Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dec 2010 News

New Valkyria Chronicle 3 trailers and info. We can see the scoring system is very similar to VC2, with turns taken and special targets rewarding points. Screenshots of the weapon and tank upgrade system - looks very similar to VC2, again.

Magic: The Gathering Tactics screenshots.

Disgaea 4 trailer. Looks like plenty of Disgaea insanity. They might just outdo themselves with the amount of features in this one.

Squad Battles: Modern War released. This is a PC wargame focusing on US combat operations in the middle east.

Military History Commander: Europe at War is now available for PSP on the PSN store for $14.99.

Battlefield Academy: Blitzkreig France is available. This addon adds a couple new missions and units.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Magic The Gathering: Tactics trailer

Remember this game from E3 2010? Watch a trailer for it! This is an online microtransaction based game with card decks, much like Magic: The Gathering the card game.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Final Fantasy Tactics iPhone coming Spring 2011

Square-Enix has just posted on their Facebook that Final Fantasy Tactics for iPhone is coming Spring 2011 internationally. There are also some gameplay screenshots posted. It looks like they're going for a mostly menu based system with quite a lot of buttons surrounding the screen. Eager to pick up a copy?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fire Emblem: Heroes of Light and Shadow review.

One of the best Fire Emblem titles with something for everybody.

Fire Emblem: Heroes of Light and Shadow (FE:HLS) is Intelligent Systems' (IS) latest title in the flagship turn based tactical Fire Emblem series.  It's a remake of the third FE title on the Super Famicom titled Monshou no Nazo, continuing Marth's adventures after Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon to put an end to the reptilian (dragon) menace once and for all.  FE:HLS is a significant improvement over FE:SD in both plot and character development, combat mechanics, content, balance, and difficulty settings.

The My Unit system lets you create and customize your own character to fight alongside Marth.  You can select their appearance, class, and provide them with stat and growth boosts.  As you might expect, an optimally configured My Unit will easily best anyone else in your army.  My Unit gets his or her own prologue and side story chapters focusing on a group of assassins out to kill Marth.

Maps are better designed than FE:SD, with plenty of variety and unique conditions.  Frequent enemy movement and reinforcements encourage the player to keep moving.  There are few choke points for the player to turtle up and hide in, and if there is a choke points, you can be sure there will be large numbers of enemies trying to pass through it.  There are many groups of enemies that are scripted to not move out and attack until you move one of your own units deep into their collective attack ranges, ensuring you'll need a durable unit that can take punishment from multiple enemies to proceed.  The many scripted events and tactical map design ensures most players won't get bored or feel like they are dealing with a brain dead opponent.

Side story chapters are far easier to access than FE:SD, accessible by clearing the chapter with a very lax turn count, or meeting a very easy optional objective.  You practically can't miss them this time around.  This should appease gamers who were highly disgruntled at having to kill off more than half their army to reach the side story chapters in FE:SD.

New to the series is Casual mode, where units that reach 0 HP during chapters do not die permanently.  Instead they are temporarily removed until the next chapter with no other penalties.  Casual mode is selectable independent of the difficulty level selection, so you can play any difficulty while remaining on  Casual mode.  This should appeal to audiences of gamers that don't like the permanent death feature of Fire Emblem.  Classic mode is still available for those gamers who enjoy their carefully laid plans going awry by a stray critical.

FE:HLS features the widest range of difficulty levels of any Fire Emblem game.  You may choose from Normal mode up to Hard, Mania, Lunatic, and Lunatic Reverse (note: Japanese names, may not be the same in NA).  On top of the difficulty selection, there is a ranking system that grades you on Speed, Survival, and Tactics.  The easiest mode is a walk in the park, perfectly suited to beginners or those who aren't interested in a hard slog.  Hard mode is most comparable to the original Super Famicom version - it can get a little stressful here and there, but you probably won't be losing any sleep over it.  Mania mode is fairly difficult, but it doesn't go all out like Lunatic mode.  Lunatic and Lunatic Reverse mode is a sadistic test of skill, patience, and planning that only gifted tacticians will be able to dominate.  Clearing Lunatic unlocks Lunatic Reverse, which is a version of Lunatic mode where enemies always get the first attack in combat even during player phase.

