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Capes

Capes Preview: Hands-on with Spitfire's Marvel-lous super strategy game

We get an early taste of Spitfire Interactive's superhero strategy game ahead of its debut at the end of May.

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One of the most recent seemingly quite overlooked but great games was XCOM-developer Firaxis' Marvel's Midnight Suns. The game delivered a turn-based strategy experience revolving around various well-known superheroes in the Marvel world, but it never really succeeded or found its place in the hearts of fans around the world, which is a shame because the concept is a really interesting and well-thought out one.

Spitfire Interactive sees the value in this theme and genre too, and has been steadily working on the turn-based tactics experience Capes for a little while now. While this very game is slated to make its full debut at the tail end of May, I've had the luxury to be able to dive in a little earlier than expected and to put the game through the ringer to see how it is shaping up.

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Capes isn't a traditional sort of superhero story where you lead a cast of characters to stop a bad guy. Rather this game is about a faction of superheroes who are operating outside of the law, as the city they call home has been controlled by an overwhelming evil faction for years, one that hunts down and eliminates any single person who stands up against them and attempts to stick it to their new order. Effectively, you're part of the super resistance, and in an effort to overthrow this reigning vicious government you go on a recruitment spree, bringing together a bunch of X-Men-like heroes in an effort to ultimately free the city.

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The premise is excellent. There's a clear and core story that the rest of the experience can build from, a story that is also quite simple and doesn't get caught up in itself. The characters are well defined with vibrant personalities, and you can see that Spitfire has placed a huge amount of effort on ensuring that they each are truly unique and don't crossover too much. This is best noticed in combat, as each character slots into one of a selection of defined classes that reflect how they operate in action. Mindfire is an Attacker, and his primary skill set is about damaging and eliminating threats, whereas Facet is a Defender who is much better at attracting the attention of enemies and then absorbing the hits meant for weaker allies.

It's rather rudimentary strategy gameplay in many ways, but it works. Plus, there's none of the frustrating percentage-based elements that make you want to throw your keyboard out the window. Each ally has a specific amount of actions they can complete in a turn, and this includes moving a certain distance and using a couple of abilities. With that in mind, you have to think ahead, plot out how to zip into danger, deal damage, and then move to a safer distance, something that the Striker hero of Rebound is excellent at with her high mobility and sneaky gameplay style.

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The majority of the gameplay either revolves around watching cutscenes that use comic styling like speech bubbles to convey narrative alongside great voiced dialogue or instead being wrapped up in the combat scenarios. To keep things interesting here, there are usually side objectives to test your skills with, for example not letting heroes be defeated during a battle, or not alerting enemies to your presence. Add to this progression elements that allow you to enhance your heroes by using gathered experience earned by successfully completing missions. This is the primary way you can improve abilities and even unlock new abilities and skills to use in combat.

Speaking about abilities, Spitfire has placed a massive amount of emphasis on team cohesion. This means you have to select a team of up to four heroes for each mission and then use them in collaboration with one another to complete the task at hand. You can open the way to new combined abilities by using skills near to another hero, and this is vital for overcoming the typical poor odds that you face during a battle, as more often than not you'll be a team of four against 10+ foes, with some of these enemies even having ranged and deadlier weapons or even being supervillains with dangerous abilities and massive health pools.

Capes isn't the easiest of games to play. There is the requirement of having an understanding of core strategy gameplay to hit your stride here, but once you find your footing, it works well in practice and doesn't overwhelm you with additional mechanics and systems to over-complicate matters. Spitfire has kept things intuitive and straightforward, and this allows you to enjoy and appreciate the narrative developments and the setting and presentation more.

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As I've only had a taste of the game so far, it'll be interesting to see how it continues to expand and improve on the core systems it has implemented in the first few hours. With Capes set to debut on May 29, you can expect my full thoughts to follow closer to launch.

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