Interview: Valiant Tactics EX Is A Unique Blend of RTS and Deck-Building Strategy

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Valiant Tactics EX - via Think Games

If there is one game that blends the real-time strategy and card-deck building, then Valiant Tactics EX is the top contender. Featuring an immersive medieval combat where every decision of the player matters to turn the tide of the battle.  

The game features both a campaign and an online PvP, with unique cards to use in combat. Plus, you can easily progress your playthrough by completing different challenges, which paves the way for more cards, making the overall playthrough much more rewarding. 

To learn more about these, we interviewed Jotaro Komura, Game Director and Marketing Manager at Think Games, over email. 

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Valiant Tactics EX – via Think Games

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Valiant Tactics EX.

Jotaro: Hello, my name is Jotaro Komura, and I am the Game Director and Marketing Manager at Think Games, an indie studio based in Osaka, Japan.

Ever since the announcement, there has been this question: what inspired blending real-time strategy with card deck-building mechanics?

Jotaro: Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games offer the thrill of real-time action and the excitement of making split-second decisions. However, in many RTS games, players tend to rely on memorized strategies, leading to predictable outcomes that can dampen the overall experience.

Similarly, in digital card games, there is great fun in constructing decks and the enjoyment of making decisions based on the randomness of drawing cards.

But, since you cannot control the cards in real-time, there is dissatisfaction with the fact that victory or defeat often depends on luck. Therefore, by merging real-time strategy and card games into one, you have the best of both worlds: the freedom of control combined with the randomness of drawing cards.

Valiant Tactics EX was developed with the idea that by combining these two genres, players could experience infinite possibilities on the battlefield.

Speaking of blending both mechanics, the release trailer gives a lot of gacha element design, but what was your core focus for designing Valiant Tactics EX?

Jotaro: Our priority is to provide players with the experience of gradually expanding their tactical options on the battlefield while also achieving victory through refining their strategies.

We consider these two aspects very important to the design of Valiant Tactics EX. Players will start the game with only a few cards. However, as they progress, the game is designed to gradually accumulate cards without the need for gacha spending.

Encountering new cards brings fresh tactical insights to players. The range of available tactics expands, and through numerous combinations, players can refine and execute their desired strategies. This was achieved through careful card design, allowing players to carry out their preferred tactics with ultimate freedom.

Valiant Tactics EX - via Think Games
Valiant Tactics EX – via Think Games

In the trailer, we saw “inspire” allies that can boost their performance, but how exactly will it work?

Jotaro: “Inspire” is a unique skill that Commander Wein possesses, which can be used once every 50 seconds, increasing the HP and attack power of an ally by +10 each time it’s used.

It’s up to the player how they want to use this skill in their desired tactics, whether continuously strengthening a specific ally, gradually boosting the entire team, or applying it to allies with low HP. Additionally, during the initial release, there are five commanders, each with their own unique skills.

Valiant Tactics EX looks completely refreshed Total War x Fire Emblem with a unique combat system. Can you share details on how challenging it can become to combine these two mechanics in gameplay?

Jotaro: Valiant Tactics EX features a combat system that separates battles into an Active Phase, where real-time combat similar to Total War takes place, and a Tactics Phase, reminiscent of Fire Emblem, where players can position units and use spells in a turn-based manner.

However, one of the challenges in developing this combat system was synchronizing communications in online PvP battles. If the game operated only in real-time or turn-based mode individually, it would have been easier to focus on either one. However, in Valiant Tactics EX, players alternate between real-time and turn-based actions, so ensuring the coherence of these systems posed some technical difficulties.

With over 200 cards at launch, how will players acquire new cards? Will it be balanced between free-to-play mechanics and optional purchases?

Jotaro: There are several ways to obtain cards in Valiant Tactics EX. Clearing Tutorials and Beginner Lessons grants players Card Pack Tickets, which can be exchanged for cards in the shop. Progressing through the Campaign mode also rewards players with Card Pack Tickets. Daily and weekly quests, as well as other activities, provide additional opportunities to acquire cards gradually.

