Content of the article: "TROUBLESHOOTER: Abandoned Children is JRPG meets XCOM and it’s a real treat"
Troubleshooter is a Tactical RPG released this year by a new Korean dev team, and I've been really impressed with it and think it deserves more attention.
The game is obviously XCOM inspired from the UI design and general mechanics — you have a field of units, they navigate a grid-based map taking cover and shooting enemies, enemies are hidden in fog of war. It'd be easy to write it off as a knock-off but Troubleshooter definitely has its own ideas.
Instead of moving all your units at once and then all the enemies moving, there's a character turn system. Different abilities will set your turn back a different amount — a big AOE lightning storm will delay you more than a simple sword attack. Attacks can also affect the enemy turn order; throw some suppressive fire on an enemy sniper to delay their turn in time for your melee units to climb up and neutralize them. Characters also have a Vigor bar which is similar to mana. Each ability requires some Vigor, and if you run out you can't attack anymore. Every character can recover their Vigor to full with the use of a turn, but the catch is that recovering your Vigor has a huge turn delay where you'll be vulnerable. All this comes together for one of my favorite tactical RPG combat systems ever out of the many I've tried.
I say Troubleshooter is a JRPG meets XCOM, mainly because the game is more character focused compared to XCOM. Instead of randomly generated units, there's a fixed set of unique story characters that join your team over time. There's no permadeath, these characters are important to the plot after all. There's also a tremendous amount of character customization. Each character has two class branches to choose between, and each class gives you access to different passive abilities that you can put on your mastery board.
The mastery board is the main place for character customization and is any theorycrafter's dream come true. There are over 600 passive abilities in the game, and you get to mix and match them here to augment your character. Additionally, specific combinations of 4 masteries unlock a Mastery Set effect that give you further specialization options. These abilities are what dictates the play-style for a character: you can get a character specializing in support fire who follows up ally attacks with additional shots, a character who can repeatedly attack as long as he can kill an enemy within range, or a walking tank who locks down enemies in melee. I've found few things as satisfying as tinkering with a character's mastery board and bringing them into a fight and seeing the build come together.
The game does have some aspects I feel should be mentioned, not necessarily because they're wrong but because they can make the game a bad fit for some people. The game is quite long and takes a while to get rolling. I think I had around 80 hours in before I had all the characters available. Individual fights also are long, with longer ones going over an hour (fortunately you can suspend your play at any time). There's just a lot of complexity in the game too. The systems I mentioned above are complex enough, but there's also Diablo-style random suffixes on gear, item crafting, mastery crafting, beast taming and raising, robot building, reputation systems… it can definitely overwhelm people. The game does a decent job of introducing you to these systems one at a time but honestly some of the systems aren't quite polished enough and feel unnecessary. Once you learn everything though, there's a whole bunch of chunky systems to play around with and loads of content to keep you busy as you work to optimize your team.
The other issue is the translation. The dev team is Korean, and the translation was definitely not done by a professional. Instead they've added some community translation tools which works to fix obvious tooltip errors, but still results in the story feeling somewhat… distant. You will be able to understand what is happening, but it's harder to emotionally connect with it at times due to the awkward phrasing. Troubleshooter does spend a good chunk of time in visual novel-esque story sequences so this is a significant part of the game to have this problem. I do find myself attached to the characters despite this though.
I got this game on discount and it feels like I robbed the dev team with how much fun I've gotten out of it and how much love was obviously poured into it. Hoping to spread the word a bit!
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