If there’s one thing Jagged Alliance, XCOM and Fallout: Tactics have in common, it’s the super-satisfying turn-based combat. Yet this particular type of turn-based tactics never really reached the limelight that grand strategy games received. While games like Battletech and XCOM 2 did breathe new life into the sub-genre and made it more mainstream, it’s the Indie scene that interests me the most. Hence here I have Vigilantes, an indie turn-based tactical RPG that piqued my interest long ago. Without further ado, let’s see what Vigilantes is all about.
Vigilantes is a combat focused, turn-based tactical RPG developed and published by Timeslip Softworks and released on Steam on 3 October 2018.
Story & Narrative
The story of Vigilantes takes place in a Neo-Noir setting in the crime-ridden city of Reiker. Like the title of the game implies, you play as a group of people who have been pushed a bit too far. Under the leadership of Sam Contino, the so-called vigilantes plan to take the city back from the clutches of the three distinct criminal factions, one bullet at a time.
The greatest strength in the story of Vigilantes lies in its setting. You aren’t a bunch of psionic powered superheroes nor is there an alien invasion to save the world from. Instead, the story tries its best to stay grounded and portray a life-like world with believable (not relatable) characters and events. This holds especially true for the main characters who are bottled up in stress by all the injustice going around and could blow any second. There are times when the game tries too hard to be dark and edgy. But for the most part, the story serves its purpose well, even though the major emphasis here is not on the narrative.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Vigilantes can be summarised as the perfect amalgamation of Jagged Alliance, the classic XCOM and Fallout 1/2 with bits of Cyberknights thrown in the mix. The end result- a deep, tactical and engaging combat-heavy game with a lot of oldschool RPG elements. But rather than going from map to map combatting foes, you have to build up your base, manage party members, send them on reconnaissance missions, manage the inventory, craft items, conduct surveillance all around the city and finally, launch sweet street justice on criminal scum. Vigilantes have a lot going for it from the get-go. It goes without saying that you have a lot of menus and tabs to browse through. But the clunky and bloated UI leaves a lot to be desired.
You can also select up to three party members to tag along with you during combat encounters. Sadly, the interactions between Sam and his mates are practically non-existent outside of the combat. Considering that they’re full-fledged personalities, it’s sad to see that potential being wasted away. But I do love the fact that they’re fully customizable with attributes, stats and perks. Everything you do outside of the combat takes place in real time and time is valuable. Rather than going for a typical level-scaling method, the enemies in Vigilantes are constantly gathering resources and improving themselves while you’re off doing the same. This can lead to some interesting and sometimes frustrating results.
Once you identify a sector in the map as hostile, you are given the chance to launch a strike, with the difficulty of the mission being based on the amount of criminal activity present in the district. The battles are turn-based, using an action point system. You can equip weapons and items, reload, switch fight modes, go into overwatch, etc. Nothing fancy and pretty much a tried and true system. But the combat itself remains deep and engaging throughout the game, You also get the option to fight lethally as well as non-lethally- a nice touch. After a fight ends, depending on your party stats, you can interrogate prisoners, take their loot, and steal from equipment caches. You go back to your base, level up, browse the shop for new items, run some surveillance and launch an offensive.
As with any similar game, this gameplay loop of fighting and base management drives Vigilantes forward. While strategic and fun, it starts to become somewhat repetitive after a certain point. Expected, but disappointing. The enemy AI could also use some work, as there are many instances where they don’t do anything but run around in circles during a tense firefight. More variety in enemy design, encounters and objectives would have been appreciated.
Visuals, Performance & Sound
It is quite evident by its visuals that Vigilantes was made by a very small team of developers on a budget. But don’t let it distract you from the excellent atmosphere and neo-noir vibes oozing out. The animations are also quite nice, albeit simplistic. But of course, what matters the most is the gameplay.
The game was tested on the following rig and ran at a locked 60 fps in 1080p at all times. I hardly encountered any bugs or crashes.
- i5 7500 3.40Ghz
- GTX 1070 8 GB
- 8×2 GB 2400Mhz DDR4 Ram
Apart from the handful of good techno-noir music, the game also features some voice acted cutscenes. Even though some of the voice actings comes off as cheesy, the fact that its there is well appreciated. The other sound effects are fairly standard and serviceable.
Vigilantes is a love letter to turn-based strategy classics. Any fan of the genre will find much to love here- a deep and tactical combat system, base building, intuitive crafting and some well-implemented RPG elements. That doesn’t mean there are aspects which don’t need improvement. But for a price of ₹ 459, you can’t go wrong with this one.