Set in a medieval high fantasy world, Crimson Tactics hurls you into a high-stakes adventure rife with political conflict, power struggles, and mortal rivalries — to decide the fate of the kingdom of Wendalle.
Our turn-based tactical RPG was inspired by classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and Fell Seal, which are known for their expansive world building, gripping storylines, incredible scores and deep gameplay mechanics. Black March Studios wanted to build on this genre with updated graphics and mechanics while paying homage to older titles.
I wanted the sound design to feel familiar enough to the player base, while also bringing an updated palette with sounds that are unusual for this genre.
The sounds needed to complement the dark and gritty narrative in a fantasy setting. Straying from the well trodden path in RPG sound design, I went with more realistic sounds and peppered in a range of abstract and tonal textures. This enabled the sound effects and music to closely follow the storyline as it swung between realism and fantasy.
I was inspired by the tight and snappy sounds in 1995’s Tactics Ogre and its subsequent re-master, as they made the most of the hardware the game was made for.
I considered what the audio designers working on that project two decades ago might have created if they didn’t have to worry about hardware limitations, and devised a formula on that premise.
From there, I branched out and looked at modern titles whose sound design work spoke to me for various reasons.
In Desperados 3, I found deeply immersive cinematic sequences that drew me in using a limiting top-down camera. Elden Ring featured exquisitely detailed and satisfying impacts. Hogwarts Legacy brought excellent design of magic spells, and Octopath Traveller pulled varied elements together to make a spectacular presentation.
For this game, I focused more on how these sounds made the player feel, as opposed to the elements that made them up.
1st-person and 3rd-person games allow you to move through the game world in a familiar way. Big layered sounds work well to create atmosphere, since they attenuate based on distance and direction and create natural dynamics and movement.
You can do this with a top-down isometric as long as you’ve got a single character but with a TTRPGs, the character you control is constantly changing based on whose turn it is — preventing you from using sounds that move with the camera perspective.
With that in mind, I strove to make the sounds small enough to withstand repetition, but big enough to have some impact.
For this top-down TTRPG, I created several variations for each sound and spent a lot of time on the mix and relative levels for an immersive experience.
I also “cheated” a bit to a layer of dynamics, by setting up a system in which the camera zoom controlled relative levels between environmental sounds and background music.
Ultimately, we worked with more than 800 unique assets to keep the audio field vibrant and interesting.
And the music? It rules.