Tahira: Echoes of an Astral Empire is a tactical turned based strategy game following the saga of a young queen leading her people from annihilation at the hands of an invading army. The story is some dark stuff. Tahira, tired of the hypocritracy of kingdom life, leaves for the country side of her kingdom to help out the less fortunate. Through a vision, her father the King, tells Tahira of the Astral Empire, which has invaded the land killing everything in their path. After this, Tahira travels back home to find the Astral Empire has already razed it. Taking on her royal duties, she leads the remaining survivors as they attempt to escape the reaches of their enemies. Overall, the story is fairly compelling and does a great job of crafting a believable world.
The turn-based play is very similar to the Banner Saga games. Each unit has armor, health, and willpower. Armor must be depleted, before you can chip away at health. Willpower is what enables units to use special abilities. Units have generous amounts of willpower making special attacks a vital piece of combat. One of my favorite units in the game was The Claw, a hero character who is an assassin type. The Claw has the ability to move again after attacking and will regain willpower on an enemy kill. Using this coupled with his powerful multi-attack, players can ravage ranks of enemies soldiers. It felt really empowering to take out multiple enemies within a single turn.
Since the battles that take place are pretty large scale turn movement is based upon army types. Knowing this in advance helps players target specific units that may be attacking next to help minimize damage. Another interesting mechanic within Tahira is the ability to ambush enemies. Players can move unit’s into the ambush position, and interrupt movement phases to pull off an ambush strike. This skills is essential in for having successful missions given the number of opposing forces you face. Combat can be a pretty stressful experience in Tahira. Considering that you are facing a massive invading army, you’re always outnumbered in combat. People on your team are going to die, accepting this and managing to inflict the most damage before they are killed should be the focus. Missions can take up to an hour accomplish and since they are turned based can be a bit dull as numerous units take their turns. As I mentioned before, combat can be pretty stressful since you’re facing overwhelming odds in battle. At the start of each battle, I thought to myself, “how can I do this?” Eventually this fades, as you observe the battle and realize that you’ll be able to overcome. I still had to be in a certain mindset to sit down and play Tahira, because of this. Feeling combat fatigue for several hours at a time, does not make for a fun experience, although it nails the emotional tone of the story telling.
At the end of the day, Tahira is a good game, but I don’t think it’s quiet the game for me. It’s mechanics works and there’s a compelling story to motivate players, but the combat wore on me. I’m not saying the combat is bad, it was just too intensive for my liking. I can get the same amount of tension in a smaller 6v6 round of XCOM2 that last 20-30 minutes as I can from one massive battle featured in Tahira that takes an hour. Ultimately, I’m not a fan of the scale of combat, but it may appeal to more hardcore turn based players.