One major difference in Lunatic mode compared to easier modes is that you don't get game altering items such as the Warp stave, so there are far fewer easy 1 turn victories like in FE:SD.  Enemies promote earlier, come in vastly greater numbers, show up as reinforcements earlier or more frequently, wield powerful forged weapons as soon as the first chapter, and always have the highest weapon rank with a bonus +10 to hit.  By the mid-late game enemies have almost fully capped stats with very powerful forged weapons.  Having characters who can take more than one hit before dying are a valuable commodity on Lunatic.  Finally, Lunatic mode has an anti-boss farming feature that awards decreasing amounts of XP for hitting any boss with regenerating HP.  Getting low turn counts, every possible item, and every recruit on Lunatic Reverse is a worthy challenge for even the most experienced tactics veteran.

The class change system returns.  There are no characters with abnormally high growth rates like in FE:SD, so the system is far more balanced this time around.  Mid-battle save points make their return.  These are a useful way to keep random bad luck to a minimum or reload for level up growths.  Game balance isn't all perfect.  Some classes such as Heroes are particularly worthless in comparison to the better classes.  On Lunatic difficulty you'll be restricted to a handful of the best characters in the game if you want to survive.  The ranking system only goes up to A, no S this time around.  Veteran players will not have much trouble reaching an A rank on most difficulties, which is a disappointment.

During intermission, you'll have access to Everybody's Situation, where you can get free items, weapons, temporary stat boosts, and support conversation levels.  This feature is somewhat unbalanced as you can get some of the best weapons in the game if you get lucky or wait long enough.  There should have been more restrictions built into this feature, such as only being able to use it a limited number of times per chapter and removing the powerful weapons. 

The plot and characters are more fleshed out, with lots of personal conversations, base conversations, and an expanded plot featuring My Unit.  Much like Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, supports are developed by deploying characters in the same chapter together then initiating support conversations during intermission.  Gamers disappointed by FE:SD's bare bones plot and low character development will like the greatly increased personal development of the cast.

Wi-Fi features such as the Wi-Fi store are back.  Nintendo is offering free Wi-Fi goodies like the 77 use Rainbow Potion that gives your party members +2 to every stat for a chapter.  Expect the Rainbow Potion to show up 3-6 months after the expected NA release, if the JP release is anything to go by.  The Wi-Fi store contains the usual selection of items that you make the game significantly easier with, such as a Rescue and Again stave and hero weapons.  I would have liked to see more restrictions on Wi-Fi store usage on Lunatic difficulty mode.

The UI is responsive and well designed as would be expected from IS, but not everything is perfect.  The intermission management could have used some consolidation between the unit selection, trading, and class change sections.  There are a lot of unused buttons that could have been employed to do so.  The roster details section doesn't include pages where you can check a list of your army's weapon levels, which is something that previous FE titles had.

Clearing the game unlocks features like the ability to change male characters into a wider range of available male classes, adding stat boost items in the base store, unlocking 4 extra missions, and other goodies.  The extra maps have their own scoring system independent of the campaign and getting a top score is not an easy feat.

FE:HLS is a major improvement on FE:SD and one of the best console tactics games thus far.  There's something for everyone, no matter your skill level or whether you like combat or plot.  I highly recommend you pick it up if you're at all interested in tactics games.  I would definitely call it the best console tactics game of 2010 in Japan.

If you'd like to read more about FE:HLS, check out my guide here.

Strategic Depth: Medium-high. All of the micromanagement and tactical combat you'd expect from a Fire Emblem title.
Strategic Difficulty: Low to very high. A very wide selection of difficulty modes ensures just about every player will be satisfied.
Overall Score: 9.2/10 - A great tactics title that only falters when it comes to balance and abusable features at the higher difficulty modes.

