Live by the Sword: Tactics (LBTS:T), is a newly released Turn-based strategy game developed by UK based Labrador Studios. This review is based solely on Story Mode.
I’m a sucker for a good turn-based strategy game, especially those based in a fantasy setting. I was curious to see whether LBTS:T could take into that sweet childhood nostalgia formed from endless playthroughs of Shining Force, Vandal Hearts and the Final Fantasy: Tactics games. Did LBTS:T deliver and get those nostalgic juices flowing? Read on to find out!
The game opens with a (Surprise!) tutorial. Placing you in control of two young lads – Will & Edgar, as players are stepped through the mechanics of the game. Players are educated here by the boys father, a character known only as “Dad”. A pretty novel way to learn the ropes and at the same time get a taste of what’s happening in the game world. I like that they ended the tutorial with a small quiz from “Dad” to the boys, to make sure the player is paying attention.
The world of LBTS:T is less of a fantasy setting and more of a medieval setting with spells. Throughout Act 1, we learn that the kingdom has only recently emerged from a long period of war. A boy King sits on the throne… but for how long? I played through to the end of Act 1, by which time I understood that somebody behind the scenes was manipulating pirates and thieves to sow turmoil across the land.
Story, Skirmish and Multiplayer are the options we start with. Skirmish being a sandbox that you can play matches against the AI, Multiplayer supports Online and Local multiplayer, whereas Story is exactly what is says on the box. Noting here that there are additional modes that you unlock by completing Acts: beating act 1 unlocks Adventure Mode, beating Act 2 opens Board Creator.
With gameplay, the story is broken into acts comprised of approximately eight missions. At the start of each mission, you choose from a roster of characters such as a Warrior, Archer, a Brawler, and my personal favourite – the Alchemist and you can take a party of 5 from a maximum pool of seven. Each character has a pool of six abilities to choose from – only four can be selected to take into battle with you. At no point did I find myself outnumbered by opponents
Each battle takes place on a small grid-based map (approx. 10 x 10 squares) these maps are very simple. Flat terrain, broken up by slight elevation and the occasional small body of water or tree. The objective of each battle is to beat all opponents without getting squad wiped. It’s fine to lose units, as there is no permadeath in Story mode.
Each of the characters has a personality, none of which are really that interesting, sadly. With the brief snippets of character building that take place between battles feeling forced and far too brief.
Strategy games are all about that terrain advantage and choke points. In LBST:T, enemies can pass through your characters, and yours through theirs and I found this very jarring, as my instinct here is to block a single entry point with one of my hardier characters, to keep my squishy units safe.
Graphics wise, nothing special here. Pixel art suits this genre well. I would have loved to see more variance in the enemies. The first three to four battles are rinse and repeat against pallet swapped Thieves and this got old quickly. The hand drawn character portraits are a nice touch.
The sound suits the overall retro aesthetic but it’s nothing I’ll be adding to my Spotify playlist.