Steam Next Fest Preview: Topple a supervillain regime in the superhero turn-based RPG Capes
Superheroes and video games go hand in hand. Whether swinging around as Spidey or busting skulls as Batman, some of the best gaming experiences have featured our larger-than-life super pals. While I love traveling through Marvel and DC properties, I do wish the gaming space did more with original super stories like Infamous and Prototype.
We need more. And Spitfire Interactive, a new studio made up of industry veterans who worked on the Hand of Fate series, is looking to fill the niche with their debut title, Capes.
We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to try the demo early for this turn-based strategy RPG before its release during Steam Next Fest, taking place from October 3 - 10. We have some SUPER impressions for this SUPER game. I promise that's the last time I use the word that way.
From the jump, Capes presents a very particular setting and tone. Scenes are coated in blue artificial light and gritty orange sunlight. Surveillance cameras watch over cityscapes where soldiers with rifles poke at people in cages. And our heroes are more akin to the kind you'd find in The Boys than anything you'd see in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Capes is meant to be a grounded, darker superhero story, but not one without optimism.
Spitfire Interactive promises that the heroes you find in their game will be representative of a wide range of genders, cultures, and abilities. In the demo alone, most heroes you see are people of color, one hero you save uses a wheelchair when not using his telekinesis to float around, and they are all clearly working together to fight a powerfully oppressive force known as The Company.
While The Boys is a close comparison point, the cynicism about those with powers and what they're capable of doing isn't present at all, instead replaced with a reverence for the kind of change that can be affected when those who might have felt powerless in their day-to-day instead are the ones with the superpowers.
In Capes, the supervillains won and took control of the city. They tightly monitor powered individuals and have instilled in the public a fear of superpowers that leaves everyone feeling unsafe. Based out of the hollowed-out shell of what once was this universe's equivalent of Avengers Tower, a resistance group begins to emerge. They've all come together, each with their own motivations, but with one clear goal: protect the innocents being terrorized by The Company and bring an end to the supervillains' iron-fisted rule.
The demo allows you to play through three separate story missions, and there's a surprising but welcome dedication to story here. Each mission starts with a briefing at base, where hand-drawn animated portraits — ripped straight out of a comic book — discuss the assignment before heading out. As each mission starts, you'll be treated to an in-game cutscene complete with comic book lettering and word bubbles, only furthering the comics-inspired aesthetic.
Character models have a sheen and cleanliness to them that reads almost like they're action figures, a neat style that helps the experience feel like an adaptation of some source material lost to time. Between these visuals, the colorful and eclectic designs of each character, and the contextual chatter that breaks out between characters both in and out of combat, there's a lot to love in the ways Spitfire is telling its story.
We can talk about superhero style all day, but I think when it really comes down to it, we're most curious about how SUPER the gameplay is — I lied earlier, sorry.
Capes is a superhero adventure by way of tactical RPG. Rather than lone-wolfing your way through a room of baddies, you have to truly channel a superhero team-up issue. Strategically find synergies and optimally pair your team's strengths and weaknesses to find your way to success.
Each hero fills a particular archetype or class. In the demo, you're treated to four of the game's classes. Strikers are all about getting in, disarming, pushing enemies around, and getting out. Defenders are your tanks, taking the brunt of enemy attacks and helping to protect others from damage. Attackers are pure damage, sometimes at the expense of other qualities like health or movement. Special heroes have a unique set of powers that transcend categorization. They come equipped with a set of upgradable powers, a powerful ultimate, and the ability to link their powers to other heroes through "Team-Ups."
Most of the tactical combat is familiar for fans of the genre, but it's in that last bullet point that Capes finds a unique wrinkle. Team-up abilities are powerful and offer some of those special synergies you'll chase from beginning to end. For example, one of Mindfire's powers (the game's telekinetic hero) can weaken enemies and make them more susceptible to damage. If teamed-up with Mercurial (Capes' resident speedster), you'll also be able to disarm your enemies, essentially doubling their weakness in one blow.
The gritty nature of the story also comes through in the gameplay. These folks are superheroes, but they aren't unbeatable. Heroes can be downed on the battlefield if they're *checks notes* shot too much and or punched real hard and can even eventually die, which leads to a game over state. In this world, those with powers aren't necessarily trained or flawless — their weaknesses need to be managed and their health protected. It's a welcome twist for the setting.
What it all adds up to is a tactical RPG experience that's familiar enough but fueled by a blending of abilities and an emphasis on actual teamwork, something that can be missing from others in the genre.
There's some general polish needed, and adding voice acting could be nice, but Spitfire Interactive has an adventure we're SUPER looking forward to at launch in early 2023.
But first, you can check out the demo for yourself during Steam Next Fest in October! And if you like what you've read or played, consider wishlisting Capes on Steam.