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First Thoughts on Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire

Developed by Whale Hammer Games, Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire hit Steam this week and I’ve thus far played a couple hours. My first thoughts? This strategy RPG has a fascinating backstory, great mechanics and a cool aesthetic, but could benefit from a little more polish and seems to be in the bad habit of ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’ when it comes to the story- but overall, it seems that the game’s a real diamond in the rough. Still, these are just my first impressions based on a couple hours of play.

To delve a little deeper, Tahira follows the game’s titular protagonist, a princess of Avestan- she’s headstrong, kind, and determined to lead her people through their current crisis, for the Kingdom of Avestan has come under attack by mysterious invaders claiming to be from the Astral Empire- trouble is, the true Astral Empire was destroyed in ages past. Thus, Tahira goes on a journey to fight these impostors, rally her people and save the kingdom.

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Gameplay in Tahira is pretty standard SRPG fare- you’re presented with a battlefield full of enemy units, and you must carefully strategize your moves in order to beat them- it’s a lot like Telepath TacticsFire Emblem and The Banner Saga– what’s interesting here is the way that you take control of your units. You can move one unit at a time, and your units can generally move after attacking- this took a little bit of getting used to for me, since I’m kind of in the habit of setting and forgetting my units in other games. Here, however, once I’d gotten the hang of moving, attacking, and moving again, I realized the new strategic possibilities afforded by this mechanic, and I can’t wait to see how it comes into play later in the game.

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Additionally, I really love some of the presentation in Tahira; the user interface in battle, for instance, is really intuitive- it sometimes looks a little too busy, but overall, hasn’t left me confused; its great design coupled with the game’s tutorial have been surprisingly effective at getting me into the groove of the game. If you’ve not before played an SRPG, Tahira is an excellent starting point.

My complaints regarding the game’s rough edges largely relate to some of the character designs and the game’s audio. First off, the music is incredible. There’s a big, dramatic score that’s reminiscent of Inon Zur’s work- it’s majestic, adventurous and fits beautifully; the composer, Max LL, did a great job on it. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems that the game’s sound effects don’t always blend quite right- sometimes they seem underpowered or weirdly out of place- it’s the aural equivalent of an awkwardly Photoshopped image.

Iba, Tahira's horse, is incredibly expressive.

Iba, Tahira’s horse, is incredibly expressive.

Regarding the character designs, it almost looks as if everybody’s closely related. The characters have heads that are just too close to each other in size and shape. That said, my complaints are minor ones- on the whole, I enjoy the game’s style and am looking forward to seeing where the story takes me. I’d rather not criticize the story at this point- while the game’s opening has dumped a little much exposition on me, it seems that was just the opening- as the game’s opening up, it’s already doing a better job with its characters and dialogue, so I’m sure it was just a couple bumpy bits in the beginning that I disliked.

Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire is currently available on Steam for Mac, Windows and Linux.

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