Slitherine announces Panzer Corps

Slitherine Ltd, which is one of the major tactics publishers and developers for the modern PC, has announced a new tactics game inspired by Panzer General, titled Panzer Corps.  Panzer Corps is being developed by The Lordz Games Studio, the same studio that made Battlefield Academy.  Panzer Corps will arrive on PC in "early 2011".  It looks like a fairly hardcore wargame with over 400 unit types and 26 scenarios.

Valkyria Chronicles 3 more combat and customization details

Characters can change into any class, although they have a specialty they'll be most proficient in.  Distributing XP builds up everybody's stats instead of one particular classes stats.  Battle potentials are learned manually through a growth grid, rather than randomly activated in combat.

The main characters each have a unique command ability that uses a new resource called SP.  Kurt can run around with allies following him as backup, Relia can turn into a valkyrie, and Imca gets an AOE attack.

It looks like Sega is trying to move away from the randomness of VC2's growth and skill system, which quite a lot of fans griped about.

Friday, November 26, 2010

NIS America to bring Imageepoch's RPGs to NA

It looks like NIS America will be translating Imageepoch's latest RPGs to NA.  This may or may not also include Luminous Arc 3 for the DS.  Relevant titles include Chevalier Saga Tactics and ARK Project.

2010 holiday sales..

Want to pick up some poor, sadly neglected tactics games over thanksgiving? If you see something post it here.

NIS Thanksgiving Sale
Battle for Wesnoth iPhone/iPad for .99 cents
Operation Darkness $15 CDN, Fire Emblem DS $20 CDN

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Recent Nov 2010 news Part 2

Imageepoch, known for their Luminous Arc series of SRPGs, has announced a new PSN/PC SRPG for PS3 titled "Chevalier Saga Tactics". It's an online microtransaction based browser game with a focus on PvP. More details to be announced soon.  Naughty Famitsu scan here.

New Valkyria Chronicles 3 screenshots.  Taking a look, it seems like the classes are the same as VC2 except for the sniper, which is its own separate class. Missions will still be separated into smaller maps.  In another screenshot we can see Rank is back.

Arc the Lad I and II are available on PSN for PS3 and PSP.  Arc the Lad is a pretty mediocre and beginner level tactics game that appeared during the early days of the Playstation along with many other tactics games that never made it to NA shores, but it may be worth a look.

Namco has filed trademarks in Japan for "Namco Wars, Namco Emblem, and Namco Chronicle". The first two sound similar to Nintendo's Advance or Famicom Wars and Fire Emblem, while the last entry sounds similar to Valkyria Chronicles.  Interesting?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP) NA release date is Feb 15 2011

Ready for one of the best selling console tactics games in recent memory?  It's coming to NA on Feb 15 2011.  Impressions from Gamefaqs posters seem to be that it's significantly easier than the original, but that was to be expected.  Here is some footage of the game in Japanese.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recent Nov 2010 news..

NIS Announces Phantom Brave Portable (PSP) for NA on March 2011. This version is basically identical to the one released on the Wii.

Super Robot Wars L gets a 32/40 in Famitsu. Looks like more of the same Super Robot Wars action.  If you care about it you probably already imported it.

Sakura Taisen Online announced. I don't know whether it's actually a turn based tactics game.

Jagged Alliance 2 Remake will be RTS-pause based.  Meaning it's an RTS but you can pause the action to issue orders.  This is of course a significant departure from the original turn based format.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Recommended turn based tactics games

This is a list of tactics games I recommend to average or experienced tactics gamers. I mainly play tactics games for their strategy and combat, not plot and characters. If you have a suggestion feel free to let me know as there are many games I haven't played.

This list is (and will always remain) incomplete. If you don't see something listed, try suggesting it.

Last Updated June 15, 2012.

Nintendo DS/3DS:

Advance Wars: Dual Strike
Advance Wars: Dual Strike is a wargame-lite with some rarely used concepts like playing over two battlefields on both screens. Includes a campaign, scenarios, and challenges. Not a very balanced or even difficult game, but it's good fun figuring out ways to break the game with the various combinations of COs (commanding officers).

Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
Days of Ruin returns to the simpler mechanics that defined earlier Wars games - no more dual COs or crazy game breaking powers. It's another wargame-lite with the same quality gameplay and UI you should expect from Intelligent Systems. Unfortunately, reports were that Advance Wars: Days of Ruin did not do well in NA, and it was cancelled in Japan despite being already translated in Japanese.

Age of Empires: Mythologies
The sequel to Age of Empires: The Age of Kings. It plays much like a turn based RTS game with resource collection, buildings, and tech trees in addition to tactical combat. Mythologies is much improved with a better campaign, less lag, and less bugs. It's one of the rare western developed console tactics games that I felt was well done.


Drone Tactics
A quirky tactics game involving usable cards that affect gameplay, stylus minigames, and fighting robot bugs. The main campaign is decent, but the most fun is to be had in the 60 extra challenge stages, the last of which are pretty interesting.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
A solid Fire Emblem title that took a lot of flak for its simple plot, lack of character development, pre-rendered battle animations, and the requirement to kill off most of your army to reach the gaiden (side) chapters. Although it's not among the best in the series, you won't be disappointed if you appreciate Fire Emblem for its fast paced tactical combat.

Knights in the Nightmare
A turn based tactics game mixed with bullet hell and other realtime elements. It's one of Sting's most creative and well renowned strategy titles. It takes some effort to learn the mechanics, but it's worth it to experience a unique and well designed strategy game. A port is also available on the PSP.

Panzer Tactics DS
Panzer Tactics takes the WW2 wargame genre most commonly found on the PC and shoehorns it onto the DS. Expect realistic units and scenarios, hexes, expansive battlefields, and primary/secondary battle conditions. The UI is a bit laggy, but that shouldn't stop you from giving it a try if you like WW2 wargames.

Rondo of Swords
A tactics game that allows you to pass through multiple enemies while dealing damage to them. Instead of treating it like a gimmick, Rondo of Swords makes good use of its rare mechanic with plenty of interesting campaign scenarios. It's a solid game that doesn't get a lot of respect, maybe because of its above average difficulty combined with its pass through mechanic.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
A tactics game where combat outcomes are determined by a RPG-like battle minigame involving elemental strengths/weaknesses and other skills. Devil Survivor places heavy emphasis on creating, customizing, and fusing demons to use in your party. It's another interesting tactics experience that you likely won't find elsewhere.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2
The sequel to SMT: Devil Survivor. More of the same gameplay and survive or die style plot. It's just as enjoyable as the original so pick it up if you liked the first one.

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume

Another good tactics game that got a lot of flak for its punishing difficulty and lack of available grinding. Up to 4 units surrounding an enemy can gang up with combo attacks and special abilities, so placement and prediction is key. If you don't 'overkill' normal enemies enough you'll have powerful boss-like realmstalkers sent after you in the next mission.

Battleship for DS/3DS



Another pretty good Sting developed SRPG. Not nearly as crazy as Knights in the Nightmare, Gungnir is more of a traditional tactics game like Tactics Ogre, except with less grinding and more difficulty. Like most Sting games, expect to spend at least an hour or two figuring out how the game mechanics work before proceeding. Gungnir has a scoring system and rank mechanics rarely found in tactics games, and getting high scores on the Nightmare difficulty is pretty difficult.

Jeanne D' Arc
Jeanne D' Arc is on the easier side of tactics games, but it's solid and well designed with lots of polish and effort put into it. Experienced gamers might breeze through it, but they'll still enjoy the ride thanks to interesting scenarios, well done UI, and fast paced combat. Just because a tactics game is easy doesn't mean it's bad.

Legends of War: Patton's Campaign
A hybrid turn based FPS similar to Valkyria Chronicles or Warhammer 40k Squad Commander, except set in a realistic WW2 wargame environment with more complex game rules. Features a scoring system and difficulty modes. Not for beginners.

R-Type Command
R-Type Command is a turn based take on the R-Type series, featuring many ships and creatures from the series. It's relatively complex for a console game and gets difficult late in the campaign. Most panned it for being overly complex and lacking plot/character development, but that shouldn't bother someone interested in learning the mechanics and engaging in some thoughtful tactical combat.

