So from my understanding, this is a spinoff game of a popular RTS series, but I went into this without that knowledge. There are a lot of genres and mechanics smashed up in this one: turn based tactics with real time strategy action sequences, army management, area control, and roguelike customization. And I’ve gotta say the game gets very close to managing them all in a tight package, but it barely misses the mark for me. I think over time, a lot of the tiny nuisances can be cleared up and lead to a more complete product, but as of now, it’s a little rough around the edges.

I think my major issue with the game is the amount of content available at this time: right now the progression and the types of builds you can make feel very limiting and same-y. I do think it’s fun just how many levers you can pull, but for the most part, it starts to just become a matter of picking the ones that allow you to spam as many attacks as possible while auto-healing. I think as new factions are released, more diverse strategies will become available, and it will become a more engaging experience. As of now though, most of the best items lead to very homogenized builds.

I’m also a bit torn on the real time aspect of the game. When it works, it’s fun, but when it doesn’t, it leads to a lot of missing and can feel slow. Every “turn” you assign a distance for your characters to move, while other players/npcs lock in the same coordinates. Then, everyone’s actions play out in real time. This means you have to account for where people moved and try to intercept them in order to land a hit. It can be very satisfying to line up JUUUUST the right shot, but more often than not, there are far too many very near misses or just too many enemies on screen to make planning feel truly strategic. UPDATE 22-05-16: They recently added a quality of life change to the auto-pathing, which makes your units override your commands when they intersect with an enemy. This helps you read the enemies pathways better and at a higher rate which leads to big whiffs happening less often.

I do appreciate the money spaces that can give you more funds to support your army during the course of the fight, but sitting around is often not the right play, except for objectives that involve controlling a point or survival. You start with a small corner of the map sequestered to yourself, and are tasked to moving outwards, defeating enemy camps along the way. Each victory adds to your team colors, and with it comes a boost to your daily income. You can use this money in the shop to buy badges to upgrade your units. This is where I think a lot of the homogenized builds can come in. While you can be offered a decent variety between battles, primarily you will usually spend your money to get the same few overpowered items from the store.

The game has an auto-battler-esque feature of combining badges of the same tier for a more potent build. These badges can be attached to certain skills or passives of units to modify the abilities and stats. This can be limiting as well, as there are only so many units, and their skills will often dictate the type of items you want to give them. Often that involves giving the high mobility Knight character bonus armor and attack, or the ranged spear-man multiple spear throws. It’s fun the first few times, but this is where I think further updates can go the distance and give this game more longevity. More unit variety would also enable more nuanced team-building and perhaps counter builds to respond to what other teams are using out there.

The game includes single player though it’s not really a campaign it’s more like Civilization style lobbies that can also accommodate multiplayer deathmatch or co-op. I think these features were quite competent, although open chat rooms may be something to look out for as I’m not sure how well regulated they are. I, fortunately, never had to deal with any troll players. A really random tangent, but the voice acting is a bit all over the place, with some being good, and others being a bit distracting in comparison. May not be a problem just muting them, but it did get a tad grating at times, especially hearing repeat lines excessively.

All in all, Circle Empires Tactics, to use a zoomer term, was pretty mid for me. I see a lot of potential as more content is added and balance changes are rolled out. I think the current basis is neat for enabling those really high synergy builds and deep customization options. I can give a half-hearted recommendation but personally, the seal is barely out of its reach for the time being.

Circle Empire Tactics was developed by Iceberg Interactive

Available on Steam for $19.99

A review copy was provided by the developer.

Hellfirebam has begrudgingly denied Circle Empires Tactics the Indie Gamer Seal of Approval.