Unlike contemporary Tactical RPGs such as Fire Emblem and Battle for Wesnoth, Telepath Tactics uses mostly deterministic algorithms in its battles: attack damage is constant, and dodging attacks is relegated to a special ability possessed by only a few classes. The setting, a new region called the "Dundar Archipelago", also uses a Steampunk aesthetic rather than typical Swords and Sorcery fantasy. Typical matches allow the player to choose from a selection of 24 classes, most of them similar to the classes in the earlier spinoff Telepath Psy Arena 2. Most classes are defined by their weapons — spearmen, crossbowmen, swordsmen, etc. — but the series' nonhuman races and trademark psy fighters are also available, now in four variants for each of the Elemental Powers. The game also introduces a completely new species to the setting: "lissit", insular Lizard Folk who fight with maces.
The single-player campaign, titled The Vengeance of Emma Strider, details the story of two sisters who were enslaved by a shadowling mining company, but managed to escape when they were still young. They are taken in by a lissit tribe, and when they grow to adulthood, they resolve to return to the mines, free the slaves, and rescue their father, who they left behind in their first exodus. While the plot itself lacks the depth of its predecessor, it is notable for having a female-dominated cast and an anti-imperialist narrative with a personal focus, two features that are uncommon in most Tactical RPGs.
Telepath Tactics also features modding capabilities, including the ability to create your own campaigns, but so far no fan-made campaigns have been completed.
The game provides examples of the following tropes:
- Achilles' Heel: Psy fighters are weak to slashing attacks, lissit are weak to heat and cold on account of being cold-blooded, and spriggats are vulnerable to the element that opposes theirs. (They also take more damage from piercing attacks, the justification being that it damages their wings.) This even extends to inanimate objects; stone is extra vulnerable to light and cold, while wood is vulnerable to fire and shadow.
- Action Girl: Most of the cast in the campaign. Any class can be male or female, also, so random matches will probably feature plenty of these.
- An Ice Person: Phoebe. Also Pathos, who justifies it in her Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:"I find it's best to bring the subject's core body temperature down before making any incisions—let's make you fit for study."
- Always Accurate Attack: Mind Blast cannot be dodged, making it useful for dealing with assassins.
- Ambidextrous Sprite: Umber Gnawbone's glass eye switches sockets when his sprite is flipped from right-facing to left-facing. The same applies to Siripent's Eyepatch of Power.
- Apologetic Attacker: Ebon Raban does it rather sarcastically, while Leon Hart is more sincere, as he's being coerced by a slave bracelet.
- Appeal to Nature: Used by Zimmer after the Ebon Raban battle, and immediately debunked by Phoebe.Zimmer: But to be honest, I prefer it this way: individuals duking it out like nature intended, instead of an unaccountable state picking winners and losers...
Phoebe: [She sighs heavily.] Nature does not have intent, Zimmer; it is nothing more than a series of systems. Civilization is no less "natural" than running alone, naked and delirious, through the woods.
- Applied Phlebotinum: "Vibra", a crystal substance that seems to take the place of coal in powering the setting's Steampunk technology. This is what Tarion's mining company makes money off of.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: The number of units you can deploy (and the positions you can place them in) is determined by the map. In the campaign, you are usually limited to 8 characters, though the final battle allows 12. There are two exceptions to this: the "defend the camp" battle, where every unit you've recruited is deployed automatically, and the fortress outer wall battle, where Teresa and Phoebe are automatically deployed in addition to your usual 8.
- Badass Boast: Ebon Raban simply remarks, "You're running in the wrong direction," when he is first attacked.
- The Battle Didn't Count: Some maps will feature plot-important enemies who you aren't intended to fight, and who reappear later in the story. If you do manage to reduce their health to 0, they'll just run away, without even dropping their inventory. You might get a special line of dialogue for your trouble, though.
- Interestingly, this does not occur if you beat Ebon Raban at the Coria bridge, or if you beat Fera in the fortress foyer; they won't say any Last Words, and will drop their inventory. They still show up in future cutscenes, though, so this is likely just a developer oversight.
- Bond One-Liner: Emma delivers a few.
- To the Coria Dogs thug who mocks her at the beginning of the fight:"Who's bending over now, jackass?"
