Redemption Reapers Review – Unforgiving Combat Above All Else


Developed by Adglobe and published by Binary Haze Interactive, the Strategy RPG Redemption Reapers asks the question, “What do you get when you cross old-school Fire Emblem gameplay with the darker tones of something like Berserk?”.

Previously having worked on the Metroidvania action RPG, ENDER LILIES: Quietus of the Knights, the developers have brought back the Dark Fantasy aesthetics, albeit changing up the game entirely by tapping into the tactical strategy RPG genre.

Redemption Reapers puts players in charge of a band of mercenaries called the Ashen Hawk Brigade. In its dark fantasy world setting, orcish ghoul-like beings known as the Mort have been sweeping through the land, slaughtering and destroying villages and cities alike. Specializing in small-scale guerilla tactics, the Ashen Hawk Brigade make it their mission to save lives and keep the Mort Menace at bay.

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Dialing back the contrasting settings and colorful dialogues from series contemporaries like Fire Emblem, Redemption Reapers puts its main focus on punishing battle encounters to cut your teeth on, alongside a series of brooding characters and a dark atmosphere to match.

Redemption Reapers

The Ashen Hawk Quintet

Though named the Ashen Hawk Brigade, Redemption Reapers curiously only features five playable characters throughout its entire runtime. This contrasts starkly with contemporaries such as Vestaria Saga or even Valkyria Chronicles, which often offers players more playable infantry units to play with.

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Though the choice of a single-digit party count in an SRPG may be baffling at first, each member of the team makes their presence distinct, as they all have roles they uniquely fill. This does in turn mean that the first several chapters of the campaign are spent mostly on gathering up the 5 playable characters, with the first chapter of the game only having two units to work with.

The lesser number of units, along with how deadly each attack is, means going heads-on against a horde of Mort with one character is ill-advised, with most end board of your turns looking like a five-man-phalanx more often than not. This leads to less bold actions and more small-scale brawls that have several units ganging up on a single enemy one by one in offensive encounters or making conservative decisions to see who to send out and take a hit in defensive situations.

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The protagonist of the story Sarah, for example, is a great candidate for initiating first attacks on enemies due to her high movement and evasion stats that allow her to dodge counterattacks while positioning herself so that she can follow up attacks from her teammates. This comes with an evident downside, as her actual HP and Defense stat is non-existent, meaning single strikes can critically wound her, or at worst, one-shot her.

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Other characters essentially fill in where another lacks, so to speak, making each character distinct and paramount in ensuring victory. While the odds are always stacked against you, by playing on the strength of each character, the game rewards its players for more surgical takedowns with less damage taken and fewer resources spent.

Mort-ifying Combat that Pulls No Punches

It would be an understatement to say that Redemption Reapers wears its inspiration on its sleeve. From the controls, the gameplay loop, enemy behavior, and inventory management… All come close to skirting the line of being a dead copy of the Nintendo IP. Heck, the combat UI looks identical to Fire Emblem Engage. While the game has its fair share of distinguishing features in the Ability Point system and follow-up attack mechanics, the game admittedly does not stray too far from its original DNA.

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Due to how Redemption Reapers trades in the grandiose army-commanding strategy flavor found in its contemporaries for a more dire and gritty flavor of combat, Redemption Reapers’ mechanics and focus on tougher enemy encounters make each victory that much more cathartic.

Morts come in all shapes and sizes, and none of them are simple pushovers. Ranging from Tanks to Archer types, any attack from a Mort is deadly, as damage numbers are high, especially taking into account how small each unit’s health pool is. For example, the weakest foot soldiers (called Wretches) can easily shave off a third of your unit’s HP in a single hit. Every action has significant consequences, apropos to the fact that healing is limited to a single swig of “spirit draught” potion for each character in the early game.

To top it off, the game has no undo button after each action, so one wrong move can mean anything from an enemy teetering on a magic pixel to a total wipeout. With each story map clocking in at about 20 minutes and most requiring you to take down 20~30 enemies in a large map can be almost demoralizing at first.

The implied deadliness at which the Morts make short work of the party members seems to be the developer’s way of nudging players into adopting a strategy distinctively unique to Redemption Reapers. Whenever an attack is initiated on an enemy with one or more units adjacent to it, they can perform a follow-up attack.

