Redemption Reapers Review - Screenshot 1 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

When we first loaded up Redemption Reapers, we were in love with the aesthetic of the game. A dark and gritty tactical RPG with surprisingly good-looking cutscenes and haunting music was exactly the palate cleanser we needed after playing through Fire Emblem Engage. While those strong points never get old during this game, they are quickly overshadowed by shortcomings in the game’s design and execution.

Redemption Reapers takes place in a world under threat of being overrun by the Mort. These endlessly aggressive, partially feral creatures look very similar to orcs from Lord of the Rings and have about as much characterisation. They come in a variety of forms, each with different abilities and skills to cause chaos on the battlefield, but most are relatively straightforward. Stabbing them repeatedly is usually the ticket to victory.

Redemption Reapers Review - Screenshot 2 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The team doing the stabbing is the Ashen Hawks Brigade, a group of mercenaries with a score to settle with the Mort. The cast remains small throughout the 20 or so hours it will probably take you to complete the main plot. Each character has a unique skill tree and abilities they can use to either keep each other safe or inflict damage on Mort units that come into range. None of the characters are necessarily bad or boring, but they do often feel somewhat one-dimensional. We hear hints of a dark event in their past but details on this are scarce until much later in the game.

It is never clear where the Mort came from or what they want beyond wholesale destruction, which means that the plot of Redemption Reapers never gets much deeper than moving units around the battlefield and hoping you don’t get overrun by enemies. Unfortunately, the other characters in the game don’t get much development either, making the entire experience feel a bit shallow. This would be fine if the gameplay was spectacular, but, despite some interesting mechanics, that just isn’t the case.

Fans of other tactical RPGs will feel right at home with the basics here. Characters advance to attack, with different units having different abilities they can unleash on the Mort they encounter. The wrinkle here is how the game focuses heavily on unit placement and on engaging in hit-and-run tactics where you can. Characters can move, attack, and move again, allowing you to put your more durable mercenaries on the frontline while support units dip in and out where they can.

Redemption Reapers Review - Screenshot 3 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Redemption Reapers doesn’t feature permadeath, but most of the maps only allow you a handful of characters. This makes each one vital to keeping the action economy in your favour. Keeping your characters alive is easier said than done, particularly in early maps where healing is sparse and the Ashen Hawks are outnumbered three-to-one.

Balance is not on Redemption Reapers’ side, unfortunately. The game very quickly amps up the difficulty. The first five hours of gameplay are particularly frustrating because you don’t have the option to grind for experience points or money, meaning that you’re largely stuck with whatever you’ve earned up to that point. One early map took us four different tries to complete, each run taking around 20 minutes, which quickly sucked the fun out of the game. A difficult game is fine, but one bad turn spiralling into a complete wipeout just isn’t good design.

Redemption Reapers Review - Screenshot 4 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Once you get the ability to go back and replay older maps, the game’s difficulty becomes much more manageable. You’ll gain experience with each attack you dish out or survive. Gaining new levels gives you more Skill Points, which you can use to unlock new abilities and attacks. Everyone’s skill tree is unique, so their roles are largely locked in place. Urs will always be your tank. Sarah will always be your nimble rogue. Glenn will always be your swordsman.

One strange aspect of Redemption Reapers is the visuals. While the cutscenes on the Switch aren’t going to win any awards in their own right, they fit in well with the grim setting of the game. Character models look solid and move fluidly in the pre-rendered cutscenes, which makes it all the stranger when the action shifts to the gameplay and the visuals undergo a substantial downgrade.

Unleashing special attacks on Mort enemies doesn’t have the impact that it should due to choppy animations in both handheld and docked mode. Even in slow motion, the game feels like it is struggling at these moments. Character models are jagged and lack detail or polish. This is in addition to the fact that the camera is locked at one angle and at such a distance that you can’t always tell what kind of unit you’re attacking or even which character you’re sending into the fray. It honestly feels like the visuals for the cutscenes and the gameplay belong in entirely different titles.

Redemption Reapers Review - Screenshot 5 of 5
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The sound is probably the one part of Redemption Reapers that never disappoints. The music has just the right balance between epic and haunting. Rei Kondoh, who worked on the music for multiple Fire Emblem titles and Okami, was in charge of the soundtrack here and does a great job setting the scene for every moment in the game.

If you can push your way through the first several hours of gameplay, there is a decent game here. When the combat clicks, there are some really fun tactical elements. Knowing when to use your limited healing items and who to push forward into combat is vital, but often you’ll feel like you’re gaming the system rather than engaging with it as the developers intended. As it is, Redemption Reapers is an unbalanced and uneven experience that you’re better off picking up on sale.

Conclusion

Despite having some fun wrinkles on the tactical RPG formula, Redemption Reapers is too frustrating in its early levels to justify the thin plot and undeveloped characters. The music is the only consistently stellar part of the game, which is let down by uneven visuals and poor gameplay balance. You’re better off looking elsewhere for your tactical RPG fix on Switch.