Katja's Abyss Tactics Review

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Katja's Abyss Tactics Review

Post by Baconlabs »

This game was entered into the 2020 Heart of the OHR contest, where it tied for 3rd Place.

Katja's Abyss Tactics, which started its life as the aptly-named Minesweeper Tactics, is a straightforward concept that had me hooked from the start: what if Minesweeper was a turn-based tactics game? Throw in a generator, acquire some resources, build build build, throw in some hostiles closing in on your location, and you've got a pretty solid formula going. Whether you're just trying to mine enough materials or build a specific unit in a specific area, the mines are always there to keep you on your toes. One wrong move, and boom, a flashy chain reaction occurs with a very high chance of ending your run! But it can be planned around - sometimes, you may even consider it worthwhile to trigger the explosions early, to save time on guesswork and focus on pushing towards an objective. There's plenty of room here for different strategies, especially bad ones, but hey, whatever works, right?

Even without the fine gameplay at its core, the presentation is on a whole other level here, with special effects and animations going into almost every aspect of the user interface, from menu selections to turn transitions to tooltips to the very title screen itself, which immediately impressed me, and I can't imagine the last time an OHR game wowed me like that. Katja herself is also quite easy on the eyes, and it's always nice to have a human face to come back to after a long mission of staring at robots, vehicles, and weird bug monsters. Smoothness of control is also worth mentioning, because it would have been very easy to botch this and expose some broken seam in the mouse interface, but the game, in my experience, handles everything flawlessly. Once you've got a grasp on how to transition from phase to phase, from units to minesweeping to info gathering and back, it all just comes naturally from there.

Well, naturally for me, anyway. I will admit that more can be done to initiate those who are unfamiliar with how Minesweeper works, and as popular as it was, it's nowhere near as universal as Chess and Tetris, and if you can't grasp the basics of flagging mines, your experience will be a bit dull by comparison. Thankfully there are many tactical tools at your disposal to deal with this - scanning for mines, defusing them, or just suiciding a unit on them - but it's nowhere near as fulfilling as puzzling out the mine spots yourself. The other core gripe I have is the game's difficulty curve, which spikes severely at Sector 3, forcing you through huge clusters of mines that need to be de-fused no matter which way you go, with new enemy threats at your back no less. This, and likely some other maps, could use some reworking to make them less tedious - even an experienced player will likely end up wasting a lot of time on levels like this, because of how slow progress gets.

A good tactics game is hard to come by, but this game very comfortably fits the bill for me. With a little work, it could reach perfection in my book.

Time Invested: 1 Hour, 1 Minute
Rating: 9/10
PINEAPPLE PIZZA: A perfect fusion of disparate ingredients, though the flavor is love-it-or-hate-it.
PINEAPPLE PIZZA: A perfect fusion of disparate ingredients, though the flavor is love-it-or-hate-it.
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