Today, I’m eager to delve into a specific Turn-Based RPG genre that offers tactical combat and a significant strategic element. Each year, a plethora of titles are released, providing this captivating experience. The options are plentiful from classic Tactical RPGs to games with a stronger emphasis on storytelling.
What is a Tactical Turn-Based RPG?
Tactical Turn-Based RPGs have been a beloved genre for decades, offering players a unique blend of strategy, story, and roleplaying. Usually, they are associated with the glorious classic Final Fantasy Tactics.
But what precisely are tactical turn-based Strategy RPGs? At their essence, they are games that blend turn-based combat with RPG and Strategy mechanics, enabling players to command a party of characters in tactical battles against adversaries. These battles frequently demand meticulous planning, as players must oversee their resources, position their units strategically, and utilize distinct abilities and equipment.
Despite their complexity, tactical turn-based RPGs have a broad appeal, attracting hardcore gamers and casual players looking for a deep, immersive experience. And with the rise of indie game development, the genre has seen a resurgence in recent years, with new games pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
Core Mechanics of a Tactics RPG
Tactical RPGs featured are built around a set of core gameplay mechanics that define the genre. These mechanics are designed to provide a deep and engaging experience that challenges players to think strategically and make careful decisions. Here are some of the fundamental mechanics typically found in modern tactical strategy RPGs.
Turn-Based Combat System
The turn-based combat system is one of the defining mechanics of tactical RPGs. In this system, players and enemies take turns to make moves and attacks. This allows players to plan and strategize their moves and adds a layer of predictability to the gameplay. Players must carefully consider their characters’ and enemies’ strengths and weaknesses and make calculated decisions based on the situation. Players typically have limited resources, such as health, mana, or action points, which they must manage carefully and consider their resources when deciding character actions and strategy. For example, a powerful ability might use up a lot of mana, while a defensive maneuver might leave a character vulnerable to attack.
Movement and positioning
The games I’m talking about use a movement and positioning system where characters move on maps composed of squares, hexagon grids, or even gridless maps. This system allows for the precise positioning of characters and provides a strategic element to the movement. Players must carefully consider their positioning and use cover to avoid enemy attacks while also setting up flanking maneuvers and other tactical advantages.
Environmental and terrain effects
Environmental and terrain effects are often used to add depth and variety. These effects can include weather conditions, terrain types, and environmental hazards. For example, a swamp might slow movement and reduce accuracy, while a high-ground position might provide a tactical advantage. Players must consider these effects when making decisions about movement and positioning.
Character customization and progression
Customization and progression are critical elements of these RPGs. Players can typically choose from various character classes with unique abilities and strengths. Characters can also be customized with various equipment, weapons, and skills to fit different playstyles and strategies. As characters progress through the game, they gain experience points and level up, becoming more powerful and unlocking new abilities.
Top 20 Tactical Turn-Based RPGs of Recent Times
Let’s examine the best tactical turn-based RPGs of the last two years, including some 2023 releases you should play. Starting from 2020 up to May 2023. Just a premise before starting. In this article, you will not find games that emphasize the Strategy Layers’ such as Warhammer Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters, Songs of Conquest, or the freshly released Age of Wonders 4. There are many of them so I will dedicate a list soon. Let’s start with the top 20 tactical RPGs of the last two years on PC and Consoles.
TROUBLESHOOTER: Abandoned Children
Troubleshooter: Abandoned Children is an ambitious tactical role-playing game developed by the Korean studio Dandylion. Drawing inspiration from games like X-Com and Final Fantasy Tactics, Troubleshooter offers a complex story and rich content. Despite being the studio’s first game, it has received positive reviews on Steam and continues to receive updates.
The game revolves around freelance special operatives acting as super-powered riot police, tackling violent gangs and creatures. It features a chapter-based main story and numerous side missions. The gameplay mechanics resemble XCOM 2, with turn-based combat, cover system, and a variety of tactical options. It also boasts an in-depth character customization system, allowing players to build characters with different masteries and abilities.
Despite its flaws, Troubleshooter shines in its stage design, diverse characters, and the balance it strikes between story and gameplay. Fans of tactical turn-based RPGs will likely appreciate the game’s depth and enjoy the hours of gameplay it offers.
Gears Tactics is a surprising spinoff that turns the fast-paced Gears of War series into a tactical turn-based strategy game. Set 12 years before the first Gears of War, it follows Gabe Diaz on a mission to assassinate the Locust scientist, Ukkon.
