Tactical RPGs, a lost genre...

Tactical RPGs(TRPGs). When those words are uttered to gamers, often there is a confused look on their face, followed by a few guesses which are all simply RPGs. This genre has been around for years and sadly, it hasn't taken off quit like other genres. I guess it lacked those big hits that could propel it into the lime light like FF7 did for RPGs, Quake did for FPS, and Warcraft2/Starcraft did for RTS games. Although, there are quite a lot of high quality, entertaining, and addictive TRPGs, I suppose they don't have the marketability to really make the genre a staple part of a gaming diet.

TRPGs started on the NES console with Fire Emblem, the first TRPG. The gameplay of TRPGs can be compared to table top strategy games like Warhammer or Mechwarriors. It gives you the feeling of commanding an army. What distinguishes it from Real Time Strategy games is obviously it's not played in real time. Players take turns, moving characters on the field/board and activate abilities of the units against the opposing army. Some games use a field made up of squares to guide the movement of the units while other games, like Ogre Battle, allows completely free movement on the field.

While I admit that TRPGs have seen a rise in popularity lately with such games as La Pucelle, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Jean D'Arc, it feels like it's getting lost in the massive gaming industry which has fallen in love with shooter, RTS, and Roleplaying Games lately. So, here, I have recommended my top 5 TRPG games that you must try, my all time favorite TRPG being at the end of the list. Also, I know some of these games aren't pure TRPG games and may be mixed with other types of game play.

5. X-COM Apocalypse
This was one of the later games in the X-COM series which gave you the option of real time and turn based gameplay. The story puts you in charge of a special department of the government which handles alien invasions. You must manage resources, alliances with major coporations and government agencies, and must fend off an alien invasion. When you successfully down an alien ship, you can choose to engage it's survivors and recover what's left of their technology. When you enter ground battles, the game switches to a tactical interface. Engagements were exciting as anything could happen and the anxiety you feel when exploring an enemy ship or an alien landing site was what made this game great.

4. UFO: Aftermath
This was the answer to all the fans dreams of a sequel to the final X-COM game. Developed by ALTAR Interactive, this modern update of the series retains all that was great with the originals and gives you updated visuals. The controls are superb and the graphics will definitely give you the chills that you got when watching a horror movie. Like X-COM Apocalypse, there are two portions to this game, the management phase, where you build your bases, manage funds, and interact with other organizations, and the combat phase which remains the same alien horror based TRPG gameplay.

3. Shining Force Series
This series began on the Sega Genesis, and has spanned across several consoles, GBA, PS2, Sega Saturn, and its latest release is on the Nintendo DS. This was one of the original pioneers of this genre, incorporating both fantasy RPG elements and tactical gameplay, for the first time. For this list, I will be referring to the early Sega Genesis releases; I haven't played the sequels after. Graphics were great for it's time on the Sega Genesis, and still to this day are quite interesting. Battlefields were massive and the units were based on the classic RPG classes, mage, healer, fighter, etc. The story was always compelling and well written. This game was around in the beginning of this genre, and still a good contender in today's selection of TRPGs.

2. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
I originally played the PSP port of this PS2 game. Combat is quite smooth and the graphics are very well done, albeit a bit cartoonish. What really makes this unique game shine is the story. It's one of the funniest and most cynical stories I've ever seen in any type of game. The characters are very well developed and dialogue is always funny and interesting. The entire story is a comedy, which also includes some its of combat and out of combat features. One of the things you can do to adjust the game is increase the level of monsters in order to increase the exp gain. To do this, you must pass a bill(there are many types of bills) with the senate which are made up of the toughest monsters in the underworld. If your bill does not pass, then you can just slaughter the entire council in order to force them to. If you've tried the previously listed games and found that you enjoy TRPGs, or if you want to just give this a try, I am sure you will love it.

1. Final Fantasy Tactics(Playstation and PSP, not the shitty NDS version)
This is the first game to truly make it into the mainstream and gain a huge fanbase. This game is visually stunning, as all Final Fantasy games tend to be. But that is overshadowed by the incredible story and in-depth combat. Classes are plentiful and quite diverse. Each class fills specific roles and it never feels like any of them are just fillers. A large part of your team will also consist of special characters to the storyline who join your team permanently. These characters add a lot of flair and their abilities are always unique. The complexity of this game goes even further when you gain the ability to capture enemy beasts and make them part of your team. Unlike other games, the converted enemies are quite formidable and some are more powerful than your own soldiers. The story pulls at all of your emotions, it's saddening, tearful, exciting, and complex. But the cast of characters is not so many as to confuse you. Battles are often unique and tie themselves into the story quite well. Another feature which I was pleased to see was the level matching of the enemy units. As you gained levels and increased in strength, so did all enemies, no matter where you fought. You never had to deal with low level monsters while traveling around the map and a good challenge was easy to find. The cameos from the earlier Final Fantasy games was also a nice addition. This game is a must-play for any gamer who enjoys RPGs or TRPGs.


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