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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Spitfire Interactive
Release Date: May 29, 2024


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PC Review - 'Capes'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 31, 2024 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Capes is a gritty superpowered turn-based strategy RPG that will return hope to a world without heroes.

Capes is set in a dystopian future. In the golden age, caped heroes of all types fought villains and kept King City safe. Unfortunately, one day, the villains won. They now rule the city with an iron fist, turning a once-thriving Metropolis into a place that would make Gotham City look safe. Anyone who shows signs of superpowers is quickly kidnapped by the thugs of King City's rulers. You take control of a young group of heroes who has managed to escape and has founded an underground league of heroes, aided by one of the world's last remaining "capes." Together, they plan to save the powered people of King City and free it from tyranny once and for all.

Overall, Capes has a fun plot. It doesn't break any significant molds, but it also isn't trying to. Most of the characters are homages to classic heroes and villains, to the point that you can often figure out what the reference is. Reimagining Tony Stark as Elon Musk may be well-trodden territory, but it's certainly easy to imagine the story with a villain character. It's a loving homage to comics of all types, but by its nature, it tends to borrow more from Age of Apocalypse than the standard superheroes.

Cape's plot doesn't really feel superheroic. It's somewhat inevitable that between Injustice and Suicide Squad, the setting of "a gritty world where superheroes lost" lacks a specific punch. The world is so relentlessly nasty that the areas where it delves into superhero tropes, such as the morality of killing, end up feeling out of place. It's easier to believe that Superman is conflicted about killing a villain, rather than a group of guerrilla soldiers who primarily fight by doing things like teleporting behind enemies and stabbing them in the back. I'd rather have had it go all-in on one direction, either the brightly colored capes or the dystopian rebellion. The humor of the game smooths things out a bit, but it feels a touch disjointed.

At first blush, it's easy to call Capes "Superhero XCOM." It fits that mold better than Midnight Sons. It borrows a lot of the basic movement and combat concepts from that game but readjusts to involve more superhero elements. For example, Facet, your first character, is a tank; he can cover himself with armor and nullify attacks, and a good chunk of the early game depends on you marching him into enemy fire to keep foes distracted, so his significantly squishier allies can attack without risk. His first ally, Rebound, is a teleporter who can basically ignore terrain but can and will die very quickly. Facet needs to draw attention so Rebound can take down foes, and it doesn't work to play it safe or hide behind cover .

This also plays into their Ultimate abilities. Each character charges up Ultimates in different ways. Facet charges up by absorbing damage, while Rebound charges by inflicting damage. Ignis, the flame-controlling Human Torch-style hero, can absorb fire from her surroundings to power up. These skills are incredibly useful on their own merits but also give useful hints on how to play the character. Once you've spent time exploring what they can do, you'll quickly understand the role each character is supposed to fill on the team.

As you get more heroes, you get more options for mitigation or damage. You can create barriers, mind control enemies, control weather, and more. By default, every hero can even attempt to disarm foes who have weapons; this doesn't actually hurt them, but it can significantly reduce the damage they're able to dish out. Managing enemy damage output is a huge part of the game, and you'll sometimes find yourself spending a lot of time going through each potential damage source to confirm you're safe; one slip-up can lead to one of your squishy DPS characters ending up firmly on the ground.

Capes makes your hero choices even more complex by including team-up attacks and abilities. As long as two heroes are close to one another, they can engage in a team-up attack that has a unique effect. Mercurial — the equivalent of DC Comics' Flash — can leave a literal trail of fire as long as she starts next to the Ignis. Weathervane, the Storm-like character, can manipulate air to give her fire some extra oomph. Rebound can teleport allies with her, allowing for your less mobile heroes to get into advantageous positions. Some team-ups do additional damage, but others can change the game; it's important to pick and choose who fits each mission.

The game does a great job of making each stage feel pretty distinct. Sometimes you'll be given a fun and relaxing mission full of mooks who you can take down with little trouble. Other times, you'll be put into a bad situation and have to figure out how to escape with your party intact. This is particularly true for the variety of boss battles, which usually have some gimmicks to them, such as enemies who are invulnerable to damage and must be avoided or controlled, enemies who deal massive damage unless you stun them out of attacks, or enemies who can nullify the first action against them. Each mission also has a series of challenges to earn additional rewards, which can be used to power up characters and unlock new abilities or costumes.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the variety of missions. The game gives you enough tools that it rarely feels like things are unfair, and if a mission seems particularly nasty, it can usually be made much easier by restarting with a separate set of heroes. (You can do this without consequence.) The missions do a great job of satisfying the puzzle aspect of a strategy RPG, where you feel clever and capable when you've figured out the exact combination of moves to overwhelm a seemingly impossible stage and emerge unscathed. The stealth missions feel like the only miss. They're thankfully few and far between, but they don't play to any of the game's strengths. You're playing as big, bombastic heroes, so having to sneak around rarely feels satisfying or fun.

In terms of gameplay, Capes absolutely nails what it is going for. Most of the characters are incredibly fun to play, and the game gives you enough tools and challenges that it's a lot of fun to figure out which members of your would-be superheroes are the appropriate match for the challenge. More often than not, I'd see a challenge and be bewildered at what I'm supposed to do, only to spend a few minutes thinking and then feeling like a genius for identifying the exploitable flaws in the enemy's tactics.

Unfortunately, the area where Capes is less impressive is the visuals. They do their job well enough most of the time, but there are a few combination attacks that don't have the right level of "punch" because it's difficult to tell what it is supposed to represent. The cut scenes will sometimes zoom in on models that are not made for the scrutiny. The voice acting is fine and occasionally veers into excellent, and that does a lot to bring character to the various heroes. For this kind of game, characters and voice acting are more important than the graphics.

Overall, Capes is just fun. If you like XCOM but wanted your heroes to have more power from the get-go, Capes scratches that itch incredibly well. The by-the-numbers plot and somewhat-thin characters hold it back slightly, but the title is engaging enough to keep you invested in the next fun stage or exciting boss fight. It's a great example of how the XCOM formula still has plenty of life in it, as long as you're willing to look at things from a different angle.

Score: 8.0/10

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