Warriors prepare to fight in one of Symphony of War's tactical battles.

Screenshot: Dancing Dragon Video games

There’s been a raft of intriguing technique RPGs this yr, however one in every of my favorites to date is Symphony of Battle. It’s been climbing the charts on Steam in latest months, and for good motive. From a distance it seems to be like one other Fire Emblem knockoff. Up shut it’s doing sufficient fascinating issues to face by itself, and I actually advocate you give it a shot.

Symphony of Battle: The Nephilim Saga quietly got here out on Steam in June and has been racking up optimistic evaluations ever since. Developed by an indie staff known as Dancing Dragon Video games with a historical past of RPG Maker tasks, it’s a trope-filled army drama about civil struggle and demonic threats. However you may just about ignore all that. Beneath the predictable plot and airbrushed character portraits is a deep technique sport that’s laborious to place down. Personally, I believe it’s even higher within the technique division than Triangle Technique.

Make no mistake: Symphony of Battle is old-school. Whereas newer entries within the Fire Emblem collection have delved deeper into visible novel components and relationship mechanics, it’s centered nearly completely on renovating the nuts and bolts of basic grid-based battles. What works so nicely is that Symphony of Battle nails the fundamentals and in addition provides loads of new wrinkles for followers to dig into (particularly those that additionally dug final yr’s Darkish Deity).

Gif: Dancing Dragon Video games / Kotaku

The most important one is that every particular person unit represents a complete squad made up a number of varieties of fighters. Perhaps there are some knights in entrance flanked by pikemen whereas wizards and archers rain down demise from the again. When two models transfer subsequent to one another and throw down, a mini-turn-based skirmish ensues. Mages within the again solid fireballs and therapeutic spells whereas knights within the entrance dish out melee harm. Fight unfolds throughout two rounds, with attackers getting the primary flip and the defending facet going second. Some fighters can solely assault on the primary or second flip, whereas others will sometimes luck right into a bonus flip. The motion is straightforward to comply with and but additionally opens up loads of room for personalisation.

Adding more subtle layers of complexity are unique fighter bonuses and an extensive research tree. Horseback fighters get to attack first without retribution. Infantry provide defensive bonuses to nearby units. And archers can naturally attack from a distance without facing counter-attacks. These and other stats can then be augmented and magnified by researching new tech. Rather than leveling up specific units, you’re growing the overall capabilities of your army.

A map shows where grid-based combat takes place in Symphony of War.

Screenshot: Dancing Dragon Games

In this way Symphony of War forces you to sometimes think like a 4X strategist whereas enjoying like a standard JRPG fanatic. As an alternative of customizing one single get together and preventing by means of a dungeon, you’re build up a small military of them and taking over an entire battlefield. Finishing missions quicker and capturing enemy models and buildings alongside the best way nets you extra cash and factors that may then be poured again into outfitting your varied crews. Only a few novel tweaks and the decades-old tactical JRPG components feels contemporary and fashionable once more in 2022.

A few different video games have additionally taken hybrid approaches to tactical RPGs lately. The Iron Oath and Songs of Conquest each come to thoughts. The previous is a roguelike with battles that happen on a hexagonal grid. The latter additionally sports activities a hexagonal battlefield in service of map exploration and city-building nearer to a 4X sport. They’re actually promising video games in their very own proper (and nonetheless in Early Entry), but neither is as centered on plumbing the depths of leveraging small benefits so one group of animated sprites can wipe the ground with one other.

Symphony of Battle is much from an ideal bundle, nevertheless it affords one of many extra meaty and revolutionary takes on the techniques RPG components I’ve come throughout in years.

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