All ally units adjacent can put the heat on the enemy with a follow-up attack, so surrounding a Mort from all four sides becomes a genuinely viable tactic. The activation of this follow-up mechanic also happens to have a timing-based button-pressing element to it, that feels half-baked and pointless in execution.

Follow-up Attacks can happen even if the HUD doesn’t specify that you can at a moment, meaning that, should you reposition your enemy or units during an attack, the newly adjacent allies can follow their lead. This added layer to the combat effectively adds a sort of “tactical puzzle element” to combat, as abilities that push and pull units become key to dishing out the most damage in certain situations.

Another key mechanic in the game lies in how an Action Point system dictates how many times a character can act per turn. Rather than strictly confining units to simply move + execute an action once and end their turn, Redemption Reapers opts for a system in which Action Points (AP) are generated each turn and are then spent to conduct moves with the said character. This means that on top of placing their units in strategic positions, players must also keep in mind the AP economy of each character.

As much as I word that to sound overwhelming, in practice, the system is implemented to allow a new way of player expression in how characters (Sarah, for example) can act multiple times a turn to chain follow-up combos. Also important to note is that, unlike games like Wakfu, Action Points are not tied to character movement whatsoever.

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Level Up and Building Your Brigade

Combat encounters with the Morts can be treacherous, but with the right equipment and preparations, players can even the odds. As such, Redemption Reaper features maps to “grind” allowing players to slowly but surely acquire experience points to level up.

The aforementioned skills play an integral role in Redemption Reapers, as players can allocate skill points that they gain from each level up, to gear a character towards more special roles in dispatching the contemptible freaks. Skill points are finite and should be taken with care when investing, as dipping into many different skills can cause your character to become a master of nothing more than a jack-of-all-trades.

It should also be pointed out that the game features no respec options, so players must save before investing points. For extra measure, rotating your save slots is also a good idea.

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Skirmish battles are similar in practice to how they are implemented in other games, where they serve as battles outside of the main story that allows players to train units before taking on challenging encounters. What sets Redemption Reapers apart from its counterparts in the genre is how the reward for skirmishes is strictly confined to giving players extra attempts at looting treasures on the story maps and racking up EXP, and nothing else. No money or extra loot is set in Skirmishes, and treasure chests that have been opened during the normal encounters, do not repopulate.

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The Overall Rating at the end of missions determines how many experience points are rewarded.

The game’s weapon durability system also means there is a finite limit to the number of times players can grind in the Skirmish maps since at some point or another, you would be running low on weapons. Broken weapons can still be used by units, though their damage is halved.

Item Management and Battle Preparations

Similar to most pre-3DS era Fire Emblem titles, gameplay in Redemption Reapers is strictly confined to battle prep and deployment. In the Battle Preparation screen, players can cash in any loots as well as upgrade their gear using the materials strewn about in the stage as treasure or enemy drops.

Upgrading and repairing weapons in Redemption Reapers can be a life-or-death situation in harder combat encounters, as much as in others games of the genre. Rare weapons trade off accuracy and durability for stronger attack values. Upgraded weapons more often than not iron out these flaws, so investing in a weapon can prove valuable in the long run. On the other hand, stronger weapons cost more money to repair, so a degree of thriftiness is also demanded.

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Equipment management is done here too, as Redemption Reapers, for whatever reason, does not allow players to equip the accessories they have picked up during a map. Acting as minor stat-boosting items, trinkets found can be equipped with characters to give them an edge in combat.

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Story Telling and Presentation in Redemption Reapers

Outside of the supplementary flavor texts and lore that can be read in the archive menu, Redemption Reapers tells an unremarkable story that does very little to catch the player’s agency. The story hammers the point of how the war effort against the Mort is more about surviving than it is about defeating them. Battles are narratively treated (and reciprocated by the gameplay) to be narrow victories. Throughout the 29 chapters of the game, the Ashen Hawk Brigade visits different war-torn locales, all utterly decimated by the Morts.

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Without treading into spoilers, Redemption Reapers takes a long time to develop its story. For instance, the main party members often refer to an incident that occurred two years before the events of this game but refuse to elaborate on the topic, despite its implied importance to the team.

This becomes increasingly aggravating, as even after 10 chapters worth of maps, players are given nothing other than a surface-level observation about each character. On top of this, several chapters take place in the same location (albeit with a different map layout), further slowing down the pace of the plot.