- To Archos:Archos: Tarion said you'd be coming. Frankly, I thought there'd be more of you. You do realize that you're all as good as dead, right? Oh well—not my problem. I can just say that there were more of you, then sell off the excess golems.
Archos: Aha...ahahahaha! I'm...I'm dying?...
Emma: Looks like you should've brought more golems after all.
- To the Coria Dogs thug who mocks her at the beginning of the fight:
- Boss Banter: Most bosses have taunts for when they first attack or are attacked. Archos and Tarion will also talk a few more times as the battle progresses.
- Breakable Weapons: The new inventory system requires physical fighters to have a weapon in order to attack, which wears down and breaks over time. Stronger weapons usually come at the cost of durability.
- Casting a Shadow:
- In the campaign, the Ebon Riders use skiakineticists as their psy fighters of choice, in addition to black spriggats. Meridian is also a black spriggat herself.
- Archos is a skiakineticist, though this is typical for shadowlings.
- Can't Drop the Hero: Emma and Sabrina can never be dumped in the reserve, and it's game over if either one dies.
- Climax Boss: Archos. Unlike previous bosses, he is an established character, and one of the major players in the central conflict: this is the first time you're fighting someone directly affiliated with the mining company, rather than one of their patsies.
- Conlang: The lissit have their own language, which is featured in some scenes in the campaign. Silithis Predat ("Patient Hunter"), in particular, enjoys inserting Lissit words into her speech. A limited Lissit-to-English dictionary is provided in the manual, allowing players to translate most of the instances in the campaign.
- Continuity Nod:
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Tarion and Archos, both of whom are callous, exploitative, money-grubbing sociopaths.Tarion: See to it that Igor's men find him and everyone who follows him; I want every last one of them dead.
Archos: Yes, sir. Will Igor be taking the customary fee?
Tarion: 10% of whatever he finds on them, and not a single aurom more. I'll be counting everything he sends back personally.
- Convection, Schmonvection: You can run around in a cave full of lava — or even fly over it! — with no ill effects. It only hurts if you actually fall in.
- Con Woman: Though Louise poses as an innocent entertainer, it quickly becomes clear that she's one of these. In particular, she seems to use her Psychic Powers to cheat at games and trick people into giving her what she wants.
- Cool Helmet: The swordsman class' standard helmet changes to a cool-looking one with colorful wings and crests when they promote to fencers.
- Cool Old Lady: Scarlet Etolie, a retired mantis knight. She still has a strong sense of duty and honor — at times too strong — and is one of your toughest and most reliable party members despite her gray hair.
- Developer's Foresight: Defeating Fera in the outer wall battle will get her to say a special message and retreat. However, if you beat her in the foyer battle (which is virtually impossible), she won't say any Last Words, and will even drop her Infinity +1 Sword.
- Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead: Killing a starred character will cause an instant victory. In the campaign, this means that killing bosses usually causes you to win the mission instantly. This is most notable in the final battle: it doesn't make a lot of sense for all the slavemasters to surrender the moment the Big Bad goes down, but the battle would be virtually impossible if they didn't.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Subverted. Oliver gives Emma free passage on his ship in the hopes of winning her affections, but she rejects him when he finally confesses, as they have no actual chemistry. He takes it reasonably well however.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Silithis Predat is a very harsh and disparaging trainer, as can be seen in the tutorial mission. This breeds resentment from Emma, and the tribe's chieftan points out that it makes Silithis unsuited to lead.
- Dual Boss: Sort of. The final battle of the campaign pits you against both Big Bad Tarion and The Dragon Pathos, but you don't fight them at the same time; instead, Pathos is part of the front line while Tarion hides in the back.
- Duel Boss: Harriet vs. Malcom, also a Mirror Match.
- Dying Curse: Hee'la's Last Words if she dies in battle."<Omisigah... Choke on...my blood...>"
- Dying Declaration of Hate: Harriet's Last Words if she dies in battle, though she makes her hate well-known when she's alive, too."Malcolm, you pusillanimous fecal sac...is this what you wanted? Looks like you won...after all..."
