Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy is a tactical RPG by Curious Fate, in which you fight against the forces of Mercy and foil their plan to end the world.
The game is entirely linear, focusing on a series of turn-based battles in which you use your characters’ skills and regular attacks to defeat all enemies on the map. Each enemy has a resistance to either physical attacks or skill attacks to strategize around, but your characters’ skills can also apply status effects, hit larger areas, or create turrets and terrain.
Your characters’ available skills are based on their two equipped Class Handbooks, which provide three or so skills plus some status buffs, and are upgradeable, effectively creating a job system. Trying out new strategies and perfecting your team through your equipped skill books and weapons is quite fun, and the skills genuinely lend the game some tactical depth. The team expands throughout the story to a maximum of 6, and the small team size allows each character’s moves to be meaningful without dragging the pace down.
Individual maps can take quite a while, but the game presents interesting new situations regularly and the variety from mission to mission prevents the game from becoming entirely stale. There’s also a lot that can be completed by using the same strategies over and over, which can cause the game to feel tiresome in long play sessions. In-between maps, you can equip your heroes or take on optional missions that reuse maps, but there’s really not a lot else to the game.
The War battles add some variety by adding a bunch of NPCs to your side, making the battles much larger-scale. Rather than only considering your heroes, it’s best to help the NPCs fight the enemy and create a numbers advantage for your troops. It’s not that different from regular gameplay, but it does add a fun layer of strategy.
As far as tactical RPGs go, this is a standard but well made one, with a well tuned standard difficulty and plenty of options above that. However, the same can’t be said for the story. Each character has a personality trait or two, but they’re not given agency with which to flesh themselves out. The evil characters are evil and always make evil decisions, and the heroes the opposite, and the story is entirely predictable. There’s never any doubt, pathos, or change from any of these characters, and the story is inert because of it.
It’s a shame because this is the second pillar of such a linear game. You have the tactical dude-killing and the story to propel you to kill more dudes. With the story being boring, you’re left with the gameplay alone.
Speaking of which, the gameplay has some rough edges. There’s no way to see your equipment or stats during a battle, meaning you have to remember whether their attack or skill is higher, their movement distance, and so on. There are stairs and high areas, but it’s sometimes unclear which tiles are high enough that you need to find stairs. You can’t move your heroes through one another, leading to frequent traffic jams. Each enemy AI often needs to individually decide to do nothing, wasting time each turn. There’s no way to turn off rumble on the controller, and the mouse and keyboard controls were a bit touchy for my liking. And in larger battles, animations can take a while to play out.
The art, music and sound effects are well made, and although some of the sound effects are a bit strident, they don’t detract from the overall experience.
If you’re looking for a tactical RPG with a good mix of story and gameplay, you’ll be disappointed because the story’s boring. But if you’re looking for a 15-20-hour tactics game with some interesting combat, this is a pretty good pick.
Absolute Tactics: Daughter of Mercy is available now for Nintendo Switch and PC for $24.99.
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