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This lack of character development and interaction exacerbates the glacial pace at which story beats unfold in Redemption Reapers, as cutscenes that bookend each chapter add very little substance while managing to also pack themselves with terminologies and location names that are used liberally and never get elaborated on, further souring the experience.

Some segments in a map also feature dialogue options from time to time that allows you to choose what Sarah has to say at a given moment. Unfortunately, these choices do not make any tangible difference. Regardless of your own two cents, Glenn, the de-facto leader of the bunch more often than not ends up deciding on the next move.

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The quality of the cutscenes strewn about Redemption Reapers are generally a hit-or-miss affair, as the majority of them seem to lack direction, with characters delivering dialogues with awkwardly pregnant pauses that have them staring into space. While the game features an illustrious voice cast for both Japanese and English audio settings, the contrived nature of the writing alongside the lack of voice direction, somehow renders their delivery stilted on many occasions.

It should also be pointed out that the soundtrack for most of the maps is genuinely stellar. From grim and daunting tunes to courage-inspiring epic tracks, composer Rei Kondoh holistically elevates each battle encounter and sets the scene. This comes as no surprise as Kondoh has previously worked on games such as Bayonetta, Okami, and you guessed it, Fire Emblem.

Though I hate to bring it up in such frequency, series such as Fire Emblem tackle the story, character, and relationships more elegantly, whereas Redemption Reapers leaves a lot to be desired in the story side of things. The addition of lore tidbits and Resident Evil-esque files and letters in the Archive section serves as a novel way to convey the world-building, but should probably have not been used as a way to neglect exposition (especially early on), along with the fact that they are set aside and inaccessible during the majority of gameplay.

Puzzling User Interfaces

Redemption Reapers, while evoking the older installments of SRPGs, also seem to have acquired the wrong lessons in conveying information to its players. UI and needless ambiguations mold players into adopting a try-and-error kind of experience due to the lack of information in some battles, which feels needless.

One of the more frustrating UI issues is how the game has a unit info screen that shows off what an ally or enemy does. For any members of the Hawks, this shows what skills and weapons they have, but for the Morts, this is not the case. This becomes dangerous in mid to late-game maps, where stronger units possess unique skills of their own that can be deadly if not engaged properly. Instead of providing any information in battle, players that wish to learn what an Evoker Mort does, need to go back to the archive (which is inaccessible during battle) to read about them upon encountering one.

Other strange omissions include the lack of a way to zoom in or out the camera, which feels strange as maps in the game are often multiple screens wide.

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Another personal gripe would be how the game has no real tutorial or explanation as to what each stat does. These numbers are never elaborated on and are left up to the player to decipher their tangible effects. While some are fairly easy to perceive as battle outcomes and stat-boosting accessories change their numbers, stats like Faith is left ambiguous as to what it does.

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While by no means game-breaking, the user interface in Redemption Reapers more often than not necessitates the players to acclimate to the numbers and lack of information in most encounters, further reinforcing a sense of try-and-error that feels needlessly punishing at times. These factors can admittedly potentially be fixed in future updates beyond this review’s release, so here’s to banking on some added quality-of-life features.

Redemption Reapers Shows Potential But leaves More to be Desired

Redemption Reapers, especially for newcomers to the genre, may not be the best landing point for a Fire Emblem-like SRPG with its punishing gameplay and intricate skill systems. Maps can go on for 20+ minutes with one bad decision potentially being the death of everyone. But what is here can be a satisfying experience when the combat clicks into place and you as the player, through trial-and-error, eke out victory amongst overwhelming odds.

The storylines and narratives that go for a dark low-fantasy presentation often miss the mark as the game fails to elaborate on the world-building and premise, with little character development to fall back on. The game truthfully conveys its dire narrative better in its punishingly difficult battle encounters that enforce the danger of the Morts than anything the cutscenes and dialogue implies.

If you can stomach some awkward cutscenes and line deliveries, and perhaps purely want a tight strategy RPG with an emphasis on character building, Redemption Reapers is here to deliver.

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*This review is created based on the Steam Version in version 1.0.4. Redemption Reapers is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, and PC via Steam.

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Redemption Reapers Review – Unforgiving Combat Above All Else - QooApp Review
Redemption Reapers Game Review

Redemption Reapers, especially for newcomers to the genre, may not be the best landing point for a Fire Emblem-like SRPG with its punishing gameplay and intricate skill systems

Operating System: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PC

Application Category: Game

Editor's Rating: