Game Reviews PC

Capes Review – Strategic Superhero Gaming

What if you took the world of superheroes in the aspect of the TV show Heroes and mixed it with turn-based strategy tactical games like XCOM, well then you would get a very thought-out game called Capes. Capes is the debut title from Australian-based company Spitfire Interactive with publisher Daedalic Entertainment.

Capes draws its comic references from the 80s and 90s. This was when they were still goofy and cheesy but also starting to venture into darker subject matter like Image Comics with Spawn or Wild C.A.T.S. This was the perfect time for a comic book reader, with the new character backgrounds, the design change, the tone of the comics, and the amount of original ideals.

The mood for Capes is straightforward, there are no superheroes anymore they all have been unalived, and only The Company and the Capes remain. In King City, superheroes (referred to as capes) have been banned for the last two decades after a mysterious group known as The Company came in and promised to get the masked vigilantes under control.

No surprise: The Company is controlled by several supervillains with the same plans they had when Superheroes were preventing them. Anybody exhibiting powers will be hunted down, captured, and dragged off to secret facilities. The regular folk living in the city have seemingly bought into the propaganda and hate the few capes still trying to fight the good fight. There’s a little bit of an X-Men vibe going on with the vilification of everyone born with a certain gene.

Doctrine who has a long and bloody history with The Company wants you to get a group of like-minded Capes together to become the saviors of this nightmare. There’s a natural clash of ideologies here: Doctrine has been through a lot and takes a much more pessimistic view of the war against The Company. While he doesn’t advocate brutal tactics and loss of life for the greater good, he is more willing to accept that not everybody can be saved and that lives may be lost in the fight. He also has no problem killing a captured villain to ensure he won’t come back and cause problems. The new heroes are more optimistic, take losses far harder, and aren’t ecstatic with the legacy they have had thrust onto them.

It’s a straightforward tale of good versus bad without some more subtle elements from the very comics it draws inspiration from. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Each round you get to move your team of four characters around the map and perform actions. Each hero has exactly two action points to spend on attacks, special abilities, and a handful of movement points.

These can all be spent in any order you’d like, so you can move, attack, and move again before unleashing an ability, or do two actions and then run away, etc. The comparison to XCOM is almost automatic these days, but it’s not one worth making because Capes is very different. There’s no cover system and no random rolls of the dice deciding whether a punch or a bolt of electricity will hit in Capes, so you always know exactly what damage you’ll do, yet you’re not sure of what the enemy AI might do on their turn.

The heroes themselves and their special powers are your generic assortment of hero archetypes, from the speedster to the brawler. Heroes include the likes of Mindfire who can use telekinetic powers to hurl debris at foes; and Ignis, who’s an arsonist. Facet is a tank that uses crystals to strengthen his skin and to freeze villains in their place.

While maybe not the most conceptually exciting heroes, they all slot neatly into their roles and, most importantly, are very different from each other. That means some heroes are far better than others in specific missions, too. I learned that the hard way in a boss fight where the supervillain would replicate when taking damage, which included taking fire damage from Ignis. It didn’t take long before the map was covered in a sea of clones because I hadn’t tightly controlled Ignis’ flames.

A big part of the gameplay is the special team-up moves. For example, Facet can use Rebound’s teleport to shift across the map quickly. Rebound can also then use Facet’s ability to summon giant crystals to give her backstab extra power. Meanwhile, Ignis can lend her flame to Mercurial’s speed, letting her leave a path of flames across the battlefield.

Capes is a very brutal game at times, even on the easiest setting. A large part of this savage difficulty comes from the endless supply of henchmen it loves to toss at you. It has a particular habit of sending in new waves of enemies when missions feel like they should be wrapping up. With so many bodies on the screen, it can feel less like carefully analyzing which card to remove to bring down the whole house of cards, and more like throwing all the dice and praying. It was a shock to win the third time played when you did it the almost exact way 2 times previously.

Other missions are more balanced between chaos and strategy. It’s these missions with smaller enemy counts I like most, when the action focuses on smartly combining abilities, positioning, and forward-thinking rather than battling what feels like dozens upon dozens of bad guys. And thankfully, while there were a few frustrating missions, most of them did let me focus on that tactical thinking and were heaps of fun.

With each win your heroes will gather XP. This will allow you opportunities for upgrades to existing powers and a few entirely new abilities for you to purchase using SP. Now there is no way to make your heroes SUPER in any way. But you can tweak them just a little bit to your liking. Going back and replaying old missions to complete optional objectives for more SP is very important, especially when you recruit a new hero as they start at level 1. I did find the lack of customization to the heroes saddening. You can’t create a hero yourself, and you can’t change up the costumes they wear, I mean to me that is a big part of being a superhero, your identity.

I believe that they chose to work more on the core of the game to make a great product than to work on the parts of the game and leave it open for bugs and such. I really enjoyed Capes, the idea is great and the play was very decent. It was challenging at times and I didn’t want to see where it was going so that was fun. I think that for its first release, Spitfire Interactive hit a home run. I can not wait to see what else this small company has in store for the future.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This review was written based on a PC review code for Capes provided by Spitfire Interactive and Daedalic Entertainment.

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