Review

Wintermoor Tactics Club – Review | D&D in the Snow

School is a Game?

One of the highlights of my schoolboy days was the four years I spent playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons with my friends. School is hard, people are mostly abhorrent, and finding a tribe is one of the few ways you can get by mostly unscathed. Interestingly enough, Wintermoor Tactics Club manages to take the concept of both school and D&D and mesh it into a semi-social tactical role-playing game. Now it doesn’t do the best of jobs at delivering on that concept, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth playing.

Wintermoor Tactics Club - Dialogue

Battle of the Clubs

You play as Alicia, a nerd who likes empowering women, debating literature with her peers, and solving life’s problems through the power of pen and paper roleplaying. You are a member of the Tactics Club, and just as you and your friends’ epic campaign is about to conclude, you are interrupted by an impromptu fight to the death. Ok, nobody actually dies, but the losers club is purged from existence, so that’s close enough I guess. In order to determine which club is the ‘Ultimate Club’, you must engage in all-out Club Warfare through the intricate, time tested method known as snowball fighting.

The story is very tongue in cheek as you can probably tell, with the whole premise being ludicrous. Where things get pulled back to reality is with the smaller interactions between characters. Sure, most of the opposing club members are caricatures of whatever trope the developer wanted to portray, however, the main cast that make up the Tactic club are incredibly endearing – more so if you were a childhood nerd/geek like yours truly.

Whilst the game’s main ‘gameplay’ comes from its combat, it is great to see how Alicia manages to write campaigns that help her friends overcome real-life trials and tribulations. This is easily the biggest draw to Wintermoor Tactics Club and is probably enough of a positive to prise a recommendation from me.

Wintermoor Tactics Club - Psychic Detectives

Exploring and Fighting

That being said, not everything is to this level. The game is split into two main portions – exploration and combat. Exploring Wintermoor is at first quite exciting. You can travel to various locations that make up Wintermoor, talk to interesting characters, pick up side quests, and advance whatever plot thread you are currently undertaking. The problem with these sections is that Wintermoor is actually incredibly small and can be seen in its entirety within the first 30 minutes or so. What’s more, the game is riddled with loading times – long loading times. It is not uncommon to be waiting 10-20 seconds for Alicia to travel between the dorms to the tactics club. This makes completing quests a tiring affair as you better believe you are forced to go through numerous transitions every few lines of dialogue.

Combat fairs better, but not really by much. Whether you are fighting monsters in imagined forests or taking down a band of Monarchists with snowballs, you will be interacting with the same core system. Each character has access to a number of abilities that define their playstyle. For example, Alicia is a lightning throwing mage, whilst her arsonist buddy is more of a damage dealing, enemy displacing rogue. There is very little customization for these characters, meaning you have what you are given, and have to make do.

Interestingly combat is more of a puzzle affair than anything else. Sure you can just grind through enemies and win with relative ease, but you are rewarded with additional medals for doing things efficiently. Getting your tank to block a choke point, gathering your enemies into a big blob, and unleashing a barrage of chain lightning on your unsuspecting foes is naturally very satisfying. The game is also very forgiving. Unlike most games in the genre, you are able to undo most actions, and even entire turns if you feel like you could have tackled a situation better, giving you plenty of freedom to experiment and explore the game’s intricacies. Additionally, each enemy can be examined to determine what they are going to do each turn. Some enemies will attack the closest target, whilst others might pick out a specific character each turn, allowing you to plan out your turns with a degree of certainty that the enemy won’t do anything unexpected. Like I said, very much like a puzzle game, not quite so much like a normal Tactical RPG.

However, the combat got very stale, very quickly. Even in the early game, when Wintermoor is introducing new systems and mechanics, I felt that I was not being challenged and these battles were simply time wasters. The mechanics on offer weren’t engaging enough, the scenarios weren’t challenging enough and I simply lost interest.

Art and Sound

Wintermoor Tactics Club does manage to pull some bonus points from my typically iron grip however – the game is gorgeous. Super stylish, hand-drawn character art and models along with a picturesque snowy academy themed background certainly leave an impression. I did unfortunately bump into a few performance issues from time to time, but the nature of the game meant that these didn’t really make much an impact on the overall experience – loading screens aside of course. The sound design however is totally forgettable. As I am writing this, I am struggling to summon any memory that contains even a spattering of musical intrigue, which is all I really need to say on the matter I think.

Verdict

Overall Wintermoor Tactics Club is an alright game. The story is held up by solid dialogue, an interesting premise, and a cast of characters that are endearing enough to cover up some of the game’s flaws. Unfortunately, those flaws were ultimately too much for me to completely ignore and I left Wintermoor feeling disappointed. This is an incredibly accessible title for gamers who don’t have much experience with Tactical RPGs, however, if you’ve ever seen the box art for a TRPG, then you probably have enough experience to waltz through Wintermoor without breaking a sweat.

WAIT FOR SALE ON WINTERMOOR TACTICS CLUB

Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, XBox One
Purchase Link: Humble (PC/Steam)

If you would like to see more RPGs, you may be interested in our review of Children of Zodiarcs.

Many thanks go to Versus Evil for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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