There was a bunch of Intriguing strategy RPGs this yearbut one of my favorites so far is symphony of war. It’s been climbing the charts on Steam for the past few months, and for good reason. From a distance it looks like another fire emblem counterfeit. Up close, it does enough interesting things to stand on its own, and I definitely recommend you give it a try.
Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga released quietly on Steam in June and was accumulate positive reviews from. Developed by an indie team called Dancing Dragon Games with a history of RPG Maker projects, it’s a trope-filled military drama about civil war and demonic threats. But you can practically ignore all of that. Beneath the predictable plot and airbrushed character portraits lies a deep strategy game that’s hard to put down. Personally, I think it’s even better in the strategy department that Triangle strategy.
Make no mistake: symphony of war is old school. While new entries into the fire emblem series deepened visual novel elements and relationship mechanics, it focuses almost exclusively on renovating the nuts and bolts of classic grid-based battles. What works so well is that symphony of war nails the basics and also adds lots of new wrinkles for fans to dig (especially those who have also dug last years dark deity).
The most important thing is that each individual unit represents an entire team made up of several types of fighters. Perhaps there are knights in front flanked by pikemen while wizards and archers rain down death from behind. When two units move next to each other and dash, a turn-based mini-skirmish ensues. The mages in the back cast fireballs and healing spells while the knights in the front deal melee damage. The fight takes place over two rounds, with the attackers getting the first round and the defending side the second. Some fighters can only attack on the first or second round, while others will occasionally get lucky in a bonus round. The action is easy to follow and also opens up a lot of room for customization.
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.
In this way Symphony of War forces you to sometimes think like a 4X strategist while playing like a traditional JRPG enthusiast. Instead of customizing a single party and fighting in a dungeon, you build a small army of them and tackle an entire battlefield. Completing missions faster and capturing enemy units and buildings along the way earns you extra money and points which can then be reinvested in equipping your various crews. A few innovative tweaks and the decades-old tactical JRPG formula feels fresh and modern again in 2022.
A few other games have also taken hybrid approaches to tactical RPGs recently. The iron oath and songs of conquest both come to mind. The first is a roguelike with fights that take place on a hexagonal grid. The latter also sports a hexagonal battlefield in service of 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 none are so focused on the depth of leveraging small advantages so that one group of animated sprites can wipe the floor with another.
symphony of war is far from a perfect package, but it delivers one of the meatiest and most innovative takes on the tactical RPG formula I’ve come across. in years.