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5 Strategy RPGS with unique twists


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Stategy rpg games are a strange beast and are one of my favorite genres of games. They have deep stories and engaging gameplay that really make you stop and think. They are however the nichiest of the niche, and if you go down the rabbit hole, things will get even weirder. Typical srpg games like Final Fantasy Tactics and the Fire Emblem games tend to be the go to examples for the genre and typify a lot of the tropes and systems therein. Other games however opt to turn these tropes on their head, and do something wildly different. I'm going to share a couple of these games with you in the hopes one might interest you enough to pick it up and try it out and have your weirdness quota met for a while.

1. The most obvious series to mention would be Disgaea. People would have their pitchforks out if I didn't mention the incredibly strange and deep Disgaea games. Disgaea does so many things differently than the typical srpg. First of all you are generally a demon who wants to take over the (under)world instead of playing as a traditional hero. The characters have strange motives for doing what they do and some of the dialogue is downright weird. Talking about the character Etna's panties is one example of the weird interactions these games can have. Sometimes it can be pretty humorous, other times you will be scratching your head wondering what you just read/watched. The big hook with Disgaea games however is that you can level your characters until they are ludicrously overpowered. You can get to level 9999, which may sound daunting on it's own; but then you have the reincarnation system which allows you to reset back to level 1 while keeping some of your stats, just to level up to 9999 again and be a bit stronger than the last time. The actual level cap in Disgaea games is 186,000! The game doesn't stop there though; you also can go inside your items, which generates a random dungeon in which each floor you complete boosts the stats on your items, up to 100 floors. So not only can you level your characters potentially forever, but all of their items too! If you love grinding, this series is for you. You could literally spend months grinding various things and not have everything done. The series does have it faults however. Disgaea is the completionist gamer's nightmare in many ways. It has many postgame requirements that are locked behind cruel rng (pirates... I hate them) and some of the postgame bosses require you to have extremely high level gear, characters AND spells. Oh yeah your spells level up too! The games require some serious commitment, but if you're into what this series offers you will be in hog heaven in weird as hell srpg bliss for hundreds of hours. Good luck with Pringer-x though... 



2. While we are talking about Nippon Ichi Software, we might as well bring up Makai Kingdom. This game is somewhat of a cult classic with NIS fans. The main character is a book, and he isn't even playable until your second playthrough of the game. He claims to be the "most badass freaking overlord" in the universe, but he's enough of a moron to get himself turned into a book, so you can't really take him too seriously. The characters are downright odd in this game. One of them is a beast composed of three diffrent entites that each have their own points of view, and it is just a strange thing to witness. The game has many things in common with the Disgaea series, but in other ways it's completely different. You can get to level 9999 and reincarnate and such, but it thankfully isnt required for endgame so the game is much more friendly in that sense. The thing that makes this game so unique is the battle system. First of all there is no grid setup like most srpgs. Instead you have a circle radius of movement that you can traverse freely. While unique in its approach, it does lead to some issues such as characters being stacked on top of one another and characters being pushed off the map, which results in death. Another unique feature is that you have vehicles and buildings that your characters can use in battle, which provide buffs or higher movement rates. They however count as a unit being deployed, so you have to be careful how you set up your deployment and not get all your guys killed when an enemy attacks your buildings, as all characters in said building will die. It's a fun game and is worth checking out if you need some weirdness in your life. The random name generator gave me a character named Craft Beer. You can't even make this stuff up.

badass overlord

Sure you are buddy. Sure you are.

3. Another series that isn't nearly as weird as NIS games but is definitely unique in its approach is The Banner Saga. In these games the combat sytem is very different from other srpgs in that characters have two different sets of health basically; armor and strength. Armor reduces incoming damage while strength acts as both your hp and your attack power. So you have to decide, are you going to wear down the enemy's armor or are you going to go for their strength and which is more beneficial to you at the moment. It's a serious bitch when your strongest guy is getting beat on and is hitting back for 1 or 2 hp before he ultimately gets wounded and has to sit out a few battles. The game requires some serious thought when in battle. It's not one to pull punches. It does however have some pretty big flaws to speak of. It's extremely light on music and sound, has very little animation, and can be just brutal in its difficulty at times. The campaign can become unwinnable if you make too many wrong choices. Your choices actually have consequences in this game, and if you choose wrong you may lose a character or end up in an unwinnable battle against uber enemies. It's also a fairly short game, but its worth a look if you want something different and you enjoy tooth and nail battles and Viking aesthetics. 

banner saga

Decisions decisions...

