Capes hands-on preview – fun super hero strategy – WGB

Capes is the debut title from Spitfire Interactive, a team composed of numerous people who worked on the Hand of Fate series. Capes is due to launch at the end of this month on May 29 and I got a chance to go hands-on with it to experience its blend of turn based superhero tactics.

Capes takes place in a city controlled by a group simply called The Company that hunts down anyone exhibiting super powers. Previously, caped crusaders were not considered legal but still played a huge role in keeping the city safe, but this sparked some resentment from the Government and the police force who weren’t too keen on a bunch of spandex-clad vigilantes running about, and so they brought in the mysterious Company to sort out the problem.

That all took place about 20 years, and since then The Company has helped outlawed superhero’s. You are essentially a super-powered resistance group led by a grizzled former hero by the name Doctrine trying to rescue other “capes” from the clutches of The Company while working toward overthrowing the cabal of supervillains running the place.

It’s a cool premise for a superhero story, and developer Spitfire tries to tell it with some comic book flair like speech bubbles. The writing does struggle to get the tone right at times, falling into the cringey and quippy style of dialogue that has become so overplayed, but the characters are well defined and I’m genuinely interested to see where it all goes.

The actual turn-based strategic gameplay is quite standard fare, at least in the chunk of game I got hands-on with, but competently executed and fun. Each turn you control one of three heroes who can use a mixture of movement and action points to shift around the battlefield, attack and activate abilities. There’s a solid amount of strategic thinking needed to deal with the large groups of enemies you’ll be fighting against, too. Its easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, so you really do need to think ahead in order to disarm the most dangerous ones, taking out the big bruisers, keep your fragile heroes intact and make the absolute most out of the points you have available.

In that regard, figuring out how to really utilise each hero to their fullest is key. In fact, there were a couple of brutal difficulty spikes that wrecked me until I realised I wasn’t using certain heroes correctly.

Facet is the tank of the group, a big lad capable of covering himself in crystals and then taunting the bad guys so that they focus on him. He can also grow crystals around enemies to hold them in place, or provide a crystal shield to allies. In other words, he’s the guy you’ll want to position in the middle of every fight to soak up the damage because that also powers up his ultimate ability that encases every enemy in a huge radius in crystal.

Image credit Spitfire Interactive

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Rebound. Wielding dual-swords and the ability to teleport, her focus is on dealing additional backstab damage and being mobile. The tradeoff is that she can’t take much damage before being downed, so while Facet is busy drawing attention, she’s flitting around the back to deal maximum damage, while her handy spinning move can disarm multiple foes at once.

Weathervane is the specialist of the group. Using his ability to harness the elements, Weathervane can throw out chain lighting that can arc from enemy to explosive barrel to enemy. He can also shift bad guys around using gusts of wind, setting them up for future attacks. Weathervane appears toward the end of the first chapter though, so I get more time with him I headed to the simulator to replay past missions.

The final character I got to try out is Mindfire, who initially appears in a wheelchair. That gets quickly discarded when it turns out he has telekinetic abilities, allowing him to levitate and hurl objects. Telepathic skills also enable him to weaken enemies and read minds, something which the developers appear to struggle with a bit because in the span of the first hour or two they have characters who can conveniently hide their thoughts. Let this be a warning to writers out there: characters capable of reading minds are a pain in the ass. Ultimately, Mindfire is the biggest damage deal, his mixture of hurling the scenery at enemies and making them weaker allowing him to deal out some serious pain.

Image credit Spitfire Interactive

One cool idea that Capes has is good old fashioned superhero team-ups. If characters are within range of each other they can combine powers to boost damage or effectiveness. Mindfire can use his telepathy, for example, to make Facet’s taunts effect multiple enemies at once, while Rebound can teleport her friends around the map. These skills emphasis thinking multiple turns ahead, which is why you can also choose to delay a heroes turn in order to really maximise what you can do with them.

One criticism I do have is that Capes plays it very safe with its characters, at least in the chunk of game I got to play. As superpowers go and how they are utilised, my gang of misfits are quite tame. Don’t get me wrong: having Superman levels of power would be rather tricky, but compared to something like Marvel’s Midnight Suns where characters have some really flashy moves and abilities, Capes heroes feel a little more like bargain bin Halloween costumes. According to the developers, the full game will feature 8 superheroes to deploy on missions. Hopefully, as new characters get introduced the power selection and how they are used might get more creative.

Optional objectives that provide more XP and upgrade points push you to really use skills and abilities, but you can always come back to them in the simulator at a later date. I found that to be important because when I first tried to get all the optional objectives I wound up getting stomped into the ground.

Image credit Spitfire Interactive

Strategic games like this typically offer some kind of gameplay twist on top of the turn-based action, like XCOM’s base building strategic layer or Midnight Sun’s odd blend of exploration and soap-opera character building. Capes lacks that secondary gameplay loop though. It has a homebase where the heroes hang out, but its only function is to let you spend skill points and take on optional side missions. I’m really hoping in the full game that we might get to see some form of base upgrading, or at the very least, get to see the place getting tidied up a little as more heroes are recruited.

We’re just under a month away from Capes launching, and my impressions are positive. Although it lacks some of the big budget bombast to really make its heroes seem powerful and awesome, the core gameplay is solid turn based strategic fun. It’s challenging, and Spitfire has clearly spent time developing heroes and powers that that work together, pushing you to play smart rather than brute forcing through every problem. It looks like this will be a great game for lovers of super heroes and turn based strategy.

Capes will launch on May 29 for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series S/X, Switch and PC. You can wishlist it on Steam here.

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