The strategy genre is a funny one. I feel that out of all the genres this is one of the most love/hate. The tactics sub-genre definitely doesn’t get as much love as it deserves and this is where we’re going to be today. The game is Wintermoor Tactics Club and I have to say that I’m having a heap of fun with it.
In my honest opinion, there are a few key reasons why tactics games don’t always get the attention that they rightfully deserve and all of those reasons are fair. Some games are fun but not particularly story heavy. This gives the title more of a board game feel and that’s going to be polarizing from the get-go. In other cases, they’re made far too complicated.
My rule of thumb with fun strategy games is the “easy to learn hard to master,” approach. You don’t need a library of rules and a million menus to navigate just to have a good time. Lastly and this is probably one of my personal bug-bears is that this is a genre that’s very easy to copy and paste. The mobile market is flooded with tactics games and they’re all virtually the same with a few minor tweaks to ward off Copywrite infringement. All this being said I can happily say Wintermoor Tactics Club is a breath a fresh air.
Let’s address the points I’ve just made as we go. Now I feel I’ve given myself something to prove. First off, let’s look at the story, shall we? So Wintermoor Tactics Club is set in Wintermoor Academy; a private school. As with many schools, feeling included is all-important and that makes school clubs a must. You and your friends form the tactics club. Three role-playing geeks who meet up to play Curses and Catacombs, your favorite game.
The school principal decides in true school spirit that there will be a competition between all the other clubs in Wintermoor to find out who is the best. There’s a catch, though; the winning club is going to be the only club because all of the others are getting disbanded. You don’t want that to be you, obviously, so you use all of your tactical knowledge to beat off your opponents in snowball fights of all things. Without going into too much detail Principle Enfield is up to something a bit more nefarious than bumming out teenagers. Your task is, therefore, to survive the competition, survive school, and work out what’s going on.
Wintermoor Tactics Club is story-driven in the most beautiful way. There is a visual novel expanding as you play along and you really fall in love, with (or hate) the different characters you come across. In addition to the tournament, you also have to remember that you’re at school so helping the other kids with various tasks is a good way to earn brownie points and more tangible stuff like items and upgrades for your party. You also have to remember that in many cases your rivals are also your friends and you don’t really want to see them go down either. The juxtaposition of helping your enemies because you’re all doing something you don’t want to comes over nicely.
The other clubs really need mentioning. They aren’t the most obvious you’d think of. You’ll be facing, The Psychic Detectives, The Equestrian Club, the mysterious student council, and many more. Each of these have their own trials and individual links to the story. Literally, nothing feels boring or copy/paste and this is really lovely to see.
Moving to my next point. Wintermoor Tactics Club definitely has a board game feel in the tactical elements of the title. The difference between this and other games I’ve played, though, is that it’s supposed to have that feel. We’re talking about a group of characters that play tactics games, so having the characters as miniatures moving on a board makes sense.
The core gameplay fits the setting as opposed to being something that’s just been chucked in because it works. This helps immensely with the flow of the plot. You never feel like you’re dropping the narrative to go and do a fighty bit, it’s all part and parcel and this is something I really like. I also like the fact that parts of the game are set in the fantasy realm of the tabletop and others follow the same idea but in real life during the snowball fights. All very cleverly done.
So is the game intuitive? In a word, yes. The controls are fluid and easy to pick up. When outside the world of C&C and the real-world action events, (snowball fights,) everything else is point and click so no problems there. Something else I love is that character isn’t at the forefront; the story is. What this means is that you aren’t spending all your time tooling about with classes and equipment. As I mentioned earlier completing side-quests gives you gear and abilities. The number of things you have to juggle is deliberately limited so you can just enjoy the fun.
You can play C&C whenever you feel like you want to do something a bit different. The characters learn how to tackle real-world problems in this fantasy realm as part of the main story. You are also given more difficult challenges to try to conquer as an aside and this is another good way to unlock goodies.
Your thinking, “Alex this is a review. Stop gushing and say something negative,” right? Well only if I have to. To be honest there aren’t a lot of holes to pick with Wintermoor Tactics Club and the ones I’m seeing are pretty subjective. I suppose my only real irk, (and it’s nothing major,) is the toing and froing you have to do to complete a lot of the side quests. This is only a matter of clicking from scene to scene but it might be a case of “talk to kid A in the library then go to kid B in the quad and back to kid A.” This is fine if there are lots of steps involved but when there are only one or two it can get a bit monotonous.
The only other negative I can see that might put people off is that obviously there’s a lot of reading involved. Tactics fans that just want to get into the action without all the background might well get frustrated. It needs to be said, though, that this is only a tactics game in practice, it’s story-based in essence. Because the plot comes first it should be something that’s understood from the outset.
It’s hard to tell you more about the actual game without ruining everything for you but Wintermoor Tactics Club is a really fun and immersive ride. It’s so nice to have a breath of fresh air come into a genre that is getting a little stale through no fault of its own. I love everything about this game. For fans of the strategy genre, it’s a really nice change from the norm and I strongly recommend giving it a go. I never thought I’d catch myself saying this but fans of a good virtual novel might really enjoy this title too. I would say that often these to genres are poles apart but in this case, I think a lot of common ground can be found.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.