I have a confession to make: I don't much care for strategy role-playing games.
I understand how they work, I get why people enjoy them, and I can point out the differences between a good one and a bad one, but I don't often derive a lot of enjoyment from them.
There are some rare exceptions to that rule, and I'm hoping that Lionheart Tactics is going to be one of them.
Why? Because I'm pretty much committed to reviewing it over the next seven days here on Pocket Gamer, and it's being billed on the App Store an, 'epic turn-based RPG'.
Which, to me, sounds exactly like a strategy role playing game.
It's turn-based, and you have individual heroes with their own specialities. There's the leader, who appears to play like a standard warrior; Cerys the Archer, who specialises in attacking from distance; Redd the Guard, who is heavy and powerful; Brother Rook the healer; and the nimble thief Locke.
You can hire more heroes using currency, and you'll need more troops since each carries the damage they took in the last round into the next. There doesn't appear to be permadeath (God, I hope there's not permadeath) but they will need to heal before you can use them again.
Heroes have special abilities at their disposal. The Hero Skill is a special attacking or defensive command, and the Gaea Break is a very powerful move that builds gradually as you take damage.
The field of battle is made up of tiles, which heroes traverse and battle across, and the action is viewable in a fully 3D world so that you precisely prod the exact tile you want your unit to move to. Even if you fluff up the input, you can undo your move.
You face off against enemies using standard strategy tactics: take high ground for the advantage, gang up on enemies, take out healers for easier victories, and so on.
Though it feels very familiar, I'm still rather liking the game at the moment. I didn't think I would be, so that's definitely in the game's favour. Here's hoping that feeling lasts for the rest of the week.
Day 3: Breathing a sigh of relief
I can confirm there's no permadeath. Phew.
Now that I know this, I can try out different types of tactics without fear of losing a valuable member of my team. It's also meant that I'm investing a lot of time in upgrading my party's abilities, and returning to previous areas to level them up.
I'm returning each day to collect the money that accumulates automatically at my castle. I'm also steadily moving through the single-player campaign, where I'm rewarded with items and cash.
You can automatically assign the best equipment to your squad - this speeds up the process of getting into battles. You can manually assign items, too, should you so desire.
Currently, any monies I receive go on more training to improve the skills of my heroes, or on purchasing weaker heroes so that I can sacrifice them to my main team, making them more powerful.
There's still a barrier to me continuing to play, though. It's the health of my team, really, which is usually battered after just a couple of encounters.
Having to wait for their life bars to refill so that they're at optimum combat strength is a bit of a pain. I'm not finding it a great pain, sure, but it's definitely a drawback if you're looking to sit down and sink a load of time into this lengthy SRPG.
Day 7: Head over heels
After a full week, I'm a little bit in love with Lionheart Tactics.
It's winning me over to JSRPGs with its gradually increasing difficulty, and its steady introduction of gameplay ideas and advanced strategies. It's an entry in the genre I can get behind, because it doesn't automatically assume I have hundreds of hours of previously acquired knowledge about how the genre works, so I'm learning its systems and putting them into action effectively rather than merely scraping through by spamming basic attacks.
I'm not only using the special moves, but I'm also thinking about positional play and how I can best use my place on the field to my advantage.
One of my favourite opening gambits at the moment is to allow the enemy to approach my position and fire a volley of Multi-Shots with my archers. Then with a weakened enemy, I rush in with my hero and Captain Redd.
The Hero gets in first to deal damage, and Redd (whose spear strikes one square further than regular attacks) then goes in for the follow up. If I think they'll need it, I use my Cleric to protect them from damage with a spell too.
Having hit the level cap for various members of my squad, I'm now using Stones to Promote them, which resets their level but maintains their stats. I don't think I've cared more about a party of heroes in any game of this type, even if I'm a little cool on the narrative that's brought them together.
What gets me a lot more fired up is the presentation, which is excellent. Each hero has plenty of detail in their design, and incidental animations that add to their little personalities. This quality applies to, and benefits, the moment-to-moment play, as each unit type is easily distinguishable from other unit types. If there's a criticism here, it's that new items and gear don't seem to change the appearance of your heroes, making it difficult to tell between two different archers in a unit.
This would have been a nice addition, since there is asynchronous multiplayer against the squads of other players here, and it would have been fun to show off the cool loot your team has picked up.
That's a minor gripe, because really there are only minor gripes when it comes to Lionheart Tactics. It's one of the best strategy games you'll play on your mobile this year, and serves as a fantastic example of how to do free-to-play right for a core audience, without compromising on artistic vision or gameplay depth.How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below. Click here to learn about our free-to-play review policy.