We spent the last few weeks with Chroma Squad and I'm here to tell you what I think of it. Is it a great tactical RPG? Is it a nostalgic turd? Watch the video and continue past the break for details!
Growing up as a young boy in the nineties, there are certain things that I was predestined to like. I liked video games, specifically my Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog, I liked Toonami and my first taste of anime with Dragon Ball Z, and I really liked Saturday morning cartoons. But I loved, I fricken loved, Power Rangers!
I had Power Ranger action figures, video games, even the morphers and the green ranger’s flute dagger. I even have a picture of my younger self in a Power Rangers T-Shirt, sitting in a Walmart photo booth with someone in the shittiest pink Power Ranger costume I have ever seen. I think it was so bad that even back then I recognized it was awful, yet I was so excited it didn’t really matter. Now, I know what you’re all thinking, but back off ladies and gentlemen, this studs taken. Oh, you were wondering what all this rambling has to do with anything? I just wanted you to understand that I am completely impartial and entirely unbiased when it comes to this game.
The game is one of those successful Kickstarters that you hear about. Behold Studios, creators of another love-letter game, Knights of Pen and Paper, asked for $55,000 to fund development and they received over $97,000 from 3,964 backers. They nearly doubled their goal, but fell just short of an episode editor that would have been a huge plus. The game itself is a tactical turn based RPG with management mechanics and if you’re thinking X-Com meets Final Fantasy Tactics then you aren’t too far off. Of course, you’ll always be destined for disappointment until you stop comparing things to X-Com, so let’s just forget that game for now. The story is every bit as cheesy and fun as the shows it takes inspiration from. It follows a group of stunt men who decide to start up their own sentai show, which means you get to pick nearly every aspect about it. From the name of the show to the phrase your team shouts when they transform, even what they yell when they call their mech. You can also pick the suit colors of your team, allowing you to match up with your favorite Power Rangers season or forge your own route. You can even pick the actors that play each squad member, but sadly that means that you can’t create characters, only pick from a list of pre-made ones that come with specific stats. Your squad will be comprised of a Lead, a Scout, an Assault, a Techie, and a Support who will more often than not be your healer.
There is more customization for each class in a very simple, very shallow talent tree. You can also equip new armor and weapons that will change the look of your squaddies, which is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand it keeps their look from getting stale and shows growth through the seasons. On the other hand if you find a style you like for your squad you’ll end up having to ditch it before too long in favor of gear with better stats. Additionally you’ll rarely have the entire crew in the same set of gear, due to differing stat requirements, which means your squad will rarely look like a cohesive team during combat.
Speaking of combat, it’s where you’ll spend the majority of your time with Chroma Squad. It’s mostly a simple affair with each unit getting one movement and one attack per turn. The number of tiles a unit can move in a turn is determined by your movement rate stat and this means your scout will be running circles around the map while your techie just...doesn’t. Mine could move around 4 squares per turn, so I focused him on ranged combat.
You’ll move each of your units and use their skills, both default and those chosen from the talent tree, and finally end your turn allowing the enemy to do the same. This could easily become rote and boring, but thankfully Behold Studios did a few things to keep it interesting. The first is the teamwork feature where, instead of attacking, you can end a units turn by putting them in teamwork mode. This allows them to boost friendly units to extend their movement range, and I always felt awesome having my entire team flip off of one of my squaddies to surround a bad guy.
If you attack an enemy unit, any friendly units in range that are set in teamwork mode will also join in the attack. If you get five squaddies to all attack one enemy like this then you’ll get a group finisher with a special little animation. If you get five squaddies to do it with weapons, then you get a weapon specific teamwork finishing move just like on the show! Make sure that it kills the enemy though, as an early finisher that fails to end the fight will see viewers changing the channel.
The above would have made the combat much more fun by itself, but the real standout feature for me was the director’s orders. Essentially they are just optional objectives for each fight, but if you follow them it can make the fights much more difficult and interesting. The orders range from not letting any of your squaddies get knocked out, to my favorite which was to have a specific squaddie hit the boss during every round. This lead to a lot of frantic teamwork throws and last minute attacks that barely worked and it was a lot of fun.
Sadly the director’s orders are usually very simple and repeated often, which lessens their appeal after a while. That of course is not the only area of the game that let me down as it does have a fair few bugs. Nothing game breaking, but more annoying bugs, the kind that make you think you have something crawling on you long after you’ve killed it. The worst of these was an issue where tiles would remain highlighted forever, which made it difficult to see if a square was within range of my squaddie without clicking and committing to the move.
Another area of Chroma Squad that really let me down was the crafting. Crafting allows you to make equivalent gear to what you would buy in the store, but the drops needed are rare and you can’t make gear for every type of stat you would want. You can purchase more materials for in game cash, but the mats you get are random. You can also break down old items for materials, but again it is random and it is entirely possible to break down a valuable item and get nothing for it.
The frustrations with the crafting system are only compounded by the fact that it’s the only way to upgrade your mech. It’s confusing because the whole system feels very much like an iOS money trap, but it’s not and it never was. I can’t imagine why they went this route as it is easily one of the least enjoyable aspects of the entire game.
Speaking of mechs though, of course there are moments where you summon your giant robot and fight an equally giant monster. The fights are turned based and focused on percentages for attack, miss rate and block. If you attack and miss an enemy, your turn ends and the enemy gets a chance to attack. These battles start off extremely boring after the initial badass mech excitement, but eventually as you gain more abilities for it the mech battles become a welcome change of pace from the normal combat.
Outside of combat you also need to manage your studio. You’ll be able to upgrade things like the quality of your green screen, your lighting, or even your catering table. The only effect this has is on the stats of your characters or your audience level, but it’s a nice addition. Speaking of audience, depending on your stats you’ll gain a certain amount of money and fans per episode based on the shows audience level. You need fans to increase your initial audience per show as well as to keep your show from being cancelled entirely.
You can boost your audience and several other aspects by hiring one of several advertising agencies ranging from a legit company to a guy with a blog in his basement. It’s not as deep as I would like, but you could say that about the entire game actually.
That’s not to say I didn’t like the game though, far from it. It’s an incredibly fun game that I had a blast with. For fans of Power Rangers I give Chroma Squad a 4 out of 5. For everyone else it’s a 3.5 out of 5.