Tahira Echoes of the Astral Empire
Tahira Echoes of the Astral Empire is the first project coming out from Whale Hammer Games, an Australian indie game developer, and they first announced their plans in November 2014 after which they had a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the development.
The setting was built with the Unity engine and is available for Windows, OS X and Linux, while the game itself only has a single player mode telling the story of princess Tahira who wants to lead her people to salvation. The world in which you are thrown combines science fiction elements with some medieval fantasy and according to the developers it was inspired by the landscapes of Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Nepal and India. “Stars fall, screaming to the ground. The Light shifts, and an empire withers. Now, an army looks to the heavens and a princess rises…”
From a gameplay perspective, Tahira Echoes of the Astral Empire is a turn-based tactics RPG that is comparable to games such as XCOM or The Banner Saga (which was also an influence on the game’s graphics). According to the developers what they wanted was to create “a game that captures the excitement and adventure of going on a journey, but one that also reflects on some of the harsher realities of life in an honest and interesting way.”
Due to the turn based structure of Tahira Echoes of the Astral Empire you are set in a more meditative state and since you have to read the entire dialogue you get time to understand the story in more depth. This might be a plus for the fans of old-school RPGs (while also allowing the soundtrack to stand out) but those seeking a fast paced game might have to look elsewhere.
You have to pay a lot of attention to each move you make since you cannot save at any moment and reload if something goes bad. You will have to go through the whole battle once again and this adds to the suspense of every decision.
Probably the most significant element is the ambush mechanic which can really turn the tide of a battle. You hide some of your characters before the battle starts and at any moment you can have them come out and take their turn flanking the enemies or going straight for the ranged units.
The main character of the game grows in power as the game advances and you get to meet some colorful companions along the way but the ending is quite abrupt since the designers mentioned that they want an episodic format.
There are many who compare the game to The Banner Saga but the two are quite different once you go past the similar graphics and the turn-based system. Here the main focus is clearly put on the tactics part and you have a much larger scale when it comes to battles. Much of the story is said through the battles and they paid a lot of attention to make each one different.
Overall, I consider Tahira Echoes of the Astral Empire to be quite a unique game due to the great atmosphere and I am definitely glad to have given it a try. If you are a fan of tactics games, then this one does a great job at it and it also tells an interesting story in the process, but keep in mind that battles are a BIG part of the game. If we are to rate the game we would give it an 8.5 out of 10.