Inside Pulse 12

Review: Grotesque Tactics (PC)

Grotesque Tactics: Evil Heroes
Developer: Silent Dreams
Publisher: Silent Dreams
Genre: SPRG
Release Date: 10/15/2010

I’m a pretty big fan of indie RPGs. After this I’m delving into Deadly Sin 2: Shining Faith and Ella’s Hope, but when our head of PR said, “I’ve got this SRPG called Grotesque Tactics; is anybody interested?” I decided to jump on it. SRPGs are my favorite genre of RPGs, after all. Whether it’s Shining Force, Disgaea or something like Brigandine, I tend to have a lot of fun with them. However, I’ve rarely played any for the PC (which I’ve been spending a lot more time with than consoles this year), so I figured this would be a fun little romp into the world of German indie gaming.

It wasn’t. By the time I finished, I could honestly say Grotesque Tactics was the worst SRPG I’ve ever played. I feel bad saying that about an indie game, but considering people on the GT team also worked on games like Gothic 1-3, I don’t really consider it all that “indie”

So what went wrong? Let’s take a look.

Let’s Review

1. Story

Your main protagonist is a guy named Drake. He fails to get through military academy training, becoming the only person to flunk out. This turns out to be good for him, as the entire army is massacred something fierce by a legion of evil led by God’s Mother or Mother of God (the translation varies regularly between the two in the game). Drake is then chosen by Avatar of God, named Holy Avatar, to form a new army, made up of scalawags, no-good-niks and bimbos that want to have sexy with Holy Avatar. No, I’m not joking. Drake then has to lead his army against the bad guys and also balance all their personality quirks.

The game bills itself as a comedy, but at no point did I laugh. The “comedy” is straight out of Leisure Larry: Box Office Bust with things like Holy Avatar calling Drake “Cake” or mostly naked women in rags and ponytails sexually obsessing over Holy Avatar. It might also be that your special powers are things like Holy Avatar bragging about himself until enemies fall asleep or Drake giving a rousing speech that powers people up, and then he falls into emo depression a turn or two later. A lot of characters also go berserk, which I guess it supposed to be funny, but everything is horribly done and boring.

Now the lack of any actual comedy in a gamed billed as a comedy could very well be due to the localization, which is HORRIBLE. It is littered with grammatical and spelling mistakes and a lot of the humour in the original German may have been lost as well. However, we’re reviewing the English version of the game, and because that version is awful, that’s the score it’s getting. If you want to play an extremely boring game, with characters that lack any personality or depth, this is the game for you. If you want a game that is pretty misogynistic and demeaning to all but two female characters that come up in the game, this is the game for you. If you want a game whose plot is one of the worst of 2010, then yes, buy all means, go purchase Grotesque Tactics.

Story Rating: Awful

2. Graphics

The visuals in Grotesque Tactics aren’t as bad as the writing, but they’re still pretty bad. Characters and backgrounds alike are poorly rendered and have very little detail to them. The early monsters, like carnivorous mushrooms, giant mosquitoes and drunk goblins would have been considered decent visually a decade and a half ago, but in 2010, even the average indie game looks better than this. It’s rather disappointing to see how jerky and slow the animation of all the characters are, especially when you know members of the programming team have done bigger and better games.

The bottom line is that Grotesque Tactics is not an attractive game. You know a game is behind the times when it doesn’t even have multiple static character portraits for the dialogue screen. Instead you get the same exact picture every time, regardless of emotion. Sadly, those solitary portraits are about as good as the graphics get and they’re still dragging the bottom of the barrel.

Graphics Rating: Bad

3. Sound

There isn’t a lot of sound to Grotesque Tactics. There is no voice acting, but I wouldn’t expect any in a budget RPG. Besides, I think the game is better off. Considering the quality of the rest of the title, Grotesque Tactics is better off without it. Imagine how bad THAT would be!

The music is Grotesque Tactics is fine for what it is. It’s forgettable but not annoying. People who play the game won’t be requesting a CD copy of the soundtrack any time soon, but as background noise, it’s definitely serviceable. The same too can be said about the sound effects. Everything here is passable and acceptable, especially from the point of view of a budget game, but there’s nothing here that will impress or even delight whoever plays this, though at least you won’t find yourself looking to mute the game.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

4. Control and Gameplay

There really isn’t a lot to talk about here as the game is neither very deep, nor very good. I should also warn readers that the game crashes every so often, so save regularly.

