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Valkyria Chronicles 4 is worth playing for its memorable characters and watercolor-and-pencil visuals, but its main draw is the combat system. Unlike previous Valkyria games, in 4 depending on scouts to rush the enemy base is rarely a viable strategy. Instead, combined arms are required to succeed. Snipers pick off commanders and other high priority targets, grenadiers run interference, lancers go after fortified targets too tough for grenadiers, scouts explore and (yes) seize bases, shock troopers fill the air with fire and bullets, and engineers keep everything operational. Unlike many tactical RPGs, the AP system allows characters to act multiple times per turn, forcing the player to decide which area of the battlefield needs the most attention.
The variety in map design and mission parameters keeps battles exciting. Stealth missions, defensive missions, and mid-battle objective switches all conspire to keep the player flexible, as does the enemies’ evolving arsenal. While the enemy AI occasionally makes foolish mistakes like having unprepared soldiers charge across no man’s land to their unproductive deaths, the overall challenge is great enough that Valkyria Chronicles 4’s flaws don’t prevent its promotion to our Tactical RPG of the Year.
There aren’t many mech-based RPGs, but BattleTech is exactly that, offering players the ability to command a “lance” of four mechs in an assortment of challenging missions throughout a mercenary campaign. This can be played out in a campaign story mode or in a free-form career mode, but either way players are tasked with building their forces and fortunes while travelling the star system seeking missions. There’s lots of freedom in which missions to take, as well as how players can customize their mech loadouts, collect new mechs, and hire and develop mechwarrior pilots. The customization of your mechs, and selecting which to bring into each mission, offers a multitude of options and ways to approach each challenge. BattleTech is a great game well worthy of placing in RPGamer’s Best Tactical RPG award and will be receiving even more content in the future.
There were a surprising number of great TRPGs in 2018. Banner Saga 3 continued its trend of difficult but satisfying tactical battles, though very little changed in its combat. While some games can’t get away with staying the course, Banner Saga 3’s combat has always had unique classes and races for players to mix and match on the battlefield, and the difficulty in terms of additional waves or challenging enemies has always made for interesting engagements. While it’s not reinventing the wheel, Banner Saga 3 still deserves its place as our third best tactical RPG.
by Joshua Carpenter, Johnathan Stringer, and Sam Wachter