The tactical RPG genre has gone from being relatively niche to mainstream, thanks to the the surge in popularity with Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series, and others. Titles such as Square Enix’s Triangle Strategy and upcoming Ogres Tactics: Reborn show that the genre can reach new heights when it comes to innovations in gameplay and storytelling.
However, AAA studios aren’t the only ones who have embraced the genre. Indie developers, such as Labrador Studios, have also thrown their hat into the ring when it comes to bringing out new tactical RPG experiences. Which is exactly what they’ve done with Live by the Sword: Tactics. How is their new SRPG? Find out in our Live by the Sword: Tactics review!
Live by the Sword: Tactics
Developer: Labrador Studios
Publisher: Gravity Game Arise
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Windows PC (Reviewed) (via Steam)
Release Date: October 28, 2022 (Early Access for Steam on June 23, 2021)
Price: $24.99 USD
Live by the Sword: Tactics starts off with a rather simple premise. There’s no major introduction explaining the world or giving the details of a war about to break out. While these underlying concepts are still the case as is with many other tactical RPGs before it, most of it is actually done through dialogue between the characters.
It gives the game a more intimate and personal feel, but does lose out on the epic grandeur of other titles. This does go in line with gameplay being more focused on smaller, denser maps instead of the larger scalecombat seen in other titles. The scale also goes in line with the limited number of combatants, usually most battles being waged in 5 vs 5 combat.
The five character battles are a huge limitation when it comes to the story campaign, forcing the game to keep the encounters at very small skirmishes. This would have been fine were they not going for a similar story focused on all-out war breaking out, like many other tactical RPGs.
This ends up harming the experience when playing through the storyline of Live by the Sword: Tactics. The plot might’ve only been tacked on so that it gives players a taste of the combat, which is more balanced towards skirmishes and multiplayer. The story battles are rather easy, which also defeats the purpose of these small scale encounters being more about tactics than using specifically stronger units.
So with a heavy focus on the core gameplay revolving around deeper mechanics for players to rely more on strategy over gimmicks like power leveling or getting powerful weapons, does that mean gameplay is engaging? Unfortunately, it never came across as anything meaningful compared to others within the genre.
As stated before, there’s actually little in terms of improvement for characters throughout Live by the Sword: Tactics campaign. The only customizing the players have for each unique unit is the ability to change out their ability loadout before a battle. However, a limitation of moves never seemed to hinder builds for my characters nor did it ever encourage experimentation. Very few times did I feel compelled to adjust their movesets.
Finally, battles are rather slow and tedious. Most strategies revolve around focusing on one single target to reduce the enemies numbers, as smaller engagements mean that each individual unit becomes much more valuable and losing one badly hurts the team. Yet even going down to the last 1 or 2 enemies still takes painfully long to finish the encounter when the result has long been decided.
This is even more evident during story levels where you only control 1 or 2 units yourself. During these times it’s obvious you’ll only need to do the basics just to find victory. There’s even a level where you’re guaranteed to lose due to being outnumbered and it still took forever to watch my units get cut down just to move on with the story.
It’s ultimately rather boring, but at the same time if the difficulty was notched up, then Live by the Sword: Tactics would end up becoming a frustrating experience where RNG can end up screwing up even a good strategy. The design just puts itself into a position where the balance lies more towards being fair against other human players, instead of AI.
That said, if you do enjoy the core gameplay Live by the Sword: Tactics has to offer, then there is a fair bit of content to sink your teeth into. As mentioned before there is a story mode which acts a lot like a tutorial throughout many of its stages. Along with that also comes the Adventure mode, which is the game’s “roguelite” experience where you’ll build up your units while traveling around the map of the world.
Finally, there is multiplayer which acts similar to that of skirmish mode, except opponents are controlled by other human players. It’s a nice addition for a game that revolves around small scale encounters with units balanced more akin to esports titles rather than traditional tactical RPGs. As long as it maintains even a small playerbase that is willing to mix things up from time to time, then Live by the Sword: Tactics could be a solid experience for years to come.
Live by the Sword: Tactics is a game that focuses too much on balanced encounters. While it might make for a solid multiplayer experience, that still doesn’t change how utterly mundane it makes the single player experience. Every encounter just feels the same but with a different coat of paint. Not to mention, if the game tried to be more, it would end up creating issues with meta usage and could end up harming creativity that tactical games typically allow.
This is likely a game that most fans of the genre should avoid. There simply isn’t enough to allow most of the gameplay to be engaging beyond multiplayer.
Even then, it seems enjoying it with a friend where you can feel more free to experience would lead to a more optimal environment. Other than that, Live by the Sword: Tactics is better off to be skipped.
Live by the Sword: Tactics was reviewed on PC using a copy provided by Gravity Game Arise. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. It is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC (via Steam).