In the 00s tactics genre went through a long dark age with few releases for fans to try. More recently, there have been a number of indie successors to the likes of Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy: Tactics, as well as major revivals for XCOM and Fire Emblem. It also does not seem to have simply been a phase. A number of upcoming releases in the genre suggest opportunities for tactical combat will only expand in the coming years.
Take a look at three upcoming tactics games from various studio sizes to see what’s coming. I could have listed dozens of upcoming tactics games here. However, to demonstrate the breadth of tactical gaming options, this article will spotlight a cross-section of the most interesting, with a spread of AAA and indie titles.
Project Triangle Strategy
A major publisher stepping back into tactics games is a sure sign that the recent revival is here to stay. Square published some of the heaviest hitters in the genre back during the late 90s and early 00s. Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics are clearly still on Square Enix’s minds as they appear the most obvious inspirations for Project Triangle Strategy. Many have focused on the Final Fantasy Tactics comparisons as it is the better-known game, however, the Tactics Ogre elements shone through more clearly in the demo. This was apparent from the more military focus of the main group/story and the larger squad sizes.
Based on what was shown off in the demo, the story seems deeply political, with a heavy emphasis on player choice. From the art style to grid layout and combat, the game wears its influences on its sleeves. The tactical elements also seem to have been retained from these influences, as have the importance of verticality and combat pace. Much like in their previous game, Octopath Traveller, the developers have not focused on simplifying tactical combat. Instead, they seem to be expanding on it with an increased emphasis on the use of the map itself and borrowing combat elements from Octopath Traveller.
Darkest Dungeon 2
One of the indie pillars of the tactics gaming revival, Darkest Dungeon, is getting a much-anticipated sequel. Hitting early access on the 26th of October via Epic Games Store, Darkest Dungeon 2 promises players another descent into madness and horror. The first game showcased the versatility of the genre by focusing less on the numbers and leveling. Instead, atmosphere and presentation took centre stage. What set the game apart was that it still maintained the core tactical complexity, alongside the chilling presentation.
The second game will bring the series from 2d to 3d. However, the side-on positioning mechanics will return. Otherwise, Red Hook Studios have been fairly tight-lipped regarding how this will actually appear in-game. We don’t have long to wait until early access but with such a paucity of information, the suspense as to what exactly will change might cause me an affliction. With how well received the original was, Darkest Dungeon 2 might be the most anticipated upcoming tactics game of all.
Jagged Alliance 3
The return of XCOM marked the return of tactics games in 2012. However, when XCOM was still in its original form in the 90s, Jagged Alliance targetted the same demographic with similar gameplay. The return of the series, which has long seemed close at hand but has never materialised, appears to be slated for this year. Like XCOM Enemy Unknown the upcoming release appears to be updating and somewhat simplifying the gameplay. The gameplay changes may worry returning fans. However, the odd mix of lighthearted humour and hardcore military simulation appears to still be a clear goal of the developers.
Overall I am erring on the side of caution regarding this particular release. THQ has released a very limited amount of gameplay footage so far. Unfortunately, what we have seen does seem to lack both the production values of the newer XCOM games and the hardcore tactical depth of the old Jagged Alliance games.
If I’m not overly excited for Jagged Alliance 3, why did I mention it here? Because Xenonauts 2 looks to be leaning in the opposite direction concerning the depth of strategy vs graphics. Like the first game, Xenonauts is looking to service fans of the old XCOM games who feel the Firaxis games have moved too far from their tastes. From starting with an X to focussing on a multinational organisation facing extra-terrestrial threats, the XCOM influence is beyond obvious. Goldhawk interactive appears to have sacrificed none of the tactical variety and non-linearity for a mass-market appeal. Varied options for tactics gamers are a big part of what makes the upcoming games so exciting.
Instead, research trees, graphics, enemies, maps, AI, and the strategic layer have all been updated. The graphics and UI improvements especially may allow the series to expand its audience without sacrificing depth. The game will not be a direct story continuation either. New players who were put off by the rough edges of the original can dive right in. The somewhat more welcoming sequel is already available in demo form.
Final Fantasy Tactics: Remastered
Don’t get too excited, this is in no way confirmed yet. However, Nvidia did accidentally leak a number of upcoming game titles including a PC version of Final Fantasy Tactics. Currently Final Fantasy Tactics fans are forced to choose between PS1, Vita, PSP, or emulation to play their favourite game. A remaster could mean the end of that. This should also fix a few of the game’s issues, such as players getting completely stuck in areas where fights come one after the other without a salvageable save.
The game had it all, a fantastic story, breathtaking art, tactical depth, dynamic gameplay, and deeply memorable characters. It remains the only tactics game that truly seems able to please every player. Yet it feels fresh and unique all these years and impersonators later. Personally, if it’s not my favourite game, it’s in the top three. Being able to play an updated version on newer consoles would be fantastic. The game that so many newer tactics games openly tried to emulating might well be returning. I can think of no more fitting way to solidify the bright future of tactics games than the return of its greatest example.