I’ve always been a big proponent of turn-based and tactics games. Maybe it’s due to my roots in the NES and Game Boy eras, but I’ve always found the genre to be extremely compelling, while also mentally challenging. For this reason, I’m always on the hunt for the next great RPG. When I heard about the interestingly designed new title, We Are the Caretakers (which just so happens to hit Early Access on April 22, Earth Day) I was very interested. The question is, did this sneak peek offer a promising vision of the title’s potential, or was it a concerning glimpse into a game in the midst of substantial growing pains?
If you are curious about what is the driving theme of We Are The Caretakers, I’d have to say it’s conservation. As the name might imply, you are a part of a global collective, looking to help preserve these weird rhino-looking critters named Rauns. You’re tasked with doing whatever it takes to keep this single species of beast safe. Why are they so special, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine, but this is one of those examples in which mystery can be one the greatest tools in a game developer’s arsenal.
The action itself plays out through a tactics-style view of a map where you control small squads of up to six units at a time. For the more ambitious among us, you can also have multiple squads on the map simultaneously. As they meander around the environment, there are the usual series of mission objectives that need to be met such as bringing down a shield or capturing Ruan poachers. Yes, they are fairly simplistic goals overall, but I’m trying not to pick at it too much, given that the game is currently well within the confines of the Early Access program.
Combat is the standard turn-based affair, with each character having their own unique set of skills and perks. Each combatant is randomly generated, so you never know what to expect from each combatant, not to mention the encounter. Once you’ve run into a squad of poachers, a battle will kick-off. You then get to take turns performing moves on one or multiple adversaries.
While most of the battle mechanics seem to be rather garden-variety, there was one unique feature that piqued my interest, and that applies to capturing enemies. After you completely deplete an adversary’s life bar, you have the option to essentially “FINISH HIM” or perform a capture. This works just like a standard move in that only some characters can perform the maneuver. However, it takes a turn to perform, and it can miss the desired target.
Post-skirmish, once all objectives have been completed and you’ve returned to your ship, you get to decide what to do with these prisoners. In We Are The Caretakers, each unit has three options such as extracting information, recruiting them to your cause, or releasing them. You can then use the money acquired through missions to either recruit additional squad members to build out an existing team, or just build new squads entirely.
Once you’ve returned to the ship, you also get the chance to customize your team members. Each and every squadmate has their own skill tree that, at least as far as I can tell, is directly tied to the race of that unit. As someone who is a micromanager to the nth degree, this very much appeals to me. Plus, it feels like they’ve managed to strike a nice balance between giving you control of each unit’s progression without making it feel overly arduous. I genuinely cannot wait to see what options begin to unlock as my team grows.
As I mentioned earlier, We Are The Caretakers is currently in Early Access. This status is unfortunately very accurate, given the builds we’ve been provided thus far. It appears (at least as far as I can tell) that whole systems, such as the items and unlockables, are referenced to, but not implemented. Additionally, there were frequent performance issues, where framerates during turn-based combat sequences would dip down into slideshow territory. There wasn’t even anything overly taxing being shown on screen when these events occurred, which is what made it even more perplexing.
Another serious issue that I encountered during my preview playthroughs was frequent crashing. To provide a bit of context, in the span of an hour, I had the game crash to my Windows desktop a total of 12 times. There’s no way to sugarcoat the fact that roughly every five minutes it was crashing. This was straight-up unacceptable.
The worst part was that despite being irritated beyond all belief, I legitimately wanted to play more. Hence me putting up with that nonsense for over an hour, consecutively. Further updates have since been deployed, and while the crashes seem to be less frequent, I still had it crash out four times in an hour yesterday afternoon. Oh, and did I mention that the same update also invalidated my save game, forcing me to start all over again? Yeah, it did that too. Why do I do this to myself?
I genuinely think that there is a legitimate kernel of something special here, otherwise, I would’ve never bothered restarting the game so many damn times. The capturing mechanic is easily the standout feature and has the biggest potential to help define the title moving forward. That said, I cannot in good conscience recommend We Are The Caretakers in its current Early Access state. Hopefully these issues can be ironed out on the road to release, but as of now, this is a hard pass for me.
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