The gameplay is similar to X-COM, with players strategically placing squad members and making tactical decisions in each turn-based mission. The game offers linear missions divided into acts, with side missions adding variety but sometimes undermining the tactical aspect. One standout feature is the “down but not out” mechanic, allowing squad members a chance to be revived.
Executions on downed foes provide extra actions, a familiar feature from the Gears of War series. The game includes two campaigns, and the Jack Campaign DLC introduces new abilities and enemy types. Overall, Gears Tactics successfully combines the gameplay of X-COM with the action elements of Gears of War, offering a unique experience for fans of both series.
Othercide is a unique game that caught the attention primarily because of its art style. Set in a monochrome landscape, the game features unyielding Daughters facing off against nightmarish creatures. However, Othercide offers more than just a striking visual aesthetic. It combines unusual lore, challenging tactical battles, and a “meta-level” gameplay centered around sacrifice and replaying to become stronger.
The tactical battles in Othercide resemble those in XCOM: Chimera Squad but with less randomness. Instead, success depends on tactical skills, such as flanking enemies and manipulating the turn order. The game introduces various abilities to delay enemy turns, speed up allies, and exploit action points. Additionally, fallen Daughters can be resurrected with new skills and traits, making each subsequent playthrough progressively more rewarding.
However, Othercide has its downsides. The repetitive nature of battles and limited map variety can become monotonous. Despite these shortcomings, Othercide shines with its polished presentation, captivating atmosphere, and gradually unfolding story. It is perfectly fit for fans of turn-based tactics and unique art styles.
Wasteland 3, developed by InXile Entertainment, is a tactical turn-based CRPG and the sequel to Wasteland 2. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the game follows the Rangers as they face dire circumstances and are forced to aid the Patriarch of Colorado in exchange for assistance.
Players engage in quests, explore the game world, and interact with characters to progress the central plot. The game features a familiar CRPG structure, with character skills unlocking dialogue options, quests, and rewards. The level system grants attribute, skill points, and perks that enhance gameplay. Combat is action point-based and offers a variety of tactical options, aided by dynamic battlefields with terrain hazards and cover.
Wasteland 3 introduces the Kodiak, an armored vehicle that adds depth to battles. However, the game has limitations, including a lack of depth in non-combat situations, poor balance between weapon types, depersonalized protagonists, and poorly designed companions. Despite these flaws, Wasteland 3 provides engaging combat, a fun and weird post-apocalyptic world, and a satisfying progression system.
The Dungeon Of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet Of Chaos
The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk: The Amulet of Chaos is a humorous turn-based tactical RPG where players control a group of unconventional heroes on a quest to find the Amulet of Chaos. Developed by Artefacts Studio and published by Dear Villagers, the game features strategic combat with cover mechanics and unique abilities for each character.
The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk is the central location, acting as the party’s hub where players can rest, trade, recruit additional characters, and interact with NPCs. This RPG offers visually stunning environments, a captivating soundtrack, and excellent voice acting, enhancing the immersive experience. The lighthearted and humorous writing keeps players engaged, while character progression and customization options add depth to the gameplay. Despite some minor flaws in the UI and pathfinding, The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk offers an enjoyable and entertaining RPG experience.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister
Solasta: Crown of the Magister is a turn-based tactical RPG set in the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Players can create their entire party, customizing their race, class, abilities, and more. Battles are turn-based with grid movement and tactical elements like cover and pushing enemies. The terrain and altitude affect combat outcomes.
The game features exploration and quests, starting in the tavern of Caer Flyen. Players travel between locations on a map, managing fatigue and rations. Resting restores health and skills. Dungeon exploration rewards loot, including special artifacts to sell to factions in the city. Building relationships with factions improves access to items and prices. Solasta offers an immersive D&D experience with its party creation, tactical battles, and exploration, and the upcoming DLC promises to bring more RPG goodness to the basic package.
Wildermyth is a delightful RPG that delivers a unique and visually captivating experience. Its hand-crafted visuals and papercraft battle maps create a beautiful and theatrical atmosphere. The gameplay is easy to understand, making it accessible and addictive. It successfully achieves its goal of providing a genuine pen-and-paper or table-top experience.