Valkyria Chronicles II
An innovative cross between a FPS and a turn based tactics game, where your units run and shoot (one at a time) through the battlefield while avoiding enemy fire. The PSP sequel drew a lot of complaints for its reduction in map size, small deployment limits, repetitive maps, and randomized class promotions. It's still a pretty fun game though, worth playing for the well designed FPS/turn based hybrid experience. Just don't expect a masterpiece.

Wild Arms XF
A rather hardcore take on Wild Arms that caught fans expecting your typical RPG level difficulty by surprise. It features above average difficulty and complexity, so anyone seeking a game that has both depth and the requirement to utilize it might enjoy what's on offer. And when was the last time you saw a console SRPG with hexes?


Advance Wars
A well regarded wargame-lite that introduced a lot of new players to the genre. Simple deterministic mechanics combined with well designed maps, scenarios, and a challenging Advance Campaign that is still one of the most difficult tactics challenges you can find on a portable system.

Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising
Advance Wars sequel dialed down the difficulty and added a few new mechanics, but otherwise kept the same formula as the original. A solid wargame-lite.

Fire Emblem
The first Fire Emblem title to be localized in NA. It's a classic with a solid scoring system, difficulty modes, and addictive permadeath/RNG gameplay. The tutorial screenshot was the only one I could find.

Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 1 and 2
Two of the only Super Robot Wars games to be localized in NA. OG2 is the better game, but with only two games to choose from, you should probably play both. Super Robot Wars is a long running SRPG series featuring giant robots beating the crap out of each other.

The Lord of the Rings, The Third Age
A surprisingly competent western developed tactics game based around The Lord of the Rings franchise. Much better than the awful PSP version. It's simple but enjoyable and worth a try if you've exhausted the other GBA classics.


Front Mission 3
Not the most tactical or balanced Front Mission game, but still plenty of fun to be had. One of the rare mech tactics games where you can eject pilots out of their robots and kill them.

Nectaris: Military Madness
Nectaris is an old school but functional Wargame-lite. The Playstation version comes with quite a few tactically interesting missions and a map editor. Expect no frills and a rather outdated UI.


Daisenryaku VII Exceed
One of the few Daisenryaku games to be localized in NA. Daisenryaku is a WW2 style wargame series with realistic combat mechanics and hundreds of unit types based on real life militaries. I haven't played this entry specifically but it's probably as good as the rest of them if you like tactics games. Has a map editor if you're feeling creative. Also available on the Xbox and PSP, although the PSP version was never localized.

Eternal Poison
A lesser known but decent tactics game. Above average difficulty, lack of mid-battle saves, and no grinding.

Front Mission 4
A mech/cover shooter tactics game with good mechanics and customization, a well designed campaign with plenty of variety, and challenging scenarios to unlock. It got a lot of flack for its boring plot and above average difficulty, but serious tactics fans should give it a try.


Battle Academy
Battle Academy is a tactical cover shooter. While it's based on realistic WW2 units and combat situations, it's not as heavy on the realistic mechanics and stats. Also available for iOS.

Battle for Wesnoth
A long running open source fantasy tactics game. Features an enormous amount of official and user made content along with a map editor with full campaign and scripting capabilities.

Fantasy Wars and Elven Legacy
Two hex based fantasy SRPGs. Very enjoyable for experienced tactics gamers, but beginners might be off put by the difficulty level, even on the easiest mode. You earn medals based on how quickly you clear a scenario.

Field of Glory
A tactics game focusing on ancient historical battles. Field of Glory's mechanics are modeled after real tabletop games, allowing you to unleash your inner grognard.

Panzer Corps/Allied Corps
A tactics wargame in the style of Panzer General. If you like classic WW2 wargames, you'll enjoy Panzer Corps.

Panzer General and other games by SSI such as Steel Panthers
A series of classic tactics wargames including Panzer General, most of which hold up pretty well even today.

