by Julian Zimianitis
Among many things, I am an avid player of video games. One of my favorite genres is the turn-based tactical video game. These games usually take place on a grid, but all of them have one thing in common: you plan out your move, taking everything you know into consideration, execute your perfect strategy, and then wait for the enemy to make their move. So, here’s a list of my top five favorite turn-based tactical video games.
5: XCOM 2
“XCOM” is the classic, traditional turn-based tactical video game. The one I am most familiar with is “XCOM 2” (and its expansion, “War of the Chosen”). You customize characters and bring them out into the battlefield, where all of your characters act, and then all of the enemy characters (aliens who have invaded Earth) act. Trying to hit the enemy is based on percentages, and even the easiest, point blank shots can miss. It’s your original turn-based tactics game. Honorable mention also goes to “XCOM: Chimera Squad,” which was released this summer, and switches up the formula a bit, with named characters and “interleaved” combat (your characters and the enemy’s take turns between each character, rather than each team).
Arguably, this game shouldn’t be on this list, because it is first and foremost a Role-Playing Game (RPG). However, the combat is classical turn-based tactics, even if it deviates a bit from the traditional formula. The characters don’t move on a grid, instead having a stat related to how far they can move, and can easily navigate the battlefield to gain strategic advantages. Combat is particularly interesting with elemental powers that interact. Ground covered in poison or oil can be ignited with fire, which can be doused into steam, and then electrified with a lightning bolt. You can make your own character, or play one of the cast, and everybody is customizable in terms of what “class” their abilities fall into. This game has a wide range of variables to mess with (and has a great story to boot). It was in close contention with the next entry on this list for placement.
Another deviation from the classic formula, the grid is back (and very small; combat takes place on miniature maps), but the twist this time is that you have perfect information. You can see exactly what your enemy is going to do next turn, and have to either avoid it, or turn it to your advantage. See, enemies will always do the action they show, even if it means they attack another enemy. The complexity here, however, is that you have to think not just about the current turn, but also the next turn and the turn after that. You can quickly become outnumbered with no way to negate every enemy action. There’s a lot of re-playability to this one.
Number 2: Invisible Inc.
So we have the traditional shoot-em-up, “XCOM”-style turn-based tactical game. What if we flipped that on its head and emphasized stealth? That’s “Invisible Inc.” A stealth espionage game, where you play as a group of spies trying to take down a bunch of corporations. This is made even more tense by the fact that you don’t miss, and your enemies don’t miss either. And EVERYONE goes down in one hit. Stealth and ambushes become essential to making it out alive. A very cool game set in an interesting world, with a lot of interesting mechanics.
Number 1: Atlas Reactor
My favorite entry on this list is particularly unique in a few aspects. One, it’s multiplayer, usually four versus four, with each player controlling one character. Two, turns happen simultaneously. There’s a planning phase, where everyone decides their actions, and then an action phase, where everything plays out, separated into four sections based on action type (Set-up, Dash, Attack, and Move). And then three: it’s no longer available. It didn’t have a big enough player base, and was free to play, so when its parent company got bought out, “Atlas Reactor” got shut down. Which is a pity, because it had a beautiful futuristic aesthetic and world, and a specific gameplay concept I’ve yet to see anywhere else. It was one of my favorite games, with cool characters and fun gameplay. My favorite character to play was a robot named Oz who had an “Afterimage” that stayed one move behind him and would attack from both his real self and his afterimage. Truly a hidden gem that deserved to shine.