Capes Review

Capes is exciting. It’s a turn-based strategy game similar, gameplay-wise, to the XCOM series, but instead of defending the planet from an alien threat you’re leading a team of superheroes. Rather than shooting guns at extra-terrestrials, you’re telekinetically shooting chunks of rock at them, or teleporting to and then stabbing them, or sometimes just punching them, but it a super heroic way. If you want another comparison, it’s a lower budget, non-Marvel Midnight Suns, but with proper movement and no card system for your attacks.

We will begin with the game’s presentation, which is…okay. Graphically speaking it isn’t going to blow any minds, even the heroes’ ultimate attacks don’t really impress on that front, but it’s good enough to get the job done and combine with a few aesthetic choices that I like. Things like dialogue being presented with comic-style dialogue boxes in addition to being fully voice acted and some basic, but effective direction in cutscenes when establishing the area a level is set in.

It sounds pretty good too, voice acting is competent-to-good throughout, though there are a few anomalies with the levels on certain clips, where Weathervane’s ultimate scream is way too quiet. The dialogue they’re dealt is sufficiently comic book as well, with just that right amount of tongue-in-cheek campiness present in everywhere from the street level goons to the mustache twirling supervillains. It’s just enough to sell the comic styling outside of the cutscenes at base, which are actually cartoon rather than the 3D graphics of in-game. You won’t spend much time back at base, instead characters will pop up over a mostly static background for a conversation, each of them apparently unable to stand still as they have the exaggerated stances of Street Fighter characters, before you jet off for another mission.

These missions will take you all over King City, a dystopian city where developing superpowers is a crime punishable by being taken away, never to be seen again. The city is a dark, dangerous place where The Company is more than happy to kidnap supers and forcibly silence any witnesses, which is where your team of ragtag superheroes comes in. Gathered together by a mysterious man known as Doctrine to free King City from The Company, your team of heroes are young people who have recently come into their powers. These include, but are certainly not limited to, Facet, who can summon crystal shards as armour to reduce damage or to entangle and block enemies, Rebound, who can teleport around and deal extra damage on backstabs, and Weathervane, who can shoot lightning that chains between nearby enemies.

In combat, there are lot of ways these characters can team up, both literally and just with clever planning. Certain abilities can be enhanced if you are in range of another character – for example, Weathervane can add a gust of wind to one of Facet’s melee attacks to add a knockback effect. Alternatively, if a character is in range of rebound they can spend an action to have her teleport them somewhere. Facet’s crystal growth can conduct electricity, so with some strategic placement you can set it up so that Weathervane can damage more enemies with his chain lightning. Another hero named Mercurial is a Speedster (like the Flash) and has an ability that dashes a long distance, but when upgraded by Facet it leaves crystal growth along its entire route, which is very helpful for when you want to chain lightning every enemy in a level.

As you can imagine, these team up abilities are very powerful, which is good, because Capes is tough. It doesn’t mess around when it comes to throwing enemies at you, constantly bringing in more groups of enemies in numbers that, frankly, seem overwhelming when it first starts happening. With careful use of team ups, meticulous positioning, and heavy use of bottle necks you’ll find that it’s not quite as bad as you think. Especially when you realise that you can knock enemies through surrounding walls where they will fall to an instant death.

There are a few issues though. Certain abilities are so useful that they are basically essential. Facet is the only character I currently have that can soak up a lot of damage due to his crystal armour’s damage reduction and, considering the sheer number of enemies that tend to appear, I’ve taken to him always being in my group of four. Rebound can teleport and, as such, isn’t affected by terrain when aiming attacks, and her main attack is ranger teleport, so she doesn’t take reaction damage, so she’s always in there, too. Weathervane and Mercurial always finish up my team, because of the big growth-dash-chain lightning combo I’ve already mentioned, which is disproportionately helpful as you can have Mercurial connect up groups of enemies as they arrive and then run away so Weathervane can damage all of them at once.

Each hero has an ultimate which is charged differently depending on the character – Weathervane’s is charged by hitting people with chain lightning. If you set it up right you can have him using his ultimate, which damages every enemy in a reasonable radius, every round on top of the one damage from the lightning and his second action, because ultimates are free actions. It’s unbelievably useful, especially since there are objectives in the levels like defending hostages and the Facet’s growths also act like walls, blocking enemy movement.

This is all very cool, but the other heroes that I don’t use because my main team is so effective must be a little lonely by now. They have their uses, but they’re not quite as effective as damaging every enemy on the field plus an ultimate every round. Your heroes all level up using Skill Points that are earned not just from completing levels, but from bonus objectives on those levels as well. You can “simulate” previous levels to retry them and earn some extra SP, complete with your now likely significantly more powerful heroes, and they’ll even earn XP whilst they do it. The SP is shared between all heroes, which is useful in that you can spend SP on lesser used heroes to beef them up a bit, but it mostly resulted in me favouring my main four heroes and leaving the others very underpowered, as I didn’t want to constantly replay levels to level them up.

There is one other issue with combat – frustration. On top of the shocking amounts of enemies, some of them have abilities that seem almost unfair and really limit your options. Some enemies have a free action they can fire from a chest cannon at anyone who’s within a very long range in any of the cardinal directions every turn, so if you leave your hero in range they’ll take a hit in addition to the enemy’s turn. This might seem fine, except that some of these levels have like twelve of these bastards and you can only see the range of each one when you highlight it, which, when positioning characters, is time consuming at best. Most importantly, it feels cheap, which is discouraging in a strategy game.

Other enemies have their own free attacks that need to be disarmed before they trigger to avoid damage, forcing you to damage them less in favour of stopping an attack that won’t feel satisfying in a moment when it’s their turn and they still have an attack anyway. There are even stealth sections, where you can see enemy’s sight range and maneouvre around them taking enemies out without them noticing. I actually love this idea, but again, you need to highlight enemies to see their paths for next turn, and there tend to be a lot of enemies to keep track of – just the abilitiy to see all enemy paths at once would make a big difference.

There are a few little niggly bugs and glitches, like the camera clipping through the environment during attacks so you can’t actually see, the HUD sometimes missing elements like whether an enemy will take damage from displacement into objects/drops, or some fiddly UI, especially in the level up menu. But despite this list of small niggles, I really like Capes. It takes the Midnight Suns formula and adds proper levels and positioning into it, whilst removing the randomness of the cards. It’s a great idea that’s mostly well delivered.

Capes is a valiant effort at a relatively unique idea, one that I personally have wanted since I heard Midnight Suns would have a card-based attack system. It isn't perfect, it could do with a little more polish, and it's occasionally a bit frustrating, but it's deep, challenging and the story is enjoyable enough if you like comic books' campy style. Considering this is Spitfire Interactive's debut game, it has absolutely convinced me to keep an eye on their future projects.
  • Great idea competently delivered
  • Powerful (and therefore fun) superheroes
  • Very tactical and deep, if difficult
  • Lacking some polish
  • Certain heroes are so powerful, they're essential
  • Some frustrating enemies

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