Live by the Sword: Tactics – Review

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Live by the Sword: Tactics – Review

Let's review Live by the Sword: Tactics, a tactical RPG that recently came out of Early Access.

The Strategy RPG Genre

If you list Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics as some of your significant inspirations, you have some big shoes to fill. And if you played those two in particular, you'll see exactly what Live by the Sword Tactics is trying to ape after. It's only very light on the actual RPG elements and, in its current iteration, more like a competitive board game. But not in a bad way by any means.

In games like these, you play a small group of characters in different classes with skills and unique quirks that you can mix and match to your liking. You have the classics like Knight, Healer, Assassins, and others that fill individual roles without ever feeling essential to your small party. And a typical session plays out on a board with different heights on which every character gets a turn according to their stats. I would say Live by the Sword: Tactics does succeed here, even if only in a very basic manner.

Story

See if your game tries to cash in on the success of Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics; there are some very, very big shoes to fill. Those two are in my humble opinion two of the best games ever written and so expectations for Live by the Sword: Tactics started out sky-high.

The story is functional but very basic. It doesn't help that it is relatively short and most of the time spent in the story mode will be spent fighting. It centers around the knight William and his brother Edgar who both try to fill the shoes of their father, who passed away in the war. And while the game tries to make the world seem bigger than it actually is, it never comes off as such.

Often the story will try and frame events in a dramatic way, but everything always falls conveniently into place, so stuff happens. And there'll be stretches on which you follow a certain plot thread that makes up each of the three acts, but you'll spend most of it fighting the same three enemy types.

To put it simply, what is there in terms of story is functional but that's it. And I wouldn't be as upset if the game didn't try sometimes to seem grander and more epic. The few dramatic moments never really land and honestly, I think it is a bit of a shame that the story mode is also required to play the much more fun adventure mode. It serves as a decent tutorial but outstays its welcome after the end of act one.

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Basic but pretty good

While the story of Live by the Sword: Tactics barely convinces me, what kept me playing was the simple yet engaging gameplay. I'll be the first to admit that in its current state, the game is really hurting for variety. While it's fun to play around with your character's abilities, it's very clear that they're not all created equally.

That being said, being simple is not always a bad thing, quite the opposite, actually. This mostly shines in the Multiplayer when you're up against someone else who actually makes use of party synergy. The game will play entirely different than when you're up against the AI.

There are currently seven classes of characters in the game; each has seven abilities from which you can choose five. Something like the Alchemist is really useful for healing, buffing, and rebuffing. The mage has powerful spells but dies quickly and needs enemies to be positioned to be most effective. So on and so forth.

A problem you'll run into in pretty much any mode besides the multiplayer is the lack of variety. While sellswords, thieves, and pirates might look like completely different enemies on the surface, their toolkit is similar. And in the story mode and the adventure, you'll be fighting them the most.

What I found most annoying, however, is how slow the game plays. Yes, for a Tactical RPG, you expect a slower pace, but having to confirm every single one of your moves becomes really grating after a while. And in its current iteration, there is also a complete lack of character progression, something the game will see with its first major update in the near future.

Call to Adventure and Tactical Powless

The story mode of Live by the Sword: Tactics makes a bit of a bad impression. It's functional but boring and you must play most of it and the two more interesting modes. Only by then is the magic already kind of fading.

Adventure has you complete a campaign map, earn currency and slowly build up your party as you best increasingly more challenging fights. Compared to the story mode, here you'll get some more variety in terms of enemy parties you'll fight and you get to mess more with party compositions. While I didn't find it particularly challenging, I would've preferred playing it over the campaign, as you actually get some sense of progression.

The Tactician mode falls in that same category; it is a number of puzzles you have to solve that can get pretty difficult at times. Here the combat system really shines because you're conditioned to make the right choices instead of just steamrolling the enemy. I wish the story had been rolled out in a similar matter.

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Looks and Sound

I really love the sprite work, every class and enemy type has a very distinct look to them and they do cute little animations. On the other hand, the character portraits are… let's call it an acquired taste. They look too detailed but also too rough at the same time. The environments, on the other hand, are top notch I wish they had more charming details to them. The battle maps tend to all look the same outside of color variants.

What I really have a problem with is the UI. It gives me very strong web browser game vibes in the worst of ways. While it is functional, it's also ugly, especially the font. And I only bring it up because it was so stylistically distracting in the worst of ways. You already used a beautiful pixel art style for the characters and their portraits; why not carry that over into the UI?

And while there are not many unique pieces of music in the game, I really enjoyed them. They have this nice kind of background vibe to them, never really distracting you too much from what is going on while also being pleasant to listen to.

6.5/10 Great Basics But Woefully Unfinished

Live by the Sword: Tactics is yet another game that came out of Early Access a little too early. Or at least I wouldn't call the current version of the game complete. The Roadmap the fine folks from Labrador Studios have laid out clearly shows that there is still much more to come for Live by the Sword: Tactics. If you have an itch for a neat and competitive Tactical RPG, you might enjoy it. There is a demo available to try it out.

But personally, I can't recommend the game at its current price point. If you're interested, you should probably wait for a sale or pick the game up in half a year or so when all the planned content is out. The game is currently available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and the Nintendo Switch. And even though it claims to be out of early access, it is still very much an early access title. But this first major update is planned for December.

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Live by the Sword: Tactics – Review
Timo Reinecke
Has once claimed that FSH is the only job in FFXIV worth playing and stands by that firmly. Top Guy, Smart Guy, Educated Speaker. (sometimes) Writer of all things FFXIV, FGC, News, Reviews and More