The game combines RPG, roguelike, and strategic elements with turn-based tactical combat, offering a one-of-a-kind experience that is hard to find elsewhere, reminiscent of the X-COM games. While not as deep as some RPGs, the game’s components are robust and polished, putting it on par with the best in the genre.
Wildermyth includes features like transformations, perma-assigned inventory, a self-balancing enemy roster, and a legacy system that adds to its charm. The only potential downside is an unbalanced difficulty, with novice players finding harder difficulties too challenging and veteran players finding the gameplay too easy.
Wildermyth is a highly recommended RPG that surpasses expectations and provides a delightful and addictive gaming experience.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a highly anticipated tabletop-inspired RPG. Following the success of its predecessor, Kingmaker, this game brings significant improvements. Despite some initial bugs, the new class lineup and engaging narrative make it worth playing for Pathfinder fans.
The game begins with a city under attack by demonic forces, and players lead a group of heroes to combat the invasion. The game offers a wide selection of classes, equipment, and magic spells, allowing for deep customization and versatile gameplay. Additionally, the Mythic Paths feature adds unique leveling mechanics, enhancing the player’s choices and affecting the entire party.
However, the game does have flaws, including poor mount pathfinding and a restrictive alignment system. The crusade mechanics, while a welcome addition, feel somewhat underdeveloped.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is a solid RPG with entertaining gameplay, exciting character progression, and an engaging story. Despite its flaws, it is a must-play for fans of the genre, although it may not necessarily convert newcomers.
Prepare to be immersed in the world of turn-based tactics with the highly renowned Expeditions series. From the Conquistadors to the Vikings, the earlier iterations have garnered acclaim worldwide. Now, step into the epic setting of ancient Rome with Expeditions: Rome, where players assume the role of a young Legatus and wield power to shape the world through their choices.
Players will experience the rise of an ambitious Legatus and navigate a web of decisions that will shape their destiny and the fate of the world around them. Will players forge alliances through diplomacy or conquer their enemies with brute force? The power to determine the course of history rests in their hands.
Expeditions: Rome has received significant acclaim for its immersive storytelling and deep strategic gameplay. It seamlessly blends historical authenticity with engaging mechanics, delivering a unique and captivating experience set in the grandeur of ancient Rome. Expeditions: Rome is available on PC via Steam
King Arthur: Knight’s Tale
In the realm of digital adaptations set in the world of legends, none takes a more intriguing twist than King Arthur: Knight’s Tale. Developed by the talented team at NeocoreGames, this tactical RPG flips the script by casting players as Mordred, the nemesis of King Arthur himself.
The narrative incorporates characters from Arthurian legends uniquely and seamlessly. Side quests offer diverse narratives and rewards, adding replay value. Customization options allow players to tailor knights for specialized roles. Decision points have immediate consequences and affect the campaign and knights’ loyalty. Battles are dynamic, and late-game abilities provide exciting combat strategies.
The game’s visual style is dark and gritty, though some environments lack vibrant colors. With immersive sound effects and music, King Arthur: Knight’s Tale offers an engaging experience. Overall, it’s a fantastic game with minor flaws, captivating players with its gameplay and story. On PC via Steam and Humble Bundle.
Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga
Dancing Dragon Games’ Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga is a tactical RPG that combines elements of classic Fire Emblem games with a unique twist.
Set in the aftermath of a civil war, the game follows Lindly, a recent graduate of the imperial military academy, as they embark on a mission to rescue Empress Florina and become entangled in political machinations that could lead to war. Players recruit soldiers and build relationships between them to create a customized army.
The gameplay features blocky maps with various terrains where characters can move and perform actions. It emphasizes attacking units and strategic unit customization, allowing players to create squads and assign soldiers with different roles. The game also incorporates campaign management mechanics, including resource gathering, technology advancement, and a morale system.
While the graphics are visually inconsistent, the sprite animations during battles are impressive. The sound design adds to the heroic atmosphere, with music that complements the gameplay. Overall, Symphony of War improves upon the Fire Emblem formula while offering a fresh take on tactical RPGs.
Hard West 2
In Hard West 2, players step into a classic Western world infused with supernatural elements following the daring con man, Gin Carter, as he uncovers the truth behind the fabled ghost train and embarks on a treacherous journey.
Players will unleash their Bravado, execute precise kills, and reignite their Action Points to dominate their foes. Players must build a formidable crew with mysterious playing cards, equipping them with potent weapons, explosives, and trinkets. As the Unnatural Leader, command a diverse group of gunslingers, witches, and enigmatic individuals, shaping their loyalty and unlocking new abilities.
