I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but there have been a truly startling number of strategy and tactics RPGs released not just this year, but in recent years as well, with a lot more scheduled for the near future. Without even trying I was able to find well over a dozen of them fresh in the pot, ready to drink, or percolating for the near future. The sleeping subgenre, largely confined to consoles and mobile by a complacent or uncaring set of publishers, has exploded onto PC full force.
Among those who love these games they’re often called SRPGs, from the Japanese gaming culture phrase usually translated as “simulation” or “strategy” RPG. These were a mainstay of ’90s and turn-of-the-millenium gaming. Classics like the Fire Emblem games, Tactics Ogre, Shining Force, and Final Fantasy Tactics are beloved, but they fell off by the mid-2000s. Even these games weren’t always released widely, or were confined to the walled garden of Nintendo’s consoles.
Plus, recent big-budget RPGs from the likes of Square have focused on real-time combat and action mechanics, and so what’s left for the turn-based enjoyers? They’ve got a lot of indies for that, and—well, it turns out that most of them like tactics games as much, or more, than turn-based traditional RPGs.
The success of Fire Emblem: Awakening in 2012—and every Fire Emblem since—has finally well and truly translated into releases that come to PC. Starting a few years ago, as far as I can tell, a lot of indies just said “Well, shit, they never put these on PC, so I’ll make my own!” Now development is so much simpler and the genre so much more popular that we’re getting semi-retired industry pioneers—the creator of freaking Fire Emblem, for example—back in the SRPG-making game. Enough of that, though. Let’s get to the games.
Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga
Release date: June 10, 2022
OK, I’m partial to this one and I’m listing it first because it’s a recent hit. With over 3,200 reviews on Steam (opens in new tab), 96% of them positive, Symphony of War is a triumph of indie ingenuity. It’s also a great pick if you’re on Steam Deck. To avoid repeating myself, however, I’ll quote my recent review:
“There’s a simple delight to JRPG character customization. Extend that to an entire squad of characters on a tactical grid? Now you’ve got your classic strategy JRPG, like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. Extend it to an entire army of several dozen squads? That’s the rework you get in Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga. Setting out a buffet of customization around your army and its generals is just enough to shake up a genre that was quickly becoming one-note—even if the otherwise generic story does it no favors.”
Release date: March 4, 2022 (Switch)
One of the games that prompted this article, Triangle Strategy was a pretty well-received SRPG that clearly “got” the genre. It’s published by Square, and comes from the same internal “Project” initiative and producer that brought us Octopath Traveler (which about a year after its Switch debut also brought its 2.5D aesthetic right onto PC, so fingers crossed Triangle Strategy follows suit).
Triangle Strategy has a funky plot focusing on the conflict between the ideologies of Utility, Morality, and Liberty. It boasts multi-tiered maps and a tactical focus on traversing different height levels—characters can do things like drop ladders so that others can get higher. It also uses a series of limited upgrade resources, ensuring you pick certain characters and stick with them.
The DioField Chronicle
Release date: September 22, 2022
Another big one from Square, The DioField Chronicle is to be a real-time tactical strategy RPG, which is a whole new thing as far as I know. You command your characters on the battlefield in real-time, directing their attacks ala an RTS. When you queue up a power or ability, however, it slows into near-stillness as you line up vector attacks using targeting arrows and diagrams like in many modern mobas before snapping back into action as you unleash them.
It has big-budget looks going for it as well. So far everything we’ve seen of The DioField Chronicle just looks… darn pretty. It’s supposed to boast a “gritty and immersive story” to boot, but from what I can tell that pretty much means they swear or something.
Tactics Ogre Reborn
Release date: November 11, 2022
First leaked, now confirmed, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a return of the beloved strategy RPG for the first time since 2010’s Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. This remake promises to improve graphics, sound, and update the game design. Tactics Ogre is renowned for its elaborate, sprawling system of classes and characters to customize in them. It also has an overarching world map to navigate, which can spit out random encounters, and adds some real flavor and strategic flair to how you play the story.
Tactics Ogre, alongside Final Fantasy Tactics, is often cited as many peoples’ gateway game into the strategy RPG subgenre. Not for simplicity or easy learning, mind you, but because it’s the kind of tactical gameplay that draws you ever-deeper.
Final Fantasy Tactics Remaster
Release date: ???
It’s not confirmed… but it was part of that big Nvidia leak back in November 2021. The list of Square games on that list has turned out to be almost entirely true, including Tactics Ogre getting a remake (see above). Expect it. Square would be foolish not to bring back this cult classic of the genre—one that defined so much of the class and job system used in dozens of RPGs since—while the SRPG is experiencing a renaissance.
Vestaria Saga 2
Release date: July 28, 2022
A classic-style strategy RPG, Vestaria Saga is made by a team led by Shouzou Kaga, the man who game designed, and wrote, the first six Fire Emblem games from 1990 to 1999. The recently released Vestaria Saga 2: The Sacred Sword of Silvani follows on from Vestaria Saga 1: War of the Scions, released in 2019, and I’d consider it necessary playing for anyone who thinks they’re an SRPG expert. It’s cool to see how someone who laid the foundations of the genre thinks about it over 30 years later.
