I’ve never really seen many video games taking conservation stances, but We Are the Caretakers by developer Heart Shaped Games takes environmental conservation seriously, especially when it comes to protecting endangered animals. Each purchase of We Are the Caretakers goes towards the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Rhino Recovery Fund, so you can save real life animals while playing a game that’s about a group of people trying to protect their environment. This isn’t a Captain Planet style effort, however—its conservation message hides behind a sleek, XCOM squad management with Wakanda-like style.
We Are the Caretakers is a squad management game with JRPG-like turn-based combat and a few 4X elements thrown in. In it, you play as the Caretakers, an enigmatic group of freedom fighters and nature protectors. You manage your multiple squads at home base between missions, and deploy them to an overworld map that you must explore to find and complete optional and main objectives. Some of these objectives can be resolved in the overworld, but others require you to get into squad-based combat in which your two groups take turns using various abilities in an effort to defeat the each other. A lot of combat will be against those trying to exploit the land, people, and animals—like poachers. These poachers hunt raun, a key species and the one these Caretakers are trying to protect. Raun are a little bit like a rhino crossed with an elephant. You even have a raun as a team member when you save a baby raun after its mother dies at the hands of poachers.
There is a good amount of squad management in We Are the Caretakers. You can choose to primarily control one squad of Caretakers, but why settle for one when you can deploy a number of your nine total squads? Each of these squads can be made up of multiple different classes of characters, with over twenty classes available, so you can have squads made up of diverse units, or send out specialized groups on missions. When your Caretakers are deployed on missions, you must navigate an overworld map—and this is where most of the action takes place. You will have to chase poachers, disarm traps before they can harm wildlife, and interact with the locals. Your reputation is on the line, though—people don’t know whether or not to trust the Caretakers, so you have to tread carefully, lest you be seen as the enemy.
Combat in We Are the Caretakers is a little rough in Early Access, but it gets the idea across. Two opposing teams fight in a JRPG style, both flinging different abilities at one another. Combat doesn’t have to be deadly, however. Once a foe is reduced in health, you have a few options based on your character classes available. Instead of outright killing foes, you can detain or even recruit them. The option to kill them is there, but your reputation will take a hit for it. You don’t have to reduce a foe’s health to defeat them, either. You can attack them mentally, by intimidating or lowering their willpower. Combat is interesting, but animations and the overall look needs work—it doesn’t even remotely live up to We Are the Caretakers’ stylish look.
We Are the Caretakers is in Early Access, and according to the Steam Early Access page the developers plan to keep working on it for the next five to six months. This time will be used finishing up the game’s campaign, and working on the overall polish. Right now there is about four hours’ worth of gameplay from beginning to end.
There is definitely some potential in We Are the Caretakers. I really dig its its Caretakers, who have a look that is a mix between XCOM 2’s Advent soldiers and the MCU’s take on Wakanda’s Afro-futurism. It even has a pretty cool soundtrack. It’s not quite polished enough to recommend without caveats, but I’m thrilled to see where development takes this one.
We Are the Caretakers is available now on Steam Early Access
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