Early Access Review
(Caution Minor Spoilers)
Troubleshooter is a turn based SRPG developed and published by Dandylion. It heralds to be in the same vein of games such as XCOM and Final Fantasy Tactics. It is currently available as an early access title on PC via Steam. Since it is a Korean game, voice acting is done in Korean but the game’s story and interface is fully translated for English. This is the developers first game and I was impressed by both their constant commitment to updates and responsiveness to official forums in multiple languages.
The bulk of your time in Troubleshooter will be spent between the headquarters and a subsequent battle phase. In the headquarters you can adjust your team load out of classes , skills, and gear. You can also interact with merchants, craft or salvage items, and decide how to best pay for your team and your overhead expenses. You can then pick which cases you want to attempt and can choose between various difficulties and a challenge modes which come with higher risks and rewards.
During the combat phase, your team of troubleshooters will engage in combat with one or more enemy factions or gangs. Many times you are presented with the option to accept aid from local police forces or to fly solo with your own. Guest characters, which can either be hostile, neutral, or allied will often be an element to contend with in battles. Several times throughout the story, you will also be allowed to play as other factions, giving you insight as to how they operate and exposing more of the game’s rich story.
Battle is conducted across a grid in a turn based fashion with each character’s stats and condition determining the turn order. Guns, blades, martial arts, and magic will be at your disposal along with a variety of skills which alter them. Characters can also equip several items to help supplement strategy and play-style. Mission types include rescuing civilians, elimination of hostiles, area defense, and more. Many of these battles are both fun and complex and you may have tackle them more than once if you commit too many tactical errors.
One of the most important things to take away is the sheer fun that the battles present once you have taken the time to properly prepare your characters. Even when you think you have a working system down, new enemy types and new skills will eventually work their way into the mix and cause you to adjust. Some key differences also may be important to some players. Whereas in games like XCOM death can be permanent, Troubleshooter affords for people to be in a less than healthy state. They have what is called an ambition meter which represents their overall health. This meter recovers over time or by ordering refreshments. There is also generally no time limits for battles or to the overall game itself making long-term decisions a bit easier to handle.
Equipment plays a fairly large role in Troubleshooter. In a traditional sense, equipment and the rarity of your selections can mean the difference between defeat and victory. There are a myriad of options and variables on each piece of equipment for you to choose from depending on how you want to spec your character. Effects are random and you may spend some time hunting for that perfect piece. One complaint with the game also centers around the fact that gear comes in 5 level intervals rather than the traditional level by level approach. Where this really hurts is when you have a piece of gear your holding on to and need to wait 4 levels or so to utilize it.
Alternatively, equipment is also used as your primary source of income as explained by the plot. It can also be salvaged for components, which can the be used to make new gear or to enhance current pieces. The ability to harvest items in specific outdoor areas also adds an extra layer to the crafting and currency system.
Another issue I had with the game itself was the need for a constant online connection to the server. This had in game effects such as bonus drops when players completed enough cases. It was also utilized to check story mode choices but so far there is no true multiplayer modes yet. The developer has stated as much, and with the way they address every issue it’s more likely than not that it will be in there eventually.
Troubleshooter features a rich story filled with vibrant characters in a post-war era. Within the cityscape setting, gangs are constantly vying for supremacy. Civilians suffer on a daily basis and the police in each district cannot possibly cover every incident. This led to a new profession called Troubleshooters to be enacted. Each Troubleshooter team is a private organization (think private security, but with legal authority) who take on reported incidents at their own discretion. Once on scene they have complete control of the allotted police and it is their job to combat gang violence as it arises. They are allowed acquisition rights to any money or equipment found and are paid additional bonuses for rescuing civilians or destroying illegal technology like cell phone jammers.
The main story follows one Albus Bernstein, a new troubleshooter who just graduated from his apprenticeship. Rather than join an existing company, Albus chooses to create his own. As such, he starts alone and slowly builds a team of troubleshooters as he becomes more notorious over time with the existing gangs. The interactions between Troubleshooters, the gangs, and the police drive the story, and major characters within each faction present their own gravity to each situation.
