Ticket to Earth Episode One Review: Pack your bags; it’s time to get tactical
Don't be fooled by the cheerful-looking battlefield; this turn-based tactics game is as formidable as the best of them.
Reviewed on PC
At first glance, Ticket to Earth might seem like it's taking a gentler approach to turn-based tactics. Its vibrant colours and a cartoon aesthetic welcome you with open arms; its small, single-screen stages more closely resemble a disco than a battlefield; and its comic-book-style story sequences serve up plenty of sly humour. But XCOM-lite this is not. Dig a little deeper, and you'll find a demanding tactics game with a unique spin that sets it apart from anything you've played before.
Like an increasing number of games these days, Ticket to Earth adopts the episodic release model. The first of its four episodes launched on iOS earlier this year, and now it's made the leap to PC via Steam. As a pleasant aside, the game comes from homegrown Aussie developer Robot Circus, the team's debut release after spending years working on games for the ABC and Disney Imagicademy. That experience shines through in every facet of Ticket to Earth's design, from its clean interface to its deceptively simple tile-matching gameplay.
Wait. Matching tiles in a turn-based tactics game? The idea surely sounds like heresy to fans of the genre's chess-like strategy. Before you baulk at the idea, though, the way Ticket to Earth goes about it is far more compelling than simply shoehorning a Bejeweled clone into XCOM's framework.
Each encounter in Ticket to Earth takes place on a grid made out of colour- and symbol-coded tiles. Characters can only move across tiles of the same colour in a single action, and here's where things get interesting: moving across tiles is how characters build up their attack power. The more tiles they cross in a single action, the more damage they'll do when they attack, making bull-rush tactics effectively useless. Excessive meandering won't do you any good either, though, as each character can only stockpile a limited amount of attack power dictated by the weapon they have equipped. Further, whenever a character takes damage, it drains their attack power along with their health.
Managing attack power is just one of tactical considerations you'll need to make. Each tile colour is also associated with a symbol: hand, eye, mind, or heart. As characters cross tiles of a particular symbol, they charge up an associated special ability. These range from the traditional--poison grenades and health restoration--to the more novel--transforming tile symbols to create new paths across the battlefield. Smart use of these abilities is crucial to attaining victory, because for as bright and cheery as its art style is, Ticket to Earth doesn't pull any punches in the difficulty department.
Keep at it, though, and you'll be rewarded with an intriguing sci-fi story that, while nothing ground-breaking, tells a tale more engaging than many turn-based tactics games even attempt to. Stranded on the planet of New Providence, you'll have to contend with megalomaniacal criminals, corrupted helper robots, and an opportunistic government charging a quarter of a million dollars for a ticket on the only interstellar ship capable of evacuation back to Earth.
The only caveat to jumping on board Ticket to Earth lies in its episodic release model. From its first episode alone, it's too early to tell whether the story will make the most of its promising premise. Worse, the game ends right as the action starts to heat up. Still, at roughly three hours long, episode one is a satisfying tactical experience on its own. If you don't mind waiting for the as-yet unannounced episode two release date, Ticket to' Earth is a worthy trip to embark on.
We reviewed Ticket to Earth Episode One Review on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.
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