Monday, August 15, 2022
Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga
Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Tactics Ogre, there is a range of role-playing war games on square grids series that are mostly present on consoles, especially Nintendo consoles. Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga is out on the PC and offers a very similar experience. The role-playing part is limited to cutscenes and dialogue without choices, and a forgettable story, but you can just skip through that and enjoy the 30 battles plus 4 arenas. In those battles you will control squads of soldiers, but between battles you can manage each soldier individually. Soldiers each have a class, and gain not only xp and levels, but also class mastery points that allow them to develop through a large class tree. You can also apply various items to soldiers, equip squads with various artifacts, and spend your faction xp on a talent tree for your whole army. At the end of the game your army will be very individually styled to your taste.
The combat system in Symphony of War is pretty good. Battles are turn-based, and each squad can move and attack once per turn, or do another action, like healing. Battles between squads are automated. There is a bit of randomness, but results are generally predictable by seeing the threat rating of the two squads involved, and their composition, e.g. spearmen have an advantage against cavalry, rogues can attack from behind and take out the healers in the back, etc. You get some additional rewards for finishing battles within a certain number of turns, but it isn't as extreme as in some other games (e.g. Valkyria Chronicles), where you feel gimped if you don't rush every battle.
Normally the problem with campaign war games in which the survivors of each battle progress and are available for the next battle is the long-term balance: A series of pyrrhic victories can leave you with you best developed troops dead and your raw recruits unable to compete. But in Symphony of War you can play at normal difficulty with permadeath turned off, so your veterans will be available next battle even if they died in the previous one. And the recruits you can hire also go up in level over the course of the game, and you can even hire "rare" mercenaries with quite good stats. I enjoy normal difficulty, because it gives me opportunity to play around with the various options, even if some of them are suboptimal. I don't really enjoy tactical games where you can only play a certain meta build to actually win at hard difficulty. Symphony at War is interesting enough at normal difficulty, but forgiving enough without permadeath to not force me into save scumming.
The 30 battles in the game are all fixed, and even the bonus arena battles are always the same map. However, I do think there is some replayability, because the items and artifacts you find are random, and you might go for different builds on a second run. One negative point for me is that certain game mechanics (charge, ambush) are not well explained in the game, and you need to go and watch a developer video on YouTube to see how they work. Personally I appreciate the pixel art, but the use of the RPGMaker engine certainly has some downsides, and you can't adjust resolution to something prettier.
Symphony of War currently has a 96% "Overwhelmingly Positive" rating on Steam, and costs just $20. Recommended!