Demo: Street Posse Showdown

Despite Final Fantasy Tactics being a favourite among lovers of the genre, few subsequent games have tried to evoke the level of complexity of that game. Now in steps Street Posse Showdown, a tactical RPG with a modern day setting with even more stats, affinities and compatibilities to keep track of.

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Street Posse Showdown is a classic tactical RPG in pretty much every way except perhaps the most divisive: a modern day setting. Replacing wizards for pyromaniacs and warriors for martial artists, and switching swords and axes for rifles and shotguns, Showdown‘s stark change of setting is its biggest departure from the status quo. I’ll admit I, too, wasn’t so sure about using a modern setting for a genre that pretty much works best in fantastical settings.

But desperate for a deeper tactical experience, I gave Showdown a whirl despite the lack of arcane magics and steel armours. While I certainly can’t call it perfect by any stretch (more on that later) I have to admit that Showdown provides such a wealth of abilities both mundane and fantastical that it basically works the same as any fantasy setting.

This is due in part to the fact that Showdown took the approach of adapting modern equivalents to fantasy staples rather than trying to be ‘realistic’. More importantly, though, the gameplay at its core takes an almost identical approach to Final Fantasy Tactics, with turn-based, tactical battles that care about position, direction, and elevation, among other things.

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Impressively for a one-man dev, the underlying systems are already quite complex, with the character creation process being a prime example.

Not only do you pick standard things like gender, job and distribute some stats, but there is also archetype (body builder, intellectual, backpacker, etc) which appear to influence your stat growth, personality traits (stoic, timid, etc) which influences defense and offense stats, traits (e.g. ‘gutsy’ which gives you a attack boost when inflicted with a status effect), perks, which give outright stat boosts in an area of your choice, and then customisation options like height and appearance.

After finally making a character, you can also (at the beginning of the game) repeat the entire process to make any of your own personalised posse members from scratch.

Repeating this entire process for 4 or so members is, let’s be blunt, painful. However, although you can go with a default team, I do recommend doing it manually as it gives you the chance to build your team to fill out specific roles as needed, and is probably far easier in the long run compared to familiarising yourself with the default team.

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The job system is usually the key drawing point for tactical RPGs – especially Final Fantasy Tactics fans – and Street Posse doesn’t hold back in this area, eiher.

You select an initial “job”,  which in the modern setting includes things like football player, engineer, thief, programmer, and more, and this determines what ability “schools” the character can learn and use. This covers stuff from combat schools like handguns and rifles, or support schools like bluffing or seduction, and item usage (just like the chemist of FFT, you need the item ability to use items in battle), to more esoteric one such as “business”.

From what I saw, you can add further compatible schools later at the right shops, too. So yes, character builds can potentially get quite complex. And, on top of this, characters can also change jobs, for the right price.

If all this sounds like a lot of detail, it’s really just the tip of the amount of stuff Street Posse’s subsystems seem to contain. There are factors such as elemental affinity (learning and performing skills with matching element to the character is best), and the usual rock, paper, scissors ‘weapon triangle’ but with all the different schools, e.g. academic abilities do extra damage to melee characters. Or something. I’ll admit I still haven’t grasped every detail.

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That detail, is, both the blessing and curse of such an undertaking as Street Posse Showdown.

Of course, it’s yet an early build so it should be no surprise it’s rough around the edges. A one-man-show building all these intricate underlying systems is impressive, but naturally means other areas fall to the side.

Notably the UI is about as user friendly as a 90’s SAP accounting system, and requires you to drill down into many menus and sub-menus to peruse all the stats and data you need. The team and deployment windows don’t really display a lot of key information – like which job and schools that character have – requiring you to drill down into various sub-menus to get the information one bit at a time.

In a game like this, it’s clear that knowing your team inside out will be a essential to succeeding at the game. But there are simply far too many pages and windows to go through to effectively do so. Presumably the developer will eventually tackle this in future, hoefully.

The other major caveat, depending on your preference, are the controls. Showdown commits the crime of being a PC game built with a gamepad in mind, leaving keyboard players to weep in the corner. Sure, it plays nicely with the gamepad, but it’s a confusing mess with the keyboard, and doesn’t really take advantage of the PC at all (read: no mouse support).

The keys can be rebinded at least, but the menus still indicate everything in gamepad button terms, which means you still need to understand everything in reference to gamepad buttons.

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In short, Street Posse Showdown is an impressive early effort that shows a lot of promise for the somewhat lacking tactical RPG genre. However, Showdown at this point really requires a lot of patience and dedication to get enjoyment out of it. Its two main caveats, the fiddly UI and controls, and its short length, admittedly make for a pretty steep learning curve with not enough payoff it its current state.

Street Posse Showdown is quite a find for a tactical RPG fan, but probably not approachable for any but the most hardcore tactical RPG fans dying for something new (and the short length will leave you wanting more). Despite this, I’m very much hoping the game makes it to further development.

Street Posse Showdown (demo) | Download / Steam Greenlight / Dev log

 

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About J.C

I grew up in the dark dingy arcades of the 1980s, blasting heads with Robocop 2, but grew up in an era that spanned the introduction of the x86 home computer, through to the 16-bit revolution, into the polygon age and beyond. I write about food, travel and of course, New Retro Games. I started newretrogames.wordpress.com and contribute to www.thecitylane.com. I am also a freelance business researcher, writer, and editor having published academic and corporate articles on innovation and intellectual property.

Posted on July 22, 2016, in RPG, Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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