- Elemental Powers: Heat, cold, light, and shadow, as per usual. This time, the dichotomy is more strictly enforced: psy fighters are split into four distinct classes instead of being one class with different specialties, and a new "golden spriggat" has been introduced to allow the same for spriggats.
- 11th-Hour Ranger: Gunther Lathe, who, in an ironic twist of fate, ended up captured by slavers and thrown in Tarion's mines himself. He pulls a Heel–Face Turn and joins Emma's army for the final battle.
- Emo Teen:
- Though Meridian's age is unclear, she definitely acts like one of these. Her dialogue is often snarky, cynical, and pretentious. She's a Starving Artist too, and, to complete the Emo image, is a black spriggat.
- Inverted by Harynx — though she also seems quite young, she is idealistic rather than cynical, and finds purpose in a political cause even though she knows there's no money in it.
- Escort Mission: Rescuing Sarn Kamina, which requires you to protect a low-level character who starts in a bad position from many waves of enemies. It's doubly difficult if you try to rescue her husband as well, as he starts in an even worse position.
- Eyepatch of Power: Siripent has one. It's never explained where he got it.
- Face Framed in Shadow: Tarion, whenever he appears through a telepathic message. Only his eyes and a bit of his hands are visible. It's not until the final battle that you get to see his portrait in proper lighting.
- Fantastic Racism:
- Humans and lissit don't get along very well. Silithis Predat constantly insults Emma as a weakling "hesh" ("human", though it literally translates to "hairy thing"), while Bloodbeard's bandits insult Silithis' warriors with taunts such as "Go bask on a rock you scaly freak!"
- The mining company has this in spades. Archos considers the suffering of his human slaves hilarious, frequently mocking them on their inferior thought processes. Tarion is even worse, though, constantly referring to humans as "animals"; he seems to consider them utterly inferior to shadowlings in every way. This is reflected even in his Last Words: "How could this be? Defeated by...mere animals..."
- Finger Gun: Pathos does this in her Character Portrait, though only with one hand.
- Finger-Tenting: Tarion does this in his Character Portrait, though it's hard to tell until you see him in proper lighting.
- Flashback Nightmare: Emma gets these, to her time in the mines.
- Fog of War: A possible setting for maps. In the campaign, the maps for assassinating Gulch and exploring the ruins both use this feature.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation:
- Sarn Kamina states multiple times that she cannot go into the mines, but she remains a useable party member even after you enter them.
- Sarn Kamina will also still offer you a chance to resupply when you enter the mines, even if you managed to get her killed in a previous mission.
- Gold Makes Everything Shiny: Archos is decked out with gold rings, probably to indicate his greed and decadence.
- Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Probably due to both larger army sizes and the fact that bosses have to play by the same rules as normal troops now (making most of them no more significant than King Mooks). Huge swarms of low-level Mooks present a grueling gauntlet, but it's rare for singular, high-level enemies to be significantly more threatening, especially since you can usually win the whole mission just by focusing on them.
- Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Ebon Raban is the only major character in the campaign who has a full helmet in their Character Portrait. This even extends to character classes who normally wear hoods, such as with Gavrielle; Tremolo and Nalia don't wear the assassins' usual face-mask either. The standard Character Portraits for most classes do wear helmets, though.
- Horse of a Different Color: Giant mantises take the place of horses, probably as a nod to the archipelago's more tropical climate. Scarlet says she's had hers since she first joined the army, which implies they have roughly human lifespans.
- I Call It "Vera": The superweapons Fangiss Ka, Aravel, and Lyrio.
- I'm Cold... So Cold...:
- This is one possible translation of Sarn Kamina's Last Words if she dies in battle.
- Phoebe's, also."I've often wondered what it would feel like to die. The cold...it trickles in like water..."
- Infinity +1 Sword: A few are featured in the campaign. They all have extremely good stat bonuses and lots of uses.
- Fangiss Ka is Silithis'. It's even stronger than the best buyable mace, and has a whopping 75 uses.
- Aravel is Fera's weapon. It provides the standard advantages of a rapier, in addition to a +8 energy boost and a strength boost on par with a Duoterre Sword. Unfortunately, you can't make her drop it unless you defeat her in the fortress foyer battle, which is virtually impossible.
