Territoire demo – Not my cup of tea

Territoire is a will-totally-come-out-one-day-we-swear game from EasyGameStation, makers of Recettear and Chantelise and some other cutesy stuff I haven’t played. A demo has been out since 2010-ish and the game itself will probably be released sometime before judgment day, but I’m not holding my breath.

Even if it does come out I’m not sure I’ll play it because it’s not really my kind of game. That’s because Territoire is an awkward melding of SRPG, a genre I usually love, with a real-time strategy game in the vein of Age of Empires (edit: apparently 4X Strategy is the correct name of this genre). That’s a genre I can’t outright say I hate; it’s one that I often find myself drawn to but also one that I now avoid after several painful experiences. As a matter of fact, I have these in my collection right now:

rts backlogI bought them brand-new from Amazon a few years ago but I can’t bring myself to play them. I love the idea behind these games: building new worlds, managing their progress, solving problems, advancing my cultural level and all the other things they entail. What I just can’t handle are the enemies! Why do there have to be enemies???? Why can’t I just have fun on my own? I’m okay with rivals but why must anyone attack me? I have yet to play a Civilization game, but I played quite a bit of Age of Empires when it first came out. I still remember that horrible sinking feeling I would get whenever hordes would pour out of nowhere and start hacking down my innocent workers. How can anyone be so cruel? ;____;

The last time I tried an RTS was three years ago, right around the same time I played Saga 3 DS and Tactical Guild. It was Dawn of Discovery. Nintendo DS. I remember it well. I had a great time in story mode. Played at least 10 hours, cleared several objectives, wonderful game, bright happy colors, the works. But I never wrote about it because one day out of nowhere PIRATES ATTACKED ME AND KILLED EVERYONE!! Am I still mad? You bet I am!

The whole point of this lengthy introduction is this: I don’t like RTS, no matter how nice they look. But I did try the Territoire demo, because I said I would. And because I held a slim hope that by making it turn-based instead of real-time, fending off enemies and protecting my property would be more interesting. It’s not, of course. Sure the stress of the sudden surprise is taken out, but it is replaced by slow, plodding gameplay, endless turns of nothing happening, characters that take forever to move anywhere and a host of other problems. But let’s back up and start from the beginning before I get too lost in my ramblings.

Story: Magic school. A student named Facile is our heroine. Monsters are increasing rapidly outside the town and the student council members are all laid up in bed, so Facile and her buddies form a new student council to take care of the enemies.

territoire

Yes, she’s just as boring as she looks.

Gameplay: The point of the game is to expand your map territory by building and developing bases and then turning them into towns by gathering resources, hiring gnomes and adventurers and defending them until the end of the quest. You can also attack the enemy’s bases and capture or destroy them. Or you can befriend and negotiate with enemies so you can exchange resources and technology. Up to the point where the demo ended, no clear relation between the story and the gameplay had been established. They should have kept it as a regular SRPG, then they would have released it long ago and raked in the cash, but nooo they wanted to be fancy.

Battles when they do occur are in SRPG format but with a battle timer attached. Move next to the enemy (diagonally works too) and attack until time runs out. The blue battle timer shows how long a turn lasts, so a faster unit can get in three hits where a slower unit might only get one.

territoire-battle-over territoire-group

As the second screenshot shows, both party members and enemies can band together for company. The disadvantage of this is that the party’s speed and movement are limited by the slower member. And as far as I can tell there’s no increase in strength or defense. Plus even if the enemy is banded together you can only attack one monster at a time, and vice versa. So really the only advantage is that the one in front becomes the meatshield for the one behind. It’s more of a cosmetic addition than anything else, although since this is a demo they have plenty of time to tweak that or take it out completely.

By the way, the girl standing next to Facile is Lian, Facile’s lazy, rude, money-grubbing, vulgar and perverted elf friend. I think she’s supposed to be funny, but I can’t really tell. The guy is Kuraju, their whiny, cranky, loquacious teacher. I think he’s supposed to be funny too, but I can’t really tell.

The game progresses by way of quests, which you can either take from the quest board or buy from the quest shop with quest points.

territoire-questGreen pencil quests are tutorials, blue books are side quests and red books are story quests. The better you do in quests, i.e. not getting your people killed, expanding your territory, raising your cultural level, the more points you get and the more quests you have access to. I think. That aspect is still under development. I don’t mind quests or quest-based story progression, but I did have an issue with the quest points. At one point I had to spend 300 QP to unlock a quest, but I only had 220. This meant I had to go back and redo earlier quests, i.e. grind up QP. That’s fine for optional quests but it’s really not acceptable for story quests

Here’s what your map will generally look like. This one is a very early base. Near the top there’s a gnome penning up some animals.

territoire-bugAnd in the middle Facile has ended up in the water due to a harmless bug. You can see all the main commands at the bottom of the screen. Research, Negotiate, Winning conditions, News, Student list (party list) Town summary, Management Policy (taxation and stuff), Retreat, Save Data, Options and End Turn. It’s not very clear from the picture, but unexplored areas are shrouded in fog, so sending someone out to explore is always a priority at the start of the game.

Here’s the technology tree of things to develop:

territoire-tech-treeAt the top is battle stuff to let you summon stronger units and stuff. Then random culture stuff, then mining, then agriculture. The number in brackets shows how many turns it will take for research to complete, but you can cancel research at any time (not sure if you keep your progress though). Quite a number of the options don’t do anything because it’s a demo, and more than a few of them don’t do anything regardless. The skills that allow you to summon certain adventurers work, but the ones that let you mine more resources and fish and farm don’t seem to be doing anything. That’s because your townspeople don’t seem to get hungry and only a few facilities rely on certain resources to be built. Again there’s plenty of time to tweak that before judgment day the game comes out.

We interrupt this review to bring you some random screenshots that don’t belong anywhere. I would have taken many more, but the game screen has a tendency to go white whenever I minimize and maximize it again.

territoire-battle-map territoire-result-screen
territoire-fighting territoire-field

Now we come at last to my actual experience of playing this game (*poke poke* Stay awake). Overall it was underwhelming. I won’t deny that I’m biased against RTS games, but even if you take that out Territoire still needs a lot of work. As I said no explanation has yet been given as to why a simple “There are monsters outside” story needs such a convoluted system other than “EasyGameStation is getting ideas above its station.”

You might think this is an unfair complaint. After all I don’t know around asking Fire Emblem why it isn’t an Action RPG or Phantasy Star why it isn’t an SRPG. You might think I’m just picking on Territoire for being an RTS. Actually I’m picking on it for being an RTS that sucks. They would have been much better off going with a genre that is much easier to program and release. For the third time this is a demo and I don’t want to come down too hard on them, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before this will be remotely enjoyable.

First there’s a lot of standing around doing nothing because of the turn-based format. A 100 turn battle will of necessity take 100 turns even if you defeat your rival early on. That 100 turn battle I mentioned took me over 2 hours to complete, and to add insult to injury, I lost!

Secondly actions also take too long to complete. For example you have to wait 9 turns to summon a simple gnome when you start out. The number of turns needed for actions will also randomly increase or decrease depending on factors that aren’t yet clear. You might queue up something expecting it to take 4 turns and come back to see it needing 99 turns instead. It’s also annoying to have to press “End Turn” over and over again every time you want anything to happen. It’s sad, but real-time strategy works best when it’s real-time.

More random screenshots. I like the colors at least, though the green is a bit strong.

territoire-random territoire-again
territoire-i-lose territoire-later

All the characters I’ve met so far are unappealing, and yet each skit drags on much longer than it needs to. Talk talk talk before the battle and then talk talk talk afterwards. They’re trying very hard to inject humor into the story, so even the simplest sidequest will have several minutes of repetitive time-wasting bantering between Lian, Facile and Kuraju before you’re allowed to do anything.

Battle classes are unbalanced. Priests are completely useless and archers have great range but are hopelessly weak. Fighters and Mages are the only ones with some use. Other classes have to be “unlocked” by first spending several turns researching them in the skill tree then several more turns summoning a single one. I tried monks and spirit users, but they had terrible defense just like everyone else and spirit users were just junk. Apart from archers everyone has terrible range, so they can’t respond quickly to threats on the map. Not that these threats are very threatening: due to a bug or poor AI, monsters will never attack you unless you attack them first.

Everyone levels up slowly and level up benefits are hard to feel. It’s especially bad because they don’t let you level up how you’d like to. For example Facile levels up, and I get the choice of a new skill, HP Up or ATK Up, but what I really want is DEF Up to counter her hopeless defense. So far I haven’t been allowed to buy any weapons or armor, and the main way to get items is to have your towns slowly produce them. I don’t know if that will make up for the flaws. Just as well it’s a demo so far.

And since it’s a demo, one that came out over three years ago, I won’t be too harsh in my assessment of it. Territoire did nothing for me story-wise or gameplay-wise but I did manage to get through most of the available quests. Maybe, just maybe, if they cut down the dialogue, create characters I could care about and either improve the battle system dramatically or add a story that justifies its tedious nature, then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to care about this game someday. Until then, farewell Territoire!

6 thoughts on “Territoire demo – Not my cup of tea

  1. Davzz says:

    I think the technical name of the genre is called “4X strategy game”

    I’ve heard of this but I always put it on the backburner. I figured I didn’t want to interpret tech trees in Japanese at the point of time when I downloaded the demo… which was years ago

    Haha, turns of nothing happening in the early game while you construct 1 unit is practically a staple of 4X strategy games. Ironically it transitions to having turns that take too long because you have to micromanage 20 cities and billions of units scattered around the map.

    No idea why the Japanese keep trying to add banal inane banter to genres which quite honestly don’t need any.

    Anyway, I still have some slight interest in this game since it’s JP people trying to tackle a genre they don’t normally do (in the same way I like to see companies other than Gust do alchemy games, I guess), but it’s kind of baffling why they decide to jump from simple Action RPGs (+ simple shop simulation?) into one of the most complex genres to get right in design…

    Which kind of means that at this point I’m honestly pretty certain it’s going to be vaporware.

    • Kina says:

      Wiki called AoE an RTS, so I just went with that.
      In Territoire nothing happens in the first 20 turns, a flurry of activity in the middle and then again in the last 20 turns either because there’s no space to expand more territory, all remaining enemies have been wiped out and the turn costs of the remaining technologies is so high you can’t get any use out of them before the game ends.

      There hasn’t been any concrete progress on it in years, and it doesn’t seem like the Japanese fans are pushing for it either. I’m sure at some point they’ll just release whatever they’ve got so far and call it a day, but I doubt it will be much better than what we’ve seen in the demo so far.

      • Davzz says:

        “I’m sure at some point they’ll just release whatever they’ve got so far and call it a day, but I doubt it will be much better than what we’ve seen in the demo so far.”

        Ah, the Duke Nukem Forever strategy, I guess.

        • Kina says:

          Yuuuup. They’ve built up some goodwill with their previous releases, so they’re guaranteed a couple thousand sales on both sides of the pond even if the game isn’t very good.

  2. DzyDzyDino says:

    If you can tear yourself away from Japanese releases, last year I stumbled upon a sleeping giant of strategy games called Dominions 3, and now 4 is out and on sale via Steam. It’s a different take on the 4x genre, and combat is controlled via scripts you make ahead of time, then you watch it play out. It is so incredibly deep. The crafting system alone could be one game. The magic system alone could be another. It’s based on mythologies from all around the world and various fictional ones as well. It has a learning curve, but is the most rewarding 4x title I’ve played in a long time. I’ve downloaded so many 4x games and never played more than a few minutes of each, because I’m always looking for “the one.” “the one” where you feel like you can mass-macro/micro-manage an army masterfully and take over the world, where tech trees provide dynamic changes to the game etc.
    Anyway, yeah. Czech it out.

    • Kina says:

      The deep crafting system sounds incredibly attractive, but the whole managing an army and taking over the world bit is what puts me off 4x game. Why can’t we just live in peace? I love the building and developing part of those games, but the fighting part, not so much. I’ll check the Dominions series out though, especially if it’s on sale. Thanks for the suggestion!

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