I shot my nephew in this solo dev's love letter to Final Fantasy Tactics

Vanaris Tactics character art
(Image credit: Toge Productions)

If videogames have taught me one thing, it's that I am not a tactical man. I stumble from encounter to encounter, Leeroy Jenkins'ing my way through life without much in the way of forethought, and more often than not I end up punished for it. Such has been my experience with Vanaris Tactics, a new indie strategy game from lone developer Matheus Reis, which hit Steam earlier today.

Vanaris takes place in a fantasy world and follows the story of a family of refugees trying to tactics their way out of their occupied homeland. Battles take place on an isometric, grid-based plane and revolve mostly around trying to flank or get behind enemies while stopping them doing the same to you. Although in my hour or so with the game's prologue, it actually mostly revolved around accidentally shooting my nephew in the head, which is neither familial nor especially tactical.

It is very Final Fantasy Tactics indeed, and Reis is very upfront about it. He explicitly named FFT and Tactics Ogre as the inspirations behind Vanaris in the game's initial announcement. I never played Tactics Ogre, but I did spend part of a halcyon summer once watching a friend beat FFT and I flash back to it every time I finish a turn and have to decide which way my little chibi character will face to maximise their evasion.

I've had a pretty good time with it thus far, accidental nepoticide aside, and it's clearly a game with a great deal of love poured into it. The combat isn't enormously involved—at least not the parts I've seen—but the process of making efficient use of skills and outmanoeuvring enemies is a rewarding one. The art makes it a joy to look at, too, and it tells its story with so much earnestness that I almost don't notice the slightly clunky dialogue. It's not perfect (I still don't know what half of my stats mean and the game doesn't seem interested in telling me), but it's a neat take on FFT by a single dev, and I've always had a soft spot for passion projects.

It's a good time to be a tactics-lover on PC right now. Into the Breach has gotten its Advanced Edition, Tactics Ogre is just around the corner, and whispers at the edge of hearing suggest that an FFT remaster might be somewhere on the horizon. With smaller indie titles like this one filling the gaps between the big releases, it's a bit of a golden age for the armchair von Clausewitzes among us. Not me, though: I'm just trying to keep the reticule off my nephew.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.