The Campaign mode was designed with solo play in mind and offers numerous stages, each with unique Challenges. If these Challenges are cleared, players can receive additional rewards that can be used to obtain new cards. While it’s possible to acquire more cards quickly by making optional purchases, playing daily without spending money allows players to gradually accumulate enough cards to explore their own strategies on the battlefield. In traditional card games, the number of strong cards a player possesses often heavily influences the outcome of matches.

However, Valiant Tactics EX is a game that merges card games and RTS elements. Rather than focusing primarily on how many powerful cards a player has, the game places greater emphasis on strategic decision-making in real-time — specifically, when, where, and how to engage in battles. The strategy employed during gameplay plays a significant role in determining victory or defeat, shifting the emphasis away from card strength alone.

Valiant Tactics EX - via Think Games
Valiant Tactics EX – via Think Games

The free-to-play offering looks promising. As someone who is always checking out free-to-play games, how will the game balance between card leveling and the pay-to-win model?

Jotaro: The Level-Up system in Valiant Tactics EX only applies to progress in the Campaign mode, where each commander has their level-up tree that buffs the stats of your forces while prioritizing player freedom.

While in PvP, level-ups from the Campaign mode are not applied to maintain fair battle conditions. The issues with the pay-to-win model are twofold: maintaining profitability for ongoing game operations while balancing PvP between paying and non-paying users. These are very challenging problems to address. As mentioned earlier, in Valiant Tactics EX, the focus is not on how many strong cards a player has, but rather on their judgment on the battlefield.

Players make decisions based on their judgment, such as advancing their units into combat, keeping them in reserve, or retreating to avoid immediate engagement. This approach to unit management plays a significant role in determining the outcome of battles. In many card games, non-paying players often struggle to compete in PvP against players who have heavily invested in powerful decks.

However, in Valiant Tactics EX, deck power does not directly translate to instant win rates. The RTS aspect is more crucial to the game balance than the strength of the cards. Additionally, in this game, 8-cost units often serve as strong finishers with powerful skills within the game. However, strong cards also come with corresponding restrictions.

Players may need to meet certain conditions before being able to deploy the unit or may face longer deployment times compared to weaker units. As a result, the balance of the card designs does not simply focus on high performance alone; players’ overall strategy will ultimately determine the victor.

Combat screen
Valiant Tactics EX – via Think Games

What kind of narrative can players expect from the Campaign mode?

Jotaro: The continent where the main character resides is on the brink of war. A power struggle for the throne has erupted in the neighboring province, prompting the deployment of the 3rd Order of Trille under the player’s command as reinforcements. The story begins on the eve of their arrival on the front lines.

Trille’s regional lord has high expectations for the campaign, as its conclusion is to be met in an unusually short timeframe. However, to Trille’s dismay, upon their arrival in the neighboring province, they immediately clash with local military leadership over strategic policies, leading to a series of new troubles… Dive into the visual novel-inspired story yourself to discover the fate of Trille’s Campaign when the game launches on March 29th!

How does the reward system for multiplayer PvP work? Are there additional rewards for higher-level players?

Jotaro: If you participate in battles daily, you can gradually obtain card packs. Additionally, experience points, which can be used to enhance your forces in the Campaign mode, are also earned by playing battles online. Currently, there are very few additional rewards available for advanced players.

Valiant Tactics EX - via Think Games
Valiant Tactics EX – via Think Games

Are there plans for adding more cards, skills, or campaign expansion after the release?

Jotaro: As part of our future plans, we are first planning to add around 25 additional cards for the Neutral, Fire, and Water elemental cards. Following that, we will continue with the Wind and Earth elements, and so on. The new cards will include units with unique skills that have not been seen before, as well as new Strategy cards.

Additional Campaign mode stages are, of course, part of the planned post-launch content updates. There are also plans for adding new commanders. After the release, we will strive to keep updating the game to constantly evolve and balance conditions on the battlefield.

We also hope to progress in development while listening to everyone’s valuable feedback, so please play the game and share your thoughts with us!

Would you like to share anything else with the readers?

Jotaro: Thank you for taking an interest in our game. We look forward to seeing you on the battlefield!

Valiant Tactics EX is an RTS and Card-Builder game developed and published by ThinkGames Inc., released on March 29, 2024, for PC.

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