Players engage in dynamic turn-based shootouts across various environments, from thrilling horseback pursuits to intense train heists. Witness the clash between Western folklore and occult horrors, where the line between the living and the undead is blurred. Conquer the unforgiving Wild West, exploring snow-covered landscapes and struggling frontier towns while facing brutal choices and their grim consequences.
Triangle Strategy is a traditional strategy role-playing game (SRPG) developed by Tomoya Asano, known for his work on Octopath Traveler and Bravely Default, and published by Square Enix/Nintendo. Set in a unique and politically charged world, the game revolves around three powerful nations in the aftermath of a recent war. The central conflict revolves around the control of vital natural resources, leading to escalating tensions between the nations.
The gameplay of Triangle Strategy follows the typical SRPG formula, featuring alternating battles and story scenes with limited exploration and interactive conversations. It consists of four main phases: narrative, exploration, Scales of Conviction, and story battles.
Combat in Triangle Strategy is tactical and turn-based, with a unique action time system that emphasizes character speed and individual stats. The game introduces special Tactical Points (TP) to power abilities, with various ways to gain and transfer TP. The flanking system allows characters to attack enemies from multiple angles, and environmental effects play a significant role, affecting characters’ abilities and interactions.
Despite minor flaws such as average voice acting and repetitive narrated summaries, Triangle Strategy excels in its tactical battles, innovative environmental mechanics, and streamlined character management. It successfully combines elements from previous SRPGs while introducing its own unique features.
Lost Eidolons by Ocean Drive Studio is a tactical turn-based strategy role-playing game (SRPG) that follows the story of Eden, a mercenary captain in a small town within a crumbling Empire. The game features alternating battle stages and camp stages, with optional battles available during the camp stages. While the story is linear, with few choices, the gameplay offers strategic and tactical depth.
Players make interesting decisions regarding party composition, class specialization, weapon and ability selection, and gear customization. Characters start with basic classes and progress to more specialized ones, allowing for flexibility in building their abilities. Each character has two final tiers of classes, and their unique abilities remain regardless of their class. This encourages experimentation and ensures distinct identities for characters.
Lost Eidolons is a highly recommended SRPG, featuring impressive graphics, a user-friendly interface, deep and engaging battles, and meaningful character development and team composition decisions. Despite minor flaws, it stands out as one of the best tactical games of its year.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn
The revamped version of the beloved tactical role-playing game which inspired even Final Fantasy Tactics. With improved graphics, updated gameplay, and enhanced sound, this reimagining stays faithful to the original while offering a fresh experience. Players, whether familiar with Tactics Ogre or newcomers, will be immersed in its world and intrigue like never before.
Set in the Valerian Isles, where factions vie for control, your choices shape the story and its multiple endings. Players will engage in tactical battles on 3D battlefields with adaptive enemy AI and customize their units with endless combinations of classes, equipment, skills, and magic. Enjoy improved playability, high-definition graphics, fully voiced cutscenes, and a re-recorded musical score.
Players will unlock the World Tarot to explore alternative paths, and rewind moves with the Chariot Tarot delving into endgame content like the challenging Palace of the Dead and preparing for a world of endless stories and intrigue in this reborn crown jewel of tactical RPGs, on PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a tactical superhero RPG developed by Firaxis that combines turn-based combat with deck-building mechanics. The game features an action-heavy combat system and dialogue-driven character development. The main plot revolves around Lilith, the mother of demons, who poses a threat to Earth, and the player, known as “The Hunter,” must assemble a team of superheroes, including the X-Men, The Avengers, and The Midnight Suns, to stop her.
While the main story is forgettable, the game excels in combat. Each character has a unique set of cards that can be swapped and upgraded, providing strategic depth. Mission parameters vary, offering a variety of objectives and allowing players to choose heroes based on their strengths. The combat is fast-paced, flashy, and engaging, with the shared “Card Plays” pool adding flexibility and tactics.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns offer a mixed experience. The combat is the game’s highlight, providing an enjoyable, fast-paced tactical experience. However, the dialogue and character development fall short, lacking depth and meaningful interactions. The game’s technical issues and microtransactions further detract from the overall experience. If you’re a fan of the franchise and can overlook these flaws, you may find enjoyment in the game’s strengths.