The controls in town and on a battle map are almost exactly the same. You can use the mouse to look around the map and then click on a square to move to it. In a town you can talk to people, and on a combat map, you can attack people. You’ll command a team of up to ten characters, and initiative is determined by speed. With each character’s turn you’ll have a certain amount of squares you can move, and the terrain determines defense, accuracy and speed when moving off it. The problem is that sometimes squares you can move to aren’t actually highlighted in blue. You can bypass the movement issue by just clicking directly on an opponent that you are close enough to attack, but the game has problems processing this with your ranged attackers. The bow icon might come up for the attack, but the computer might not actually let you attack, or it might move your character right next to the opponent as if it was a melee attacker, thus defeating the whole point of having a ranged attacker in the first place. It’s a mess.

Each character also has an obsession meter that, once filled, automatically triggers whether you want it to or not. As mentioned in the story section, each character has a different effect. These are supposed to be funny, but there’s really just stupid and/or lame. It’s also annoying that the obsession power can’t be triggered when you want it to. Saving it up and triggering it ala a special meter would have been a smarter programming choice as nine times out of ten, you’ll end up using the power against some weak cannon fodder instead of a real threat. In fact, the entire game is riddled with poor design choices ranging from having one large map with multiple battles on it instead of several small maps.

Nothing here is truly awful, but there are a lot of strange and outright bad programming details or gameplay choices that riddle the game from beginning to end. Grotesque Tactics is definitely a game that could have used a complete overhaul or at least some quality control. Factor in the crashes that can plague this game, especially if you let the game sit for a few minutes, and I honestly am surprised it made it to retail in this condition.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

Grotesque Tactics is extremely linear, but it does try to give the illusion of sub-quests. The catch is that the sub-quests are actually part of a larger quest and very, VERY rarely do you deviate from the straight line the game sets out for you. As such, it’s a pretty dull affair, especially when you also consider the horrible story, slow plodding gameplay, ugly visuals and the rest of the poorly done package. I’ll be brutally honest and say that by the time I reached the second town in the game I wanted to stop. I was so bored with the gameplay (and I usually love SRPGs) and the story was so horrible, I found myself hating every bit of dialogue that came up. Again, I’m not exaggerating when I consider this to be the Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust of the Tactical RPG world. You know, a game that is widely considered one of the worst ever made?

I would have stopped playing this game about two hours into it if I didn’t have to review it. Instead I sat through twenty hours of exceptionally slow paced, badly written, occasionally crashing hell so that you, the reader and potential purchaser, won’t have to. There is no reason to ever replay Grotesque Tactics. Hell, there’s no reason to even play through it once.

Replayability Rating: Dreadful

6. Balance

This is another area where Grotesque Tactics falls short. As I mentioned previously, the battle maps contain several small battles instead of one large one. This would be fine if there wasn’t a healing spot on maps that completely recharges your entire team’s hit points. This makes every battle a cakewalk. You just fight a battle, then run back to a healing font and repeat until the entire map is empty. This makes the game pretty close to a cakewalk.

There are several other issues with the game. It’s easy to lure opponents to you so that they can be picked off. Reviving companions is very expensive, so I guess it’s a good thing you’ll rarely ever have a character knocked out, though when you do it is a maiden, which just adds to the game’s misogyny. It also sucks that unlike most SRPGs that have a single character that can’t be knocked out, Grotesque Tactics has two in Drake and Holy Avatar. Since the game is so easy, this isn’t too much of a problem, but it IS an annoyance. Finally, since both allies and enemies miss A LOT, the battle balance become heavily unbalanced not just in terms of length, but also dullness.

This is just another example of where Grotesque Tactics fails on every level.

Balance Rating: Bad

7. Originality

There’s not much this game does that is original. Do you want a SRPG with evil protagonists? Get Disgaea. Do you want a comedy SRPG? Again, get Disgaea. It’s actually funny. Hell, get any Nippon Ichi SRPG. About the only thing I can say that IS original about Grotesque Tactics are the battle maps and the ability to have several skirmishes on a map instead of one big battle. However even the Shining Force games did that generations ago and allowed for larger armies on both sides. Even better, every character got a turn, unlike GT, where enemies only move if you get within a certain range of them.