- Lyrio is an infinity+1 bow that can rarely be found if you go crypt-robbing with Teresa. It grants a massive strength bonus and makes all attacks practically guaranteed to hit.
- The steam crossbow just has a huge strength boost and lots of uses, but mostly fits. It's dropped by Leon Hart in the campaign, and can only be used by a promoted crossbowman.
- Instant-Win Condition: A few maps will grant you an instant win the moment you move Emma to a certain space, which can make them trivial if you stock up on adrenaline pills. This is a little weird in the mines entrance battle, where logically any remaining troops should be nipping at your heels in the next battle. Decapitated Army is also in effect for most Boss Battles.
- In the Hood: Bowmen and skiakineticists. In the campaign, Sarn Kamina also starts like this, though she drops it after she joins your party.
- I Regret Nothing: Zimmer's Last Words if he dies in battle.
- Karma Houdini: Played for Laughs with Umber Gnawbone in the epilogue.After Emma spared his life, Umber Gnawbone resolved to start his life anew and give up thieving.
...This resolution lasted for all of 24 hours. Umber remains in command of the Coria Dogs, and was last seen stealing candy from a small child.
- Knight Templar: Scarlet has shades of this. She's a retired knight from the army, and has a lot of pride in that fact. She now swears to exterminate every bandit on the isles, and is quite unflinching about this prospect.Scarlet: Brigands are a plague upon this isle. It's not for nothing that I have sworn to wipe them out...
Tremolo: Everyone's gotta eat, love.
Scarlet: Not after I'm through with them, they don't.
- Lame Pun Reaction: Gavrielle usually elicits this.Umber: Wait! Please, spare me. I don't deserve to die like this! Just...take the damned map!
Gavrielle: Ya know, for a "Coria Dog," you sure lack cur-age.
Emma: ...Really, Gavrielle?
Umber: I've changed my mind. Kill me.
Gavrielle: Hey! Come on, it wasn't that bad!
- Last Words: Every named character in the campaign gets these if they die in battle. A few (such as the Hashmal siblings) get variants depending on if someone important to them is still alive. The Climax Bosses probably provide the most notable ones:
- Archos:"Aha...ahahahaha! I'm...I'm dying?..."
- Pathos:"Unexpected... The subject has...slain the researcher..."
- Tarion:"How could this be? Defeated by...mere animals..."
- Spoofed with Gunther, who delivers a very dramatic spiel about how his superior will avenge him and he'll see the Striders in the underworld...only for him to immediately wake up, very confused, in the next scene. Emma captured him alive. His actual Last Words if he dies in the final battle are much more down-to-earth, making them more poignant.
- Laughing Mad: Archos, during his Last Words.
- Light 'em Up: In the campaign, the Mechanics use photokineticists as their psy fighters of choice. Farasat is a photokineticist himself.
- Light Is Not Good: Umber Gnawbone, a ruthless crime boss, is a photokineticist.
- Lizard Folk: Lissit. Non-Mammal Mammaries is averted; females have spines on their head and back instead.
- Left Hanging: Igor Bloodbeard and his bandits are the major antagonists of the first arc, but he's never confronted directly, and his forces end up vanishing from the plot rather abruptly with no proper resolution. Fera does show up in the epilogue, however, so this may be an intentional Sequel Hook.
- Level Grinding: Pull and Shove cost nothing and inflict no damage, but they do give experience. If you corner the last enemy (or weaken them to the point that they're too terrified of counterattacks to do anything), you can use them indefinitely to get as much experience as you want. Steamthopters' cheap Hover ability is also popular for this purpose.
- Love Interest: Lakshmi, though you have to talk to her in the camp scene for it to happen.
- Mad Scientist: Pathos, though we (thankfully) aren't given much detail into her "experiments". She seems primarily responsible for breaking the slaves' will through psychological manipulations. Given that her entourage in the final battle consists of ghosts, she may also be a Necromancer (or the closest thing there is to one in this setting, anyway).
- Matriarchy: Ambuur Zaris (the lissit clan Emma and Sabrina grow up in) seems to be one. It is unknown if this holds true for the rest of lissit society.
- Meaningful Name:
- Rebecca Flare likes Playing with Fire, and Harriet Glaive wields a spear. Madeleine Strongarm is also aptly named.
