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Best Tactical RPG
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Square Enix’s Triangle Strategy crawled over a mountain of corpses to earn its place among the luminaries in its very specific sub-genre. Similarly to Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, the story follows a minor noble thrust into feudal power struggles, rife with scheming clergy and backed with rousing martial scores. However, the continent of Norzelia is its own entity with memorable power blocs, hidden histories, and economic powder kegs waiting to be triggered. Triangle Strategy honors its forebears and builds on their legacies with tight, challenging battles, meaningful moral choices, and inspiring visuals.
One of the game’s strengths is its sense of consequence. The Scales of Conviction system powerfully visualizes the precariousness of alliance-building. Choosing between Liberty, Morality, and Utility is more nuanced and thought-provoking than typical, binary video game morality. Battles continue this lesson of sacrifice with fragile-yet-flexible characters. Fights rarely feel unfair, but successes are hard-won. Story maps offer varied designs and effects like spring traps, ice slicks, oil traps, electricity-conducting water, elevation trickery, and mine carts. Taken as a whole, every ally has potential, every turn matters, and navigating the fields of salt and blood successfully feels rightly heroic. Unless, of course, you choose poorly.
Taking a deserved runner-up spot is the surprise indie hit Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga. This inaugural release from Dancing Dragon Studios mixes auto-battle and unit mechanics from the Ogre Battle series with gridded battle maps and storytelling reminiscent of the GBA Fire Emblem games. The unit customization possibilities are near endless, with up to nine characters allowed in a unit based on the leader’s leadership skill and a diverse mix of character classes, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. A class tree promotion system accompanied by a large cast of recruitable plot-driven characters, as well as powerful named purchasable characters, add even more options for army-building bliss. An aggressive but predictable AI allows for a fun challenge without feeling cheap or unfair. The story, graphics, art style, and soundtrack can be uneven at times, but are overall competent and very fitting for the game. Ogre Battle and Fire Emblem fans, or just tactical RPG fans in general, would be remiss in overlooking this gem.
by Zach Welhouse and Johnathan Stringer