The amount of detail placed into the major characters is reminiscent of bigger 90s RPGs such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Suikoden, or Tactics Ogre. Heroes and villains alike all have their side of the story to tell and you will get to play as many of them as their encounters grow more and more tumultuous. It is actually refreshing in modern gaming to see a game devote that much effort into character development and I hope it continues to grow as they press forward. The translation to English is done fairly well, but there will still be overly literal translations and a little bit of “engrish” here and there.
The KBM setup for Troubleshooter is fairly standard and most users will feel right at home. Though time isn’t a factor in battles, I still found myself wanting to adjust a few controls to be able to complete most actions on the mouse. The game fully supports remapping of keys including while in battle making any adjustments easy. There is no controller support at this time.
Multiple camera angles and map modes exist to make sure you don’t lose track of your opponents outside the fog of war. Enemies can be approached and angled from an eight-way area surrounding their position all with the click of the mouse. The game typically also does a fairly good job of automatically avoiding hazardous tiles, such as a fire, unless it has no other choice but to go through it to enforce your decision. Even if it doesn’t you have full control to make minor movements to get to your destination safely. In many areas though, you may find yourself fighting your camera and having to make minor adjustments to make sure you don’t click the wrong tile. Additionally there were instances where the interface prohibits a direct click, forcing you to swing the camera another way or to find the sweet spot.
In many areas though, you may find yourself fighting your camera and having to make minor adjustments to make sure you don’t click the wrong tile. Additionally there were instances where the interface prohibits a direct click, forcing you to swing the camera another way or to find the sweet spot.
In most SRPGs, the animations are simply not that great and most people end up turning them off for faster gameplay. I found that wasn’t the case with Troubleshooter and I really enjoyed watching all of the fights. Some unique things like individual jump animations really shone, while others such as grenades clipping through buildings left me raising an eyebrow. Overall though, in-battle animations were great, especially the martial arts attacks.
Outside the battle arena, Troubleshooter has a very anime-esque approach. The characters are all well drawn with the typical Korean flare on it, particularly in the face and eyes. There are also many storyboard cut scenes which assist in telling the narrative. The game often jumps between art styles during story portions and utilizes backdrops, in-game models, and illustrations.
Effects for the various attacks and battle actions are on par with what a SRPG should have though some effects were better than others. It did have a variety of timed sounds to support the story telling since there were no fully animated sequences. All voice acting was done in the native Korean language and though I speak no Korean, it seemed to be on par with other anime influenced games. Some voices, such as those of the police and certain effects seemed to be off in the volume leveling department however, and could be disruptive at times.
Music in Troubleshooter ranged from epic battle tracks to light melodic piano pieces. In battle, it has a dynamic approach and adjusts depending on whether or not you’re engaged in a skirmish. Unfortunately, the tracks are limited and you will often be listening to the same three tracks for long periods of time. And though I actually loved the primary battle theme, it could get old over time. In a SRPG where you can spend up to several hours in some battles, or even in the headquarters, some variety would be nice.
Troubleshooter is a budding new game, and a great escape for anyone looking to sink their teeth back in a genre where the standard has become very shallow, simple, or gimmicky outside of a few titles. The well detailed characters and story should keep you entertained for at least 60-80 hours if not more. The robust skill system and the ability to constantly reforge your characters will give fans of games like Final Fantasy Tactics a new title to play with for some time. And while the pace of the game is somewhat slow and is currently under development, I ended up playing this game more than I have many recent finished titles which says a lot.
As an early access title I highly recommend this game to old school SRPG lovers. The developers constant communication with their players speaks volumes and you can tell they truly love what they are doing. I sank 65 hours into it and haven’t even caught up to the degree where the content ends yet. Despite some minor annoyances, which is common of any early access title, Troubleshooter is complex ball of fun. I truly look forward to seeing where this title goes in the future.