By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor), OnRPG Journalist
For the turn based fans there is a new competitor on the market and this free-to-play online browser game looks like it can push this genre into uncharted waters. Experience the story as a young adventurer that one day crosses the wrong person and gets his/her entire life tossed in a violent new direction to experience an exciting story. I must admit, I’ve never been such a big fan of turn-based games, but when I do latch onto one I tend to micromanage them to the extreme to create the perfect outcomes in any outcome. And when a browser game comes along claiming to be inspired by classic tactical role-playing games on consoles, I can’t hope but think something good is on the way.
Right off the bat I have to compliment Ecol Tactics, or rather the development team behind this team. I have played many browser games that run through flash, and flash itself is not that bad, but it usually has some serious limitations that are quite annoying, and most browser games do not have an option at all to run in fullscreen, despite claiming to bring the full MMORPG experience. Luckily Ecol Tactics is playable in full screen! Unfortunately there seems to be a frames per second issue when in full screen that overall ruins the smoothness of the game and made me resort to not using it to get a prettier experience.
At first sight, the game looks refreshingly good and I have to admit, I have always been a big fan of the cartoony style that this game tries to capture. Even though everything in the game looks very basic, I really like the simple style of the graphics and sprites. But let’s jump from the visuals and talk gameplay mechanics.
When you get into your first real battle, you will learn the basic mechanics and the importance of pre-match character placement. You have enough freedom in most battles to give your team a huge advantage or disadvantage depending on each unit’s placement. In some of the later matches your entire strategy can be completely void if you don’t wisely choose your starting set-up so it’s important to figure out these tactics early on while the game is still forgiving. Otherwise the game plays out exactly like you’d expect a tactics game, with each character having set movement regions followed by skill or attack use, item use, or waiting to speed up their next action. And here is another thing that I must note, as an avid RTS and MOBA player, I do like me some macros. Luckily there are hotkeys that you can use to speed things up if you are a slow clicker.
As the game progresses you’ll find yourself constantly strategizing with various mercenary teams to find the best team, or at least the team designed to defeat a certain mission. This game offers plenty of chances for you to make these characters your own with plenty of equipment variety whether you’re looking to inch your DPS up that extra bit, or survive one more hit on the battlefield. Besides the equipment the skills also play an important role in the battles. Ecol Tactics’ mercenaries come as one of multiple classes each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Want to go fully ranged? Well what are you waiting for? Get some archers and mages and focus on the top weapons to nuke down your foes before they can close the distance. Of course you’ll be spending plenty of time gathering skill stones to gain that level of damage. These stones are as valuable as they are difficult to create and offer enough variety to make a noticeable difference in your mercenaries’ tactics. You can acquire these skill stones by defeating enemies, or if you are wealthier in the game you can also purchase them in the shop or buy them from other players. When you have acquired a new skill, you will find it in the in skill menu when you are able to unleash it on your target. While there is a storyline and various quests to advance your journey, in the end it’s all just a framing for the never ending acquisition of new more powerful skill stones to overcome the toughest missions and other players in the game’s PvP modes.
Ecol Tactics certainly takes its inspiration from tactical titles from the previous generation of consoles. But there is a difference though, and it is a positive one! Ecol Tactics keeps gameplay far more dynamic by allowing you to constantly swap out and test different mercenaries and mercenary skills to find that perfect team combination for each situation. Combined with the slow build-up to acquire some of the rarest skills, the grind can be quite addictive. The difficulty is also far beyond most tactics games I’ve played before, ensuring victory after victory isn’t just handed to you on a silver platter. I have always been a big fan of this special style of games, and even though I am not the biggest fan of turn-based, I do feel that Ecol Tactics has improved the genre. The fact that it’s F2P and entirely within a no-download browser is just icing on the cake.