4. The Fire Emblem series is one of the longest running series of srpgs in the genre, and has legions of rabid fans. It is known for its great characters, of which there are 50 or so in each game, if not more; and its engaging gameplay. One thing that is important about Fire Emblem is that character death is permanent, and the games can easily become unwinnable with just a few mistakes. If your healer dies you either suck it up, or reset the stage and try again. The newer games have casual mode where units don't die permanently, but that isn't the true Fire Emblem experience according to old school fans. This series is meant to keep you on your toes and choices in battle matter. It's tough, but it's meant to be and we like it that way. While typically Fire Emblem doesn't stray too much from genre norms, in the second 3ds game, Fire Emblem: Fates, they tried a radically different approach to story telling. The story has three separate routes which all hinged on a single decision you make in the game, leading to completely different stories, character recruitments, and even playstyles. It has a system where characters who stand next to each other in battle build a relationship, can get married and will have a child, which you can also use in battle because... reasons. The first of the three games, Birthright, is considered the easier one of the three and focuses on the main character Corrin's relationship with his true family, The Hoshidans, and taking down the evil king of the rival nation that kidnapped him as a child. The second game, Conquest, is much more difficult and focuses on what would happen if Corrin sided with his adopted family, The Nohrians, the ones that kidnapped him, and is darker in tone than Birthright. It is generally considered the best of the three, though the difficulty can't be stressed enough. This game is hard, make no mistake. You will be tested. The third game is Revelation and in this story it shows what would happen if Corrin chooses neither side and goes full on rebel mode. It's generally considered the weakest of the three games even though its the climax of the three stories. The story in Revelation just wasn't very good, but you could have any waifu from either of the first two games so that evens it out right? While the story isn't the most well written; the gameplay, music, atmosphere and interface really hit a home run and its a great few games to play. I highly recommend checking out these games if you are into alternate universes and enjoy top notch strategy gameplay. Fire Emblem is the best! Also, you can marry your brother or sister in this game, if you're into that sort of thing.


Your sister...

5. This last one may catch me some flack, as it's not technically an srpg, but every srpg fan should most definitely play it. It's great and it's very different in many ways from typical srpgs. I'm talking about none other than the amazing XCOM series. As a strategy rpg fan, there is a lot to love here. It has a great story and a randomly generated campaign and even randomly generated maps in XCOM 2. You can build up your soldiers in many different ways, customize your weapons and the way your soldiers look, and kill the shit out of evil aliens that have invaded Earth. It works on a grid based system like most srpgs, but uses guns and explosives instead of swords and sorcery. There is a deep meta game to play where you control research and development of new technology and try to stay ahead of the alien menace in a number of ways, and its very engaging. Resource management is just as important as your tactics in battle. This game has brutal difficulty and like others on this list, features permanent character deaths. Your soldier is going to get hit by a critical and die, and it will be even worse because you designed him to look like  your best friend. Your soldier will miss an 85% shot on an alien 5 feet away from him. It's just part of the game and it's soul crushing, but as they say, thats XCOM baby!. It's truly a challenging series and is very demanding to the player, but also very satisfying and will truly test your strategic skills. These are games you are going to lose many many times before you can score a win (unless you save scum). It can easily become unwinnable if you overextend and lose your best soldiers. Give it a shot if you're a masochist and somehow missed this gem of a series.  

xcom starwars

Your soldiers will miss... a lot.

Here are some runner ups that I thought about putting on the list but have little to no experience playing, so I opted to just mention them quickly.

Jeanne D'arc is a game in which you play as Joan of Arc in a fantasy version of France where the king of England is evil and has demons working for him in the war. It has a system in which different types of gear have different elemental alignments and based on that a unit will take more or less damage based on the attacker's alignment. It is highly considered one of the best srpgs out there, and is worth looking into if you enjoy alternate histories and great srpg gameplay. 


Theres also Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad both by NIS. These games aren't as popular as Makai Kingdom or Disgaea, but they have very weird battle systems and are worth checking out, if only for novelty's sake.

In Phantom Brave you summon phantoms to fight for you that dissapear after a certain number of turns; so you have to plan accordingly and not blow your whole wad of phantoms too early in the battle, lest you run out of them and have to try again. It works on the gridless system that is employed in Makai Kingdom, though its a little bit less polished here. You can also combine items (or even characters) into ridiculously overpowered god weapons. You can destroy high powered enemies with a vase, or a patch of grass; or even pick up another character and use them as a weapon. Its truly odd in it's design and requires some experimentation to master. 

phantom brave

I wonder what would happen if you ate him...

Soul Nomad is something of a cross between Ogre Battle and Advance Wars. You set up your characters in "rooms" which are basically small groups of characters on a 9x9 grid, and set them up to fight automatic battles like Ogre Battle. It has some very unique systems in which you can fight shopkeepers for better loot and kidnap townspeople and force them to fight for you, and after you beat it you can play it again and choose an evil path and kill all the people you just saved. Both of these games also have the endless random dungeons and massive level caps NIS games are known for. If you revel in the weird and unusual, they are worth looking into. Killing someone with a patch of grass has never been so satisfying. What? Don't look at me like that. Like you've never killed someone with a patch of grass before. Psh.   


The dark side always has the best munchies.

- I don't know karate but I know carazy.

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About Deatheagleone of us since 1:26 AM on 09.14.2017

My name is Julian and I've been playing video games as long as I can remember, dating back to the old atari systems in the early 80's. My first rpg was Shadowrun for the Sega Genesis. After it I discovered Secret of Mana, which led me to some of my all time favorites, Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6. Other favorites include Earthbound, Disgaea, Final Fantasy Tactics games, Fire Emblem series, and World of Warcraft, though I no longer play WoW. More recently, I have become literally addicted to fortnite, sitting at currently over 1200 wins.

Currently Playing: Fortnite, Breath of the Wild, The Witcher 3, Cadence of Hyrule, CS:GO, and many others across steam, xbox games pass for pc, Nintendo switch, and if I'm feeling frisky, the 3ds or ps2. Ask me for recommendations. I have tons.