1. King’s Bounty: The Legend
King’s Bounty is a long-running franchise that has delighted role-playing strategy fans on the PC for many years. In The Legend, players get access to a vast range of different character classes and an immersive hex-based combat system. The action in The Legend is spread across an enormous world of varied terrain in which players can fight monsters, talk to NPCs, explore jungles, and upgrade their equipment at many different shops.
Combat is where King’s Bounty: The Legend shines. Each battle plays out on a small hex grid where unit placement and movement have significant strategic consequences. The overall combat system strikes a great balance between simplicity and depth. It’s easy to learn, but truly mastering it takes a careful study. You control a strong force of knights, mages, and archers. You can also call on the special abilities of unique characters like robbers, capable of teleportation. As your characters gain experience in countless battles, you can enhance them by leveling them up and teaching them new skills.
In each turn-based battle, the environment around your characters plays a significant role. Natural obstacles and special hexes like graves and lava fields alter the strategy required to win. Each battlefield is different, and both deadly traps and hidden treasures await your characters.
While smart tactics are rewarded in the battles, the cost of the failure can be high. Losing characters will require expensive replacements, and retreat can lead to crippling losses. The AI in The Legend is brutally unforgiving. You’ll probably want to stick to “normal” difficulty unless you’re a seasoned veteran of tactical RPGs!
One notable weak point is the fact that your primary hero does not participate in battles. With the huge range of characters and forces available to you, though, this is less frustrating than it could be in a less wide-ranging game. Between its challenging turn-based combat, limitless customization options, and exploration-based adventuring, and King’s Bounty: The Legend is sure to command plenty of your attention.
Unfortunately, this game did not make it on our top 10 list for 2015. It’s only because we’re not in love with tactical games.
2. Grotesque Tactics
The tactical role-playing genre has grown robust enough to support some smart satire, and that’s the niche that Grotesque Tactics is famous for filling. Packed with slapstick humor and clever jabs at the conventions of tactical RPGs, this game doesn’t disappoint when it comes to gameplay. The core of the game is a well-developed strategic combat system; the funny storyline is just the icing on the cake.
Combat in Grotesque Tactics is based on a grid, similar to FF Tactics. You control a party made up of fantasy staples, including melee fighters, ranged attackers, healers, and mages. The campaign will pit you against countless monsters, offer you valuable treasures, and allow you to recruit eight different “anti-heroes” to enhance your team’s combat capabilities. Every unit in your party has two separate abilities, leading to some interesting “hybrid” characters who can fill two roles at once.
The course of a battle should be familiar to any FF tactics veteran. Melee units can attack adjacent squares while ranged units have a two-square reach. Non-attacking characters can be ordered to defend or wait, and potions and other items can be used for purposes such as health restoration. The characters have a unique mechanic: the “obsession meter.” This trait-based bar fills over time, unleashing potentially devastating attacks and special abilities once it’s fully charged. The twist is that these abilities are bad news for the rest of your party!
If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy Tactics, and you’re looking for an irreverent take on the concept, you can’t go wrong with Grotesque Tactics. For experienced tactical RPG players, this game can be completed rather quickly; average play times are roughly 10-12 hours.
Wakfu has some strong connections to FF Tactics. It’s also published by Square Enix, although it’s a tactical MMORPG rather than a plain RPG. Its combat system and stylistic cues are very similar to Dofus, another online tactical multiplayer game. Players get to select characters from 14 different classes and take them through a beautiful, carefully-crafted world of forests, dungeons, and other landscapes. The square combat grid is filled up with a wide assortment of critters, monsters, and magical foes for you to defeat. Wakfu is playable as either a solo game or a multiplayer experience where you team up with friends online. It has an impressive guild system to allow long-term alliances with like-minded players.
The online features of Wakfu give it a certain kinship to ordinary MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. You can expect to spend plenty of time exploring, fighting, and learning new professions.
As noted above, combat takes place on a square grid. You maneuver your characters around and launch both melees and ranged attacks with a series of simple clicks. The multiplayer features extend beyond collaborative battles against the game’s AI; Wakfu also features challenging player-vs-player combat.
One of the strongest features of Wakfu is its incredible visual style. The game’s 2D graphics are crisp and polished, with a distinctly anime-influenced style. Combined with its carefully designed gameplay, the appealing aesthetics of Wakfu make it a must-play for tactical RPG fans.