Put on your thinking caps, here comes Day Eleven and Tactical games. For the purposes of today’s challenge, we’re lumping together TRPGs and SRPGs, using the terms Tactical and Strategy interchangeably (in the land of the rising sun these are known as Simulation RPGs/SRPGs, to make this more confusing). The general definitions seem to be that strategy refers to a plan of action put in place before battle whereas tactics refers to the implementation of that plan, putting it into action during battle. In gaming, the difference between these two terms is small enough to be almost moot since games in this vein often utilize planning prior to battle and tactics during battle. TRPGs (or SRPGs, if you like) emphasize turn-based combat and stat crunching like traditional RPGs (differentiating TRPGs from RTS games) but TRPGs add to that an emphasis on planning out battles, placement of characters/units, topography, the passing of time, isometric backgrounds, a de-emphasis on exploration, and so on. Battling is the meat and potatoes of the game opposed to anything else. These TRPGs typically play out much slower than even traditional RPGs, so they’re often highly inaccessible and require quite a lot of patience. The analogy with chess is not used flippantly.
The Green Screen Mage
Ugh, no. The worst.
The Black Humor Mage
I used to think tactical games were boring, but I have new found appreciation for them. Recently, a friend got me both Fire Emblem Fates games, and I am having such a good time. Both games have such a great story and characters, great music, and simple yet satisfying gameplay where the weapon your characters hold either have an advantage or disadvantage to the enemy weapons. Swords beat bows, bows beat shurikens, and shurikens beat swords. It’s like rock-paper-scissors. I really look forward to playing Fire Emblem Awakening. I can see why these were considered some of the best 3DS games.
The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)
Chroma Squad. This might be the most under-appreciated hidden gem out of all the games I name. The turn based/tactical combat is done so well and utilizes many different techniques that are compiled upon during the course of the game. Not to mention, you get to make your very own squad of Power Rangers! How freaking cool is that? It is meta, it is hilarious, it is freaking Chroma Squad. I highly recommend it. (Honorable Mentions – The Banner Saga, Call of Cthulhu Wasted Lands, SWAT(PC))
The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)
I only discovered Valkyria Chronicles when it was recently re-released, but it is a tactical combat game with so much heart. With parallels to World War 2, the story was relatable and powerful, with memorable characters and a satisfying combat system.
The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)
Luminous Arc was one of the more interesting tactical games that I have played. I loved the character designs and the take on witches. Instead of being gloomy in their design they were incredibly cute. The game had a vast array of characters each with their own individual tropes. The story was nothing to write home about but paired with both the gameplay and characters I thought this game was an absolute gem.
The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)
Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS). I picked the only other RPG I’ve played for my Tactical pick. Again, Fire Emblem is a simple game to play…but to master it? You need tactics. Which characters are best to use? Which characters are best to pair up? Which characters are best to marry and have kids? Which kids will be the most use? Awakening is more than an RPG; it’s like chess. The wrong move can stop you from progressing.
The Rage Mage
Every time I fall asleep, the dream keeps getting longer. In January, the dreams lasted days on end. In March, the dreams stretched on for months. In June, I was trapped in my dreams for years. Last night I had a dream that stretched on past a millennium. Who will I be if I dream for ten thousand years or more? What happens when I forget who I am? And what are my dreams about? Playing a single round of Nobunaga’s Ambition on the NES. At least in the dream I have Ito Junji-san to talk to, y’know to pass the time.
The Well-Red Mage
Final Fantasy Tactics frequently tops lists of best TRPGs, and not without reason. It’s also one of my favorite Final Fantasy games. It’s a highly complex tactical adventure with one of the most robust job systems in all of the Final Fantasy franchise, but on top of that it has an epic story with all of the intrigue, betrayal, and gravity of historical fiction. The sense of realism that this game accomplishes in its narrative is alone impressive, but when a battle is so engaging it takes over an hour to complete, you can be sure you’ve stumbled into a game that gives you plenty to chew on. And isn’t that what you want if you’re playing a Tactical RPG, anyway?
I didn’t like the sequel to FF Tactics. More often than not, games in this category are a turn off to me than something I’m excited to play, because of their plodding gameplay, but there are exceptions. Other Tactical/Strategy games I’ve enjoyed include Advance Wars, Ogre Battle: the March of the Black Queen, and Kartia: the Word of Fate. Today’s genre challenge really reminds me how much I’m looking forward to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, to my own utter surprise.
Now my brain hurts. Too much thinking, planning, strategizing! Well, there’s more tactical adventuring to come. Have you used up all your favorites yet, because there’s still tomorrow’s genre… and it’s a real timely doozy. See you there!