- Played with in one case. The sinister-sounding Umber Gnawbone is a preacher, and a photokineticist...but he's also the crime boss of the "Coria Dogs", making the name fitting for his real persona.
- The Medic: Louise is this early in the campaign, though she grows out of it. Harynx properly takes the role later on; despite being a shadowling, her moveset is nearly identical to a psy healer's.
- Moment of Weakness: Emma does not take her reunion with Silithis Predat well. In a departure from her normally reserved behavior, she immediately assumes the worst of Silithis and insults her when she tries to apologize. This ends up working out well for her, as it allows Silithis to realize that she really was too hard on Emma. Emma later accepts the apology when Silithis tries again.
- My Name Is ???: Sarn Kamina in the opening. Tarion is also referred to as "???" until Emma calls him by name in the final arc, even though it's pretty obvious who he is since his name is mentioned prior to that.
- Nominal Importance: Most enemies in the campaign just have titles like "Bloodbeard's bandit". If they have an actual name, they're either recruitable or a boss enemy.
- Oh, My Gods!: Most characters tend to use "Crucius", though they'll also use "oh my god" and such. It's a bit unclear what the significance of this is. Lissit like to use "omisigah", which, according to the manual, means something along the lines of "I am cursed by my ancestors".
- Ominous Latin Chanting: The final boss music features this.
- Palette Swap: Every class has a colored uniform of some kind that changes color depending on what side they're on. (In the campaign, Emma's army is blue, her enemies are red, and neutrals are green.) Shadowlings don't have a uniform, and change the color of their eyes and hands instead.
- Past Experience Nightmare: Emma gets these, in the form of flashbacks to her time in the mines; they are easily the most chilling scenes in the campaign.
- Permanently Missable Content: Everything, since you can never return to previous missions. Recruitable characters are probably the most notable — especially in normal mode, where they can die permanently.
- Playing with Fire: In the campaign, Bloodbeard's bandits use pyrokineticists as their psy fighters of choice — one of them, Rebecca Flare, can be swayed to your side. Tarion is a pyrokineticist himself.Tarion: You are nothing but food. As befits raw meat, I will now cook you alive.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Gavrielle, who manages to remain chipper throughout the whole campaign even if her brother dies. (She doesn't take the death itself well, though.)
- Police Are Useless:
- Once Emma discovers that the mines are near the archipelago's capital city, Sabrina suggests they appeal to the governor for help, but Emma refuses to do this.
- The final battle of the second arc takes place in the middle of a town, with the local constabulary nowhere to be found. The protagonists are pretty miffed by this, and discuss the trope after the battle. Many of the criminal characters say the guard is highly corrupt, and a defector from Bloodbeard's forces says there was a general agreement that the guard would look the other way in regards to the bandits' activities. Scarlet steadfastly refuses to believe any of this.
- Pre-Asskicking One-Liner:
- In the campaign, bosses tend to say one of these before their first attack.
- Emma gets one as well, if she attacks Tarion in the final battle:Tarion: I should have killed you ten years ago, fleshling.
Emma: Too late for that now. I am going to strike you down, tie you to a rope, and let the slaves use your body for games of tetherball.
- Pungeon Master: Gavrielle, though her puns don't have a consistent theme to them.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Emma isn't terribly picky about who she picks up, and ends up with a pretty diverse bunch of people who mostly just happened to be in the right place at the right time. This can lead to a lot of tension between characters who are philosophically opposed, such as self-righteous Scarlet and Con Woman Louise. Somewhat deconstructed in the ending, where the group mostly falls apart and splits ways once they no longer have a reason to work together.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Due to the way the Palette Swaps work, all enemy shadowlings have these. It's particularly noticeable with Tarion, as they are prominent in his early appearances.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Hee'la and Des Serret, respectively. Hee'la is a brash and impulsive warrior who longs for an honorable death, while Des Serret is very cautious and balks at the idea that there is any honor in battle.
- Required Party Member: Teresa and Phoebe have to be included in the party in the crypt Side Quest, as does Silithis Predat in Rescuing Sarn Kamina. (In the later case, it's also an automatic game over if she dies.)
