Vigilantes by Timeslip Softworks
Vigilantes takes the venerable turn-based tactics of ‘90s favorites like X-COM and Jagged Alliance and transplants them into a fictionalized take on gang-infested city streets. Even in its Early Access state, it’s promising, with rudimentary team and base management acting as short breathers between addictive combat missions.
The setting, described by developers Timeslip Softworks as “neo noir,” sits firmly astride the line dividing grit from camp. Despite realistic elements like drug and gun smuggling – and knocking your enemies out with baseball bats – Vigilantes is more Gotham than Boyz n the Hood. There’s no racial tension or prison gangs, but there’s a survivalist militia, cultist thugs in gas masks, and stereotypical Mafia goons (they even wear fedoras).
Players take on the roll of Sam Contino, an ordinary citizen following in the grand tradition of Batman by hiding his face and beating people up. As the campaign progresses, Sam will meet and join forces with characters like Emilia De Soto, a cop who – try not to be too surprised – plays by her own rules, and Ray Case, a private detective who is either an homage to or parody of Sam Spade.
Thanks to solid, self-aware writing and some unexpectedly good voice actors, the setting, characters and brief cut scenes are a lot of fun. Vigilantes could easily have gotten too silly to take seriously, but it ably balances its obvious fictional and cinematic inspirations with its attempts to portray a comparatively realistic setting. (It’s also unafraid to go for an occasional joke when the opportunity arises.)
Streets of Rage
Given its premise, it’s unsurprising that Vigilantes revolves around combat, and fans of the venerable X-COM and Jagged Alliance games will be right at home. Its approach to turn-based, small-squad tactical fights is easy enough to pick up; each character has a set of action points each turn, and both moving and attacking use up their points.
There are plenty of additional factors to keep combat interesting, though. Each weapon has multiple attack types, including unarmed combat – a light strike is more likely to connect, but a haymaker will do a lot more damage – and can also target specific body parts to slow your enemy down or give them a case of shaky hands. You can even choose whether to apply lethal force or to simply knock out opponents and let the police deal with them later.
Between combat missions, base and team management also bring X-COM comparisons to mind. There’s a base, complete with research library, shooting range, workshop for equipment upgrades, etc. Instead of a world map, there’s a city map broken down into blocks; in addition to providing locations for missions, these are also available for surveillance operations, which generate additional intelligence on the criminals operating in the area.
In its current state, Vigilantes can feel like a bit of a grind. There’s already a lot to do, though, and with the addition of more narrative-driven campaign events, more team members and an end-game, it looks to be a promising throwback to classic turn-based tactics.
Even without those elements in place, it’s already a lot of fun. The strategy and management portions offer plenty to do without feeling overwhelming, and the combat itself is well-balanced – tactical enough to be interesting, but not so complicated that it gets frustrating. I could see Vigilantes being an entertaining casual social media or mobile game as it is now. Once it’s fully fleshed out, it could potentially be a new classic.
Vigilantes is available in Early Access via Steam.
Watch the official Vigilantes trailer below: