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Capes review - XCOM with superheroes and tricky turn-based tactics

Capes falls short of its XCOM and Marvel's Midnight Suns inspirations but still delivers its own surprisingly challenging strategy style.

Capes review: a superhero with a thick moustache and gray hair.

Our Verdict

Capes mostly overcomes its cliches, lack of customization, and limited scope thanks to its strategic gameplay that will test the mettle of even the most hardened of turn-based tactics veterans.

It only takes one look at Spitfire Interactive’s Capes to see that it’s the lovechild of XCOM and Marvel’s Midnight Suns. This expectation sets perhaps an unfairly high bar for a new developer’s debut game, but it’s hard to escape those comparisons. And while Capes never quite reaches the heights of its inspirations, it does deliver its own challenging strategic style.

Capes‘ story is straightforward and, unfortunately, a little stale. We kick off 20 years after a battle for the city ended with the heroes losing and the big bad, known as The Company, outlawing superpowers. It’s now up to a rebel alliance of heroes to take back their city, one fight at a time.

Capes review: superheroes battling a giant purple monster.

Exploring the aftermath of the evil-doers taking charge is a good, if familiar, idea. Not only does it create conflict and an uphill battle to climb, but it also presents a more adult tone. Capes doesn’t sugarcoat things, as villains and heroes alike can be seen killing one another. The problem is that the game doesn’t properly explore its darker themes, presenting a straightforward tale of good versus evil.

The dialogue and superpowers feel like they’ve been ripped straight out of a Marvel or DC comic book. There are speedsters, strongmen, and psychics, each with their own often painfully quippy lines. Despite the cliches and sub-MCU back and forth, Capes’ core gameplay loop and central mechanics remain challenging and fresh.

Capes review: superheroes surrounded by enemies in a bloody room.

Capes uses a combination system similar to Marvel’s Midnight Suns, known as Team-Ups. Whenever two characters are near one another and have enough action points, they can combine their powers to do some serious damage. While some of these are as simple as boosting attack power, I also found creative ways to chain damage. The game’s two main tanks, Facet and Weathervane, always made for a great combination. Weathervain’s chained lightning can bounce off Facet’s crystals, allowing him to reach further off places and affect more enemies. So, using these two together opens up damage, reach, and debuffs all in one. Upgrading skills by replaying old missions and general patrols – as basic and repetitive as they may be – opens this up even further, making for many fun attack patterns and approaches.

That said, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by the lack of player agency – after all, one of the best parts of the XCOM games is their customization options. Not only could you name your crew, allowing you to insert your friends into the fray, but later games even offered the ability to create and customize avatars with unique abilities. Capes decides to follow the Midnight Suns route of having you recruit preset heroes to the cause, though its roster is considerably smaller and obviously less established than the likes of Spider-Man and Captain America.

Capes review: a superhero chaining lethal lighting through crystals.

There are eight heroes in total, each of which you unlock by playing the main story, with four slots max per mission. That means even if you’ve unlocked all the playable characters, you can only take four at a time on a mission, which is especially frustrating given the number of enemies you’ll have to contend with.

In any given mission, there may be up to ten enemies on the board at a time, often including a boss with a special power. The only way to complete the mission is to finish the highlighted main objectives, like defeating that boss while protecting a hostage or downed hero. At first, this is a bit annoying, as it feels like a quantity over quality feature. The further I got into Capes, the more the strategy of these encounters came into play. As I mentioned earlier, it became imperative to go back and replay older missions to unlock skills for the tougher challenges.

Capes review: the skill upgrades screen.

One mission in particular, where I had to protect a hostage, became much easier after unlocking Facet’s Shard Shield ability, which lets him grant any party member invincibility to one attack per turn. This, combined with the puzzle-like nature of attacking specific characters or moving to certain places on the board to gain a tactical advantage, makes Capes an enjoyable, albeit deeply flawed, strategy game. It’s no XCOM or Midnight Suns, but it’ll get the job done for most genre veterans thanks to its high level of difficulty and occasionally fresh ideas.