Strat Tech
Yes I'm totally biased by adding a tactics game I contributed to here. And it's a pretty good tactics game. There are over a dozen classes each with unique and balanced abilities, a wide variety of missions and map objects, scoring system, even raid bosses. So deal with it.

X-COM Series
What discussion of PC tactics games could be complete without a mention of X-Com? X-Com: UFO Defense is regarded as a classic, although the UI hasn't aged very well and it's not particularly balanced. It's regularly praised for its dynamic combat with randomly generated maps and a complex strategic and base building layer.

X-Com: Enemy Unknown / Enemy Within
A decent tactics game that has solid mechanics, but lacks depth and variety, and encourages camping on the higher difficulties. Worth playing at least once.

Unity of Command
Basically plays like Panzer General with supply lines. While it's an operational level game, it's so light on operational level mechanics that it's basically a tactics game.

Jagged Alliance
Jagged Alliance is a turn based cover shooter. You're placed on a large island and given lots of options as to how to move around and take out enemy forces. Tends to be slow paced.


Telepath Tactics

Skulls of the Shogun
Skulls of the Shogun is a fast paced arcade style tactics game designed for competitive multiplayer. Available on Windows 8 and Xbox Live Arcade.


Card Hunter

Just Tactics

There are lots of great indie tactics games on PC.


Valkyria Chronicles
An innovative cross between a FPS and a turn based tactics game, where your units run and shoot (one at a time) through the battlefield while avoiding enemy fire. While moving your unit around, enemies can spot you and shoot, but can't move themselves, although you can move them around a bit by throwing grenades and such. VC has a decent scoring system and some challenging DLC.


Operation Darkness
Another much maligned tactics game for its above average difficulty, permadeath, lack of in-battle saving, poor camera controls, etc. To say this game was brutalized in reviews would be an understatement. Look past the wonky camera though and you'll find a good cover based shooter with lots of interesting tactical situations. For experienced tactics gamers only.

Military Madness: Nectaris Remake
A port/remake of Military Madness/Nectaris, a wargame-lite with simple mechanics and a few interesting missions here and there. Think of it as an alternative to Advance Wars. Also available on Wii and PS3.


Military Madness: Neo Nectaris
A remake of a previously unreleased Nectaris game. Not the same as the Playstation version or the remake of the original on Wii/PS3/360. Its above average difficulty will send most iPhone players fleeing for Angry Birds or whatever.

Battle for Wesnoth HD
An expansive, open source hex based tactics game. The iOS port is not open source, but you can take it on the go and play through most or all of the content from the PC version.

Reign of Swords
Hero Academy

Lots of other iOS games I haven't gotten around to playing in depth.

Games I haven't yet played, but might be worth a look:

Dawn of Heroes (DS)

A western developed tactics game that struggled to gain attention, then faced poor reviews for its difficulty and lack of polish. Combat is focused around heroes with various abilities, somewhat like Hero Arena or MOBA games that are popular today. Unfortunately animations are unskippable so that might be a pain to deal with. Expect to run into bosses and challenges that require specific hero/skill/gear setups. I haven't played it myself but it might be worth a look.

 Mytran Wars (PSP)

Mytran Wars is another western developed tactics game that failed to get much recognition or praise. It features customizable mech based combat and plenty of tactical gameplay to dig into. I haven't played this one myself so approach with caution.

Suikoden Tactics
While I haven't played through much of Suikoden Tactics myself, it looks like a well designed tactics game with some challenging S ranks to aim for.

Import titles: Ready to learn some Japanese?

There are a lot of import games I've never heard of or played, so feel free to suggest something.

Multiple Consoles:

Super Robot Wars Series*

SD Gundam G Generation Series

Daisenryaku Series*

Langrisser Series*

Fire Emblem Series*


Valkyria Chronicles 3

R-Type Tactics II: Operation Bitter Chocolate

Gloria Union

Blaze Union


Front Mission 2*

Tear Ring Saga*


Front Mission 5 ~Scars of the War~*

Berwick Saga

* = Unofficial English translation patch available