Gameplay-wise, Vestaria Saga focuses on intricately designed maps with difficult strategic puzzles. Positioning and movement are the keys to success, figuring out when and where enemies will move, and how to take advantage of that. Vestaria Saga 2 has a host of improvements over its predecessor, so it’s a shame that it’s so reliant on the plot from Vestaria Saga 1.
Release date: August 4, 2022
Now that the Square Enix Show part of the article is firmly over, let’s talk Vanaris Tactics, a cute little strategy RPG from solo dev Matheus Reis that knows what it wants to do and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I’d missed it, sadly, until one of our authors shot his nephew in the head (in game, of course).
Vanaris Tactics is a bargain-priced 15-mission game with some optional fights along the way. There’s less stress about long-term plans here, so you can play around a bit more with customizing your characters—which is nice, because different weapons and gear can very much change the combat role of any given unit and how you use its abilities.
Far Away From Home
Release date: August 18, 2022
A party-based tactics RPG, the unique Far From Home is a story-driven indie that combines low-key tactical combat with some nice environments and characterful, chunky sprites. It’s got an interesting premise too, starring people from our world tossed into a fantasy one and sent on a quest to get home.
The downside is its tactical element. Far Away From Home is pretty easy, and with a set party lineup there’s not a ton of customization or variety of ways to build your characters. It is well-polished, however, and remarkably so for an indie effort from a solo developer. Check out the demo (opens in new tab) to see if you like what it offers.
Telepath Tactics Liberated
Release Date: March 14, 2022
Another that’s already hit Steam (opens in new tab) this year, Telepath Tactics Liberated bills itself as “an SRPG fan’s SRPG!” which is… pretty true. It’s one I’ve only spent a handful of hours with, but it really captures the spirit of the genre by encouraging you to mix-and-match some 24 base and 48 high-tier prestige classes, each with their own skill setup.
As a treat, it also has elements of battlefield manipulation. You can push enemies into water or lava or off cliffs, but also lay traps, build barricades, and manipulate the field itself. An ice mage, for example, might be able to freeze water into a bridge for you to exploit. Telepath Tactics Liberated is the product of a solo dev, but has had healthy updates since release, including a pretty neat randomizer mode that tosses out the SRPG trope of fixed characters with fixed classes in favor of a procedurally generated challenge at party-building.
Release date: Coming soon
Upcoming indie Spiritlink Tactics clearly takes a lot from Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, having you build a party of characters from a combination of classes and giving you a lot of freedom while you do it. You combine two classes for each character, so you might be a Warrior/Rogue, or a Warrior/Alchemist, each playing pretty differently.
Its other clever innovation is a system of mana sharing, where characters can use each others’ power to juice up. Combined with terrain, I think that has some potential to be mighty interesting when Spiritlink Tactics releases. You can play a demo of Spiritlink Tactics on Steam (opens in new tab).
Crimson Tactics: The Rise of The White Banner
Release date: September, 2022 (Early Access)
Crimson Tactics has the blocky aesthetics of a game like Final Fantasy Tactics but uses what I can only call a modernized Nintendo DS game palette and models. The result is unique-looking, to say the least, and looks much better in motion than it does in screenshots.
Mechanically, well, it’s a lot like other strategy RPGs: customize from a few dozen classes, each with their own abilities, and toss in some unique story characters. The most unique aspect looks to be the mounted combat, with characters mounted on mundane horses as well as more exotic steeds like dragons and hydras.
Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy
Release date: Coming soon
A promising-looking tactical RPG from developer Curious Fate, Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy has a charming art style, unusual for the genre, clearly unafraid to step away from the combination of paintings and sprites that define so many other releases. Plus the main character has a dog, so that means it can’t be all bad.
Its tactical element seems to be a focus on broad customizability and unexpected genre twists. Levels will incorporate puzzles, or be large-scale warfare battles, which is a lot like the map twists you’d find in older SRPGs. Characters will be unique in and of themselves, it claims, but can also choose from 21 individual classes to combine. Absolute Tactics: Daughters of Mercy has a demo you can play right there on Steam (opens in new tab).
Release date: Summer, 2023
Arcadian Atlas is a pretty strategy RPG that looks to really focus on its characters and their story. It promises a journey in the life of “two lovers brought together by war and torn between the queen they’ve sworn fealty to and the charismatic illegitimate daughter who’s risen up to take back a throne denied her—civil war threatening to engulf the destitute and desperate as battle lines are drawn and swords unsheathed.”
Which is some straight-up Shakespearean shit and I am here for it. It’ll feature 12 unique classes, each with their own skill tree, and a variety of tactical map terrain.
Oh, and a lot more
That’s just the immediately recent and upcoming games. In the past few years there have been a lot more you might have missed. Let’s end with those:
- There’s Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark, a real love letter to Final Fantasy Tactics with a suitably epic story and playtime to match.
- Dark Deity (opens in new tab), an attempt at the greatness of Game Boy Advance-era Fire Emblem games.
- The hidden gem Horizon’s Gate (opens in new tab), which is a unique strategy RPG in that it sets you loose in an open world and open-ended class system to find your own way..
- Or even the recent Brigandine: The Legend of Runersia, a revival of a cult classic SRPG.
- And I’d be criminally liable if I didn’t mention Troubleshooter: Abandoned Children (opens in new tab), the 2020 cult classic that blends a bit of Fire Emblem into your XCOM-tinged SRPG and then drowns you in over a thousand character-customizing masteries.