon they have or their hit point count.

A skirmish in an urban, plaza-like area with tables and tree. The game's UI is overlaid atop the environment and displays such information as character turn order, HP gauges, and more.
A familiar presentation for turn-based tactical RPG fans.

The game onboards the player well, but it quickly becomes apparent from the useful tutorial that the mission systems are incredibly complex. Turn-taking alone is governed by a numeric time unit which allows for a far greater strategic approach than just IGOUGO. This is just one area where the sheer complexity of different systems begins to establish itself, and set TROUBLESHOOTER: Abandoned Children‘s gameplay apart from that of its peers, for better or worse. There is, frankly, a huge amount of information to parse, and this makes understanding how the systems depend on each other a real cerebral exercise. It also means that each mission is generally a commitment; few missions can be played quickly and some later story missions are very long, with dozens of units in the field.

Character progression is just as complex. The mastery board — a series of abilities that can be unlocked through loot drops or character actions — presents a dizzying array of over 800 possibilities to consider alongside the character’s base class. At its core, the system allows for a wide variety of interlocking abilities and cool movesets. As Albus and the team develop, you can build characters who focus on forestalling enemy attacks before counter-attacking themselves, or characters who focus more on long-range sniping, for example. It becomes even more in-depth when the mastery sets are completed: a sort of “happy families” for masteries, where specific combinations open up even more powerful abilities and passive boosts. For example, I can combine the “forestallment” mastery above with a counterattack, and two other masteries to unlock an “Undefeated” set. This strengthens the base masteries by reducing the action time of a character every time they hit first or counterattack. There are a staggering number of such options to discover, so it is a pity that the actual UI for unlocking, researching, and assigning masteries is quite clunky and not always instinctive. Eventually I was able to make use of it, but I always felt that the UI was getting in the way of my understanding. I could never tell if newer, harder-to-unlock options were better than older builds. Were earlier sets outdated? Still useful? The UI offers no easy way to compare effects and changes in this regard.

During a battle in an urban setting, a window informs the player that a new mastery, "Body Training," has been acquired.
Woop! Gotta catch ’em all!

Alongside mastery progression, characters also gain abilities linked to their main and subclasses as they level up. There are many, many possibilities open to players. Given that the team each has a preset starting build that suggests a potential path forward, as well as their unique subclasses, the options continue to multiply. Characters also have a chance to develop bonding skills and bonuses based on their friendships and views of the world. Remember when I said there was a lot of information to parse?

Item crafting is similarly complex. Throughout the game, components can be collected from loot or by breaking down other equipment to craft a range of weapons, armor, and items. This is all supported by a range of merchants in a central hub area who can provide rarer components. Item drops are plentiful and it pays to check your inventory after every mission to make sure nothing useful has been missed, such is the amount of common junk quickly accumulated. Machine/Drone crafting is available later in the game, and functions similarly to item crafting and player progression.

The graphical style is rooted in a slightly larger-than-life approach, with lots of bright primary colors on show for both the UI and the level assets. Scenarios and missions take place in a range of areas, mainly variations of urban architecture such as malls and neighbourhoods, which are nicely detailed. But there are also more rural palettes and assets on show too. Character design is quite charming and distinct on storytelling flash screens, although the 3D modeling here is quite basic. Sometimes the battlefield could become cluttered with the number of units, and I did find the line-of-sight tool cumbersome, which was a real pain when trying to decide if an ability would be in range. The soundtrack is solid and fits each area well; jazzy soundtracks during downtime give way to more grandiose, pulse-pounding percussion during missions, though none of the themes really stuck with me. There is a smattering of Korean voice-overs during battles too.

T:AC is a long game: expect to put upwards of 80 hours into it, and even more to complete all side missions and craft the strongest weapons and masteries. There is definitely some grinding on offer, especially to trigger rarer item or mastery drops. Many missions are replayable, and Dandylion has crafted a range of different game modes and settings that will keep even the most hardcore strategy fan involved. The game ran smoothly throughout and patches over its release history have ensured abilities are balanced and function as written.

Overall, TROUBLESHOOTER: Abandoned Children is an ambitious marriage of a complex, interlinked tactical combat system with a multi-faceted story that does not always equal the sum of its parts. The systems are so complex it will take some time to commit to learning their intricacies and this certainly won’t be for everyone. But for some, the detailed combat system will be enough to overlook slightly ropey graphics, the cumbersome UI, and the roughly translated story. In the end, I became enamored with the strategic combat depth despite the limitations of the interface and never being quite sure I was using my characters to the best of their ability. I found the story, even with the faults outlined above, was enough to carry me through to the next mission. There is just something very sincere at the game’s core.

TROUBLESHOOTER: Abandoned Children is a game created from pure heart and passion, and if its reach exceeds its grasp at points, then this is far more desirable than the opposite. Though details of Dandylion’s next game are scarce, I would find it compelling to explore the world of Valhalla and its characters further. With a tightening up of the UI, and an increase to the narrative and translation budget, it would be an exciting prospect that would build on this game’s strengths and values.

A bit like Albus and his Troubleshooters.

These kids are alright.


Deep and complex combat mechanics, multiple creative options for character development, maps are varied and present different tactical challenges, game runs well and is mechanically sound.


Story can be disjointed and translation is not as strong as it needs to be, mastery and crafting UI is quite clunky.

Bottom Line

A game offering dozens of hours of turn-based tactical combat with a huge range of tactical and character choices, even if the story and interface do not quite reach the same level.

Overall Score 82
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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