Fire Emblem Engage
Another iconic series, Fire Emblem, released a new chapter called “Engage” at the beginning of the year. Fire Emblem Engage offers enjoyable gameplay, strategic mechanics, and appealing graphics. Even if not all changes are successful, the game is recommended for Fire Emblem fans. The story is criticized for being flat, and the characters are considered weaker compared to previous entries like Three Houses.
However, Engage is praised for capturing the essence of the Fire Emblem series and maintaining its traditional elements. It offers a solid and well-crafted strategy experience with exciting battles, surprises on the battlefield and additional characters. The production values, including voice work and visuals, are commended. Overall, this SRPG is considered a reliable and satisfying addition to the series, although not necessarily excellent. Fire Emblem Engage is a Nintendo Switch Exclusive.
The Last Spell
The Last Spell by Ishtar Games is a game that combines turn-based tactics with tower defense. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, players control a team of heroes defending humanity against the twisted remnants of their own countrymen. The game features procedurally generated characters with different weapon types, and the objective is to survive waves of monster attacks until the final night.
During the day turn, players can level up their characters, construct buildings, and improve their overall economy. When night comes, players must face swarms of zombies and monsters in turn-based battles, with characters having action and movement points based on their traits and equipment. The game offers a wide variety of weapons and abilities, allowing for strategic positioning and decision-making.
As players progress, they’ll face increasingly challenging enemies and unlock meta upgrades using tainted essence. These upgrades provide more gear options, improve the starting base, and unlock additional buildings. Character progression includes attribute upgrades and perks, adding a layer of customization.
The Last Spell is a tactical RPG for fans of meta-progression-driven roguelites. Despite some balancing flaws, it offers engaging gameplay and many options.
Wartales is an immersive turn-based RPG that takes players on a journey through a massive open world. Set in a war-torn land, players assume the role of a mercenary leader tasked with exploring the vast landscapes, taking on contracts, and managing a band of companions. The game offers a rich and complex storyline with morally ambiguous choices.
The combat in Wartales is turn-based and revolves around a timeline of turns, where players choose which character to control based on the upcoming turns of the enemies. Strategic positioning of characters before battles is crucial, and players can use different classes and skills to create unique and diverse fighting styles.
Wartales features stunning visuals that bring the world to life. The birds-eye view of the landscapes during exploration provides a sense of scale. At the same time, battles take place in environments affected by the location chosen, adding an extra layer of immersion. The game also pays attention to detail in its diorama-like locations, allowing players to move around and discover hidden items.
Wartales offers an engaging and immersive RPG experience with its vast open world, morally ambiguous choices, and strategic turn-based combat. With its attention to detail, diverse locations, and impactful decision-making, the game provides players with the freedom to shape their band of mercenaries and leave a lasting legacy.
Step into the dystopian future where corporations reign supreme and blood-soaked reality shows dominate the entertainment landscape. In Showgunners, players embody Scarlett Martillo, a contestant driven by a thirst for revenge. This turn-based tactical game delivers a curated gameplay experience, complete with dynamic level design and a diabolical show director who can sway the tides of battle.
Showgunners has received positive reviews for its addictive and satisfying combat, accessible gameplay, and engaging narrative. Players can appreciate the balanced options available during combat and exploration, although some mention that the combat UI can be cluttered. The game successfully blends reality TV, turn-based combat, and dystopian elements, creating a bombastic and chaotic world.
The intertwining gameplay features and character development contribute to an ever-changing and enjoyable experience. Showgunners is recommended for fans of the genre and appeals to both newcomers and veterans, offering a casual yet challenging gameplay experience.
Conclusion and Honorable Mentions
Before concluding, it is worth mentioning a few titles that haven’t been included in this list but certainly deserve recognition. For fans of the Fire Emblem series, a notable mention goes to Dark Deity and Rise Eterna. Among the two, I recommend Dark Deity for its refreshing take and less monotony.
Another exceptional title to explore is Super Robot Wars 30, which, although frequently featured in my lists, is undeniably a Triple-A game that should not be missed.
Let’s close with XCOM: Chimera Squad, a palate cleanser to XCOM 2, offers a less strategic yet more puzzle-driven roguelite experience and The Hand of Merlin, a game that intertwines the legend of King Arthur with cosmic threats, incorporating a combat system reminiscent of puzzle games. These titles showcase diverse gameplay elements and themes, providing an array of options to cater to different preferences and interests.