In a world beset by unknown monsters set on the destruction of all humanity, a group of warriors, known as the reapers for an unfortunate event in their past, must struggle to find their redemption. That’s the premise underlying Redemption Reapers, developed by Adglobe and published by Binary Haze Interactive, two of the three names behind 2021’s Ender Lillies: Quietus of the Knights, and it is a pretty good premise. That’s part of what makes Redemption Reapers such a let down. It has so many good ideas, such promise, but it never fully gels together.
Redemption Reapers is the story of a band of Mercenaries known as the Ashen Hawk Brigade, formerly known as the faithless reapers, who were party to a terrible event two years ago. You take control of their five members as they attempt to drive off the invading Mort and save the world. What do the Mort want? Where did they come from? Redemption Reapers never really bothers to answer these questions. Nor does it develop its very limited cast much. This is not to say the characters are flat, each character clearly has a personality and are acted well by the voice actors behind them, the game just doesn’t do a lot with developing them, which is notable given there are only five playable units in the game. And it’s not that anything presented is bad, but it’s all unpolished. Or maybe the wrong things were prioritized. For example, Redemption Reapers‘ character models in cutscenes are absolutely gorgeous, and these are very well animated, but the in-game animations lack the same charm and polish. I won’t spoil the main narrative thrust or the ending, but it honestly sort of feels like the game was intended to be a part 1 to a longer game. Though Redemption Reapers has 29 chapters, it does not take long at all to complete.
The gameplay for Redemption Reapers will be extremely familiar to anyone who has ever played a Fire Emblem game. You have a hero turn where you can move all your units around the battlefield and make attacks, an enemy phase, and an ancillary phase for units that aren’t playable but aren’t enemies. Actually, let me address the elephant in the room, it is incredibly reminiscent of Fire Emblem; in its turn structure, in its pre-battle predictions, in its weapon durability, in the way each character’s level up is accompanied by a short fanfare and an indicator of which of their stats increased, that levels give out bonus experience that can be spent between maps, that the maximum level characters can reach is 40, and even the fact that each character has exactly five inventory slots. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that the damage, accuracy, and critical calculations used the exact same formulae as Fire Emblem games do. Honestly, the places where Redemption Reapers goes out of its way to make the basic interactions distinct from Fire Emblem, like calling battle objectives Aspirations and the aforementioned Ancillary phase, just make it stand out all the more. It’s like someone took bits from different Fire Emblem games and stuck them into one package.
Which is not to say Redemption Reapers is exactly the same as Fire Emblem. For one, each character has a set number of action points they can spend each turn, usually enough to do one or two actions, everyone can move freely around the battlefield, before and after combat, up to their movement range, and healing is done by Souls-esque flasks that can be used a set number of times per battle (though the number of uses can be upgraded and these can be refilled mid map). The other big changes come in the form of skill points; every character gains a few skill points with each level, and these can be used to teach characters new skills, like the rogue learning an an attack that don’t provoke counter, but which costs more AP than a regular attack, or the swordsman guaranteeing he takes less damage when a foe counterattacks him so he can lead the charge more easily. Sadly, a lot of skills fall into the camp of useful but bland, like the rogue’s several skills that just give a flat increase to evasion or skills that increase damage.
One mechanism I do quite love in Redemption Reapers is the combo system. If you can position your units correctly, after a unit attacks allies with unobstructed line of effect to the same enemy can make a free attack against that enemy as well before they counterattack. As there are five characters you can get up to four additional attacks, which show up on a plus shaped interface letting you pick which one to attack with, though you oddly only have a short time to initiate these follow up attacks. I do wonder if this interface decision led to or from the fact that there are only five total playable characters in Redemption Reapers.
An interesting decision was to put spots on the map that can be interacted with to gain some lore and an item, or a chest. At first these seem like an interesting risk reward equation, and they absolutely would be if not for the skirmish mode, which is both amazing and terrible at the same time. Amazing because it means you can replay any map and never have to worry about missing an item, or you can just grind for XP and resources to be able to trivialize large portions of the game. Redemption Reapers fully expects you to use the skirmish maps to grind, so I have to wonder how much the developers thought about the ramifications of its use.
I’ve praised the presentation of Redemption Reapers a lot, and another spot where it stands out is the music. Though again, that seems to also have been another homage to Fire Emblem as composer Rei Kondoh did music for multiple titles in that series (as well as Okami) and the tracks are no less evocative here. Heck, I wouldn’t mind having an official soundtrack for this game. It’s just that satisfying.
I wish I could say the same about Redemption Reapers as a whole. It’s not terrible, but it’s not outstanding. It reminds me of a line from the play Company: “[He] doesn’t have the good things and he doesn’t have the bad things, but he doesn’t have the good things either” and that strikes me as very fitting for Redemption Reapers. It’s not terrible by any means, competent in a few places, but lacking that ineffable something to make it really stand out. It would be a hard sell at a penny shy of $50 even in a year without a major Fire Emblem release, but as it is, it’s got a tough sell. I won’t say don’t play it, but I will say wait for a sale.