There is a raft of Intriguing Strategy RPGs This Yearbut one of my favorites so far is war symphony. It’s been climbing the charts on Steam in recent months, and for good reason. From a distance it looks different fire emblem knock off. Up close, it does enough interesting things on its own, and I really recommend you give it a try.
War Symphony: The Nephilim Saga quietly came out on Steam in June and is piling up positive reviews since. Developed by an indie team called Dancing Dragon Games with a history of RPG Maker projects, it’s a tropic-packed military drama about civil war and demonic threats. But you can actually ignore all that. Beneath the predictable plot and airbrushed character portraits lies a deep strategy game that is hard to put down. Personally, I like it even better in the strategy department then Triangle strategy.
Make no mistake: war symphony is old-fashioned. While newer entries in the fire emblem series have gone deeper into visual new elements and relationship mechanics, it focuses almost exclusively on renovating the nuts and bolts of classic grid-based combat. What works so well is that war symphony nails the base and also adds a lot of new wrinkles for fans to dig in (especially those who dug too In recent years Dark Deity).
The biggest is that each individual unit represents an entire squad made up of multiple types of fighters. Perhaps there are some knights in front flanked by pikemen, while wizards and archers rain down death from behind. When two units move side by side and throw down, a mini turn-based skirmish ensues. Mages in the back cast fireballs and healing spells, while knights in the front deal melee damage. The fight takes place over two rounds, with attackers taking the first turn and the defending side second. Some fighters can only attack on the first or second turn, while others occasionally get lucky in a bonus turn. The action is easy to follow, yet offers plenty of room for customization.
Adding more subtle layers of complexity are unique fighter bonuses and an extensive research tree. Horsefighters may attack first without retaliation. Infantry provides defensive bonuses to nearby units. And, of course, archers can attack from a distance without facing counterattacks. These and other metrics can then be expanded and magnified by researching new technology. Instead of increasing specific units, you increase the overall capabilities of your army.
In this way war symphony forces you to sometimes think like a 4X Strategist while playing as a traditional JRPG enthusiast. Instead of modifying a single faction and fighting through a dungeon, build a small army of them and take on an entire battlefield. By completing missions faster and capturing enemy units and buildings along the way, you gain extra money and points that you can then use to equip your various crews. Just a few new tweaks and the decades-old tactical JRPG formula will feel fresh and modern again in 2022.
A few other games have also recently taken a hybrid approach to tactical RPGs. The Iron Oath and Songs of Conquest both come to mind. The first is a roguelike with battles taking place on a hexagonal grid. The latter also features a hexagonal battlefield serving map exploration and city building closer to a 4X game. They’re really promising games in their own right (and still in Early Access), but neither is so focused on figuring out the depth of exploiting small benefits so that one group of animated sprites can wipe the floor with the other.
war symphony is far from a perfect package, but it offers one of the meatier and innovative approaches to the tactics RPG formula I’ve come across in years.