Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire is a surprisingly epic story. The game is set within a Sci-fi universe that’s been plunged into the Dark Ages following the collapse of the vast Astral Empire. You’ll get to uncover the rich history behind its once thriving regions and hopefully turn the tide of its current struggles in the process. Inspired by travels throughout The Middle East, Nepal and India, Tahira explores real-world political notions through a rich fictional narrative.
Tahira is actually a successful Kickstarter campaign developed and published by Whale Hammer Games. You’ll begin your perilous journey as Tahira herself, who is the proud young princess of Avestan, as she proceeds to liberate her people from the oppression of the supposed descendants of the Astral Empire. The story of Tahira is a bleakly confronting one. The entire landscape is often depicted as a harsh desolate wasteland, along with the destitute nature of its inhabitants.
There are some particularly graphic scenes in the game that depict horrendous behaviour such as cold-blooded murder and other malicious intents. Tahira is not shy about illustrating its political connotations that are prevalent throughout this game. Fret not, for it’s not all a dismal experience, along the way you’ll meet a full cast of lively characters with their own opinions and thoughts. This also helps to lend itself to some funny, light-hearted moments in the game. From the lewd banter shared between a mercenary power couple to the cheerful whinny of your faithful horse companion – Iba, rest assured your spirits will be lifted.
Tahira is a tactical turn-based RPG with four difficulty settings to appease all of its players. Combat can take some getting used too, especially as more complex tactical capabilities present themselves to you. Each skirmish is truly unique allowing you to tailor your own strategic choices to come out on top. The battles within the game can be lengthy, especially when certain instances allow you to control a handful of characters at once. Tahira can dish out some pretty punishing fights but what’s handy is that you can actually choose to forgo these battles in the options menu. If you purely want a narrative driven experience or find combat too challenging at any particular moment then this option is incredibly useful. Note that this is completely up to you, should you choose to utilise it.
The game’s narrative is delivered through text dialogue from each character but what’s unexpected in Tahira is the use of dialogue choice. You’ll often get to choose what Tahira says and does next, which is great at further involving you as the player to actually make some decisions instead of just watching them unfold.
The art-style of Tahira features rotoscoped animations that were influenced by Stoic Studio’s The Banner Saga. This specific aesthetic is also highly reminiscent to that of old-school cartoons that evoke an air of nostalgia to the game. Another thing that can be said about the animation is how well it fluidly captures each characters movements, especially in combat. It’s not hard to place the influence of the soundtrack in Tahira as it features distinct ethnic sounds hailing from The Middle East and Central Asia region, which nicely complements the game’s setting.
Tahira is a compelling adventure full of tragedy and insight. Besides the epic battles that you’ll face in the game, Tahira is also a philosophical experience that reflects severe realities. Tahira is a visually pleasant game that’s riddled with thought-provoking narrative and strategic intuitive gameplay that will definitely keep you on your toes.
Sunita Osborne is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. You can find her on Twitter @SunitaOsborne