There’s nothing here that is really innovative, original or outside the box.

Originality Rating: Dreadful

8. Addictiveness

If you’ve read any of the previous four pages of this review than you probably know how I feel here. This was one of the most boring games I’ve played this year. It was buggy, laggy, ugly, poorly translated, and a chore to play through. It was only twenty hours long, but my god it felt like forever. If I didn’t have to review the game, I’d have deleted it from my computer only an hour or two into it. Again, I usually adore SRPGs, but Grotesque Tactics had me longing for just about anything else. This made Iyar Chronicles or Sands of Destruction look good by comparison.

Addictiveness Rating: Worthless

9. Appeal Factor

I know every game is someone’s favorite and even the most popular games have a detractor, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine who would enjoy this. Again, the story MIGHT be enjoyable in its native German, but the English translation is god awful. It’s also poorly designed and boring to play through. I suppose if you’re desperate for an SRPG on the PC, you can go for this, but you’ll still be disappointed.

Again, most of what I play on the PC are indie RPGs or Adventure games, and I’m generally more accepting of flaws in a budget title than I am in a sixty dollar big budget game, but man, there is really nothing here to be kind about. I’m hoping Grotesque Tactics DOES find a North American audience, but I’ll be damned if I can think of anyone that would actually enjoy this.

Appeal Factor Rating: Dreadful

10. Miscellaneous

All I’m going to say here is go to the official English language forum and read the thread titles. Every one is a complaint about how bad the game is. Whether it is about loading issues, lag, freezing, bugs, crashes or that the game is just simply horrible, you’ll see that this is a dreadful game in nearly every way a game can be dreadful. Seriously, just stay away from this turkey. Don’t give Silent Dreams your money for a game that should have never been released in the first place.

Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless

The Scores
Story: Awful
Graphics: Bad
Sound: mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Bad
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
Miscellaneous: Worthless
FINAL SCORE: Very Bad Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
Grotesque Tactics is one of the worst titles released in 2010 and easily the worst PC game I’ve played this year. The game’s story is horribly translated, and although it is supposed to be a comedy game, you won’t laugh once. The graphics are horrible, the game is buggy and there really is nothing positive that can be said about this. If there is one game that you SHOULDN’T buy for the PC in 2010, it’s Grotesque Tactics.

  • RPGG

    lol strange review…
    Bad graphics? The average indie game has better graphics? WTF, am I blind?
    Not withstanding that I liked the humor in grotesque, You ignore the idea that tastes in humor vary extremely. Just look at shows like the simpsons, south park, family guy etc with lots of sexistic gags, they each have lovers and haters.
    You shouldnt expect deep characters but I think thats the point, the game is focused on clichés and parody and poking fun at other games. I bought the game after seeing this review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mesd_shW2DE, and I havent regretted it.
    Deathspank was OK, I liked Grotesque Tactics better.
    Disgaea? for PC?

  • Sorry, but that’s just making excuses for a game that is getting universally panned by people that purchased it. I love me some Super Troopers and other late night comedies, but the English version of this game was so badly translated (complete with Engrish, spelling and gramattical issues) and it lacked any actual comedy save “let’s bed this chick” that it was boring as hell. Now the original German? I’m guessing that’s better. But the localization is what we reviewed and that flat ouit sucked.

    Better graphics for an indie game? Yes. Easily. We primarily focus on indie games here at DHG (Especially indie PC games) and this is one of the ugliest ones I’ve seen in this generation of gaming. Deadly Sin 2, the latest Mystery Case Files, Darkstar, Hotel, Casebook. These are all indie games with far less money put into them that GT and they look far superior.

    Also, I never said Disgaea was for PC. I said if you want a superior parody SRPG, go for that as it’s cheaper, has better visuals, actually plays like a SRPG and has far better characters. GT is just underwhelming in every way possible. Thanks for proving my point that even the first games will always have people to defend them though!

  • Sword

    2 weeks ago Grotesque Tactics was patched (1.1.5.0) with a new translation from an american guy. It’s absolutely playable now.

  • Sword – Nice. I’ll have to download the patch and see if it changes my mind about the game.