- Say My Name: Gavrielle, Farasat, Teresa, and Phoebe will all do this is the other member of their pair dies. Scarlet will also do this if Edwin dies, as will Louise if Madeleine dies.
- See You in Hell: Gunther attempts to do this with his Last Words in his boss battle. It's undermined by his immediate discovery that Emma captured him alive. His actual Last Words if he dies in the final battle are much different.
- Sibling Team: Emma and Sabrina. Gavrielle and Farasat are a Brother–Sister Team, but unusually for the trope, they actually don't work very well together, as they're both fragile ranged attackers who need a tough fighter to protect them.
- Solo-Character Run: Almost; a Self-Imposed Challenge using only the Strider sisters has been attempted.
- Starving Artist: Discussed by Meridian and Harynx.Harynx: The way you capture the moonlight on those bushes...I don't know anyone who can draw like that. You've got talent. You could be an artist.
Meridian: No. I tried being an artist, and I failed. Talent doesn't mean anything if no one buys your work. You can't eat talent. I don't even know why I'm bothering with this. I'm wasting my time. I should just throw my materials into that fountain.
Harynx: Why? To punish yourself? Let me tell you a story. When I came of age, I heard about an ongoing illegal slave trade happening outside of Somnus. I decided then and there that I wanted to dedicate my life to ending it. However, I made the mistake of telling my parents. They told me that I would never have any impact on the world. They said that no one would pay me to try to stop slavery; I would fail and die in poverty, and that was that. I was really discouraged at first. One day, though, I realized something. [...] I realized that I didn't need their permission. I didn't need anyone's permission. And you don't either. We're not slaves; we're free! We can choose to do whatever we want with our lives.
Meridian: Yeah, okay. Great. Are we free from hunger? From the elements? Are we free from the necessity of selling off our days to other, wealthier people for the money to keep ourselves alive? No slaver's going to kill me if I decide to return to drawing. They don't have to. Starvation's waiting just around the corner with a cudgel, and it's happy to do the job.
- Stone Wall: Spearmen and cavaliers, though the latter are pretty mobile. The former become more likely to draw enemy fire upon promotion.
- Straight Gay: Lakshmi; most players would probably never guess if she didn't have a heart-to-heart with Emma about it.
- Superboss: Fera. Similarly to General D'Kah in Servants of God, you are expected to run from her, as she's far too strong for an appropriately-leveled party to take on at that point in the campaign.
- This Cannot Be!: Rebecca's Last Words. Also Tarion's. Fera also says this if you somehow manage to defeat her in the outer wall battle.
- True Companions: Scarlet, Harynx, Zimmer, and Harriet all pledge their loyalty to Emma in the ending, as does Lakshmi if you talked to her in the camp scene. Averted for the rest of the group, who, being a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, all go their separate ways without a greater cause to bind them together.
- Uncertain Doom: Medomai. Emma can't find her in the end, and Tarion heavily implied he planned to kill her in an earlier scene. But they Never Found the Body, so it is possible she survived.
- Underground Monkey: The spriggat species is composed of variants with different skin colors that indicate their element. Red spriggats are heat-elemental, frost spriggats (white) are cold-elemental, dark spriggat (black) are shadow-elemental and golden spriggats are light-elemental.
- Visible Silence: This is Tarion's only reaction when Emma taunts him about Pathos' death. Given that he's usually quite talkative, this implies he is legitimately shaken by it.
- We Cannot Go On Without You:
- If Emma or Sabrina dies, it's game over. Justified this time, since there's no Back from the Dead feature.
- The same applies to Silithis Predat in Battle with Gulch and Rescuing Sarn Kamina. This makes sense in the former case since it's a Meanwhile Scene without the Striders, but in the latter...not so much.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Doran, Edwin, and Gunther don't get epilogue scenes. Neither does Siripent, though one can presume that he followed Sarn. In addition, certain characters only get epilogue scenes that are paired with another character; if that character is dead, they can end up without a proper resolution.
- Wolfpack Boss: The "Five Guardians" battle in the campaign. There are no mooks, just five high-level psychics and a golem.
- "You!" Exclamation: When Emma finally sees the Big Bad in person after watching her father die, she just says "You." Tarion's response is the equally deadpan "Yes: me."