Best of 2012! Strategize This: A Beginner’s Guide to Strategy Games

Fire Emblem, Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics are all household names for hardened strategy fans, but how do they fare in the hands of a strategy newbie?

By Katharine Byrne. Posted 12/28/2012 15:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Genre: Strategy Role-Playing Game
Accessibilty: 5/5
Fun Factor: 1/5

I knew there was a reason why I didn’t particularly like strategy games! As much as I love the Final Fantasy series, Tactics Advance really does typify what makes them so mind-numbingly dull. It starts off well enough, introducing us to the game’s mechanics with a relatively innocuous snowball fight in the wintry town of St. Ivalice, and it looked like it had every intention of following in its namesake’s footsteps with an epic story of four young kids who would travel to a magical realm and have all their dreams come true.

But when we got to said magical realm (also called Ivalice, by the way), that story more or less shrivelled up in the blazing Ivalician sun, leaving us with little more than a trail of tedious missions to sustain us for the next couple of hours. I’m sure it still does have that epic story in there somewhere, but I just wasn’t interested enough to find out.

Wait, what just happened? Sorry, I must have dozed off…

In a way, though, it is potentially the best game for beginners out of the three franchises. All you have to concern yourself with gameplay-wise is moving, attacking and then deciding which direction you want to face once your turn is over. Attacking from the front, you see, is much harder (i.e: nigh on impossible) than striking from the side or from behind, and a well-placed team-mate can often mean the difference between life and death. But that easiness comes at a cost, because the amount of button-presses you have to go through in order to initiate something so simple is ridiculously high, and it completely robs the game of all its drama and excitement. Not only that, but you have to sit through an equally slow and tedious turn for each of your enemies too, and it drags the game’s pace right into the ground.

The tactics themselves are reasonably simple, too. In my first couple of hours, it never really went much past “destroy everything on the map”, although there are certain rules you have to abide by as well. These consisted of certain magic spells you could or couldn’t use, and varied from match to match. The Judges from Final Fantasy XII preside over each battle and will send you to the slammer if you infringe them, but when most of your early party consists of melee/physical attackers, there was never really much danger of disobeying them.

There’s also no such thing as friendly fire in this game, and magic spells will often never target just one unit. Oh no. The amount of times I accidentally healed my enemy or blazed my companion were too many to count, and the only way round this seems to be selecting the square next to your intended target, and then double checking it’s not accidentally including anyone it shouldn’t. What’s up with that, Final Fantasy? Honestly… It may be part of the whole “strategy” thing, but it’s quite possibly the least intuitive system I’ve ever come across. The isometric view doesn’t do you any favours either, making targeting, moving and generally everything much more of a hassle than it should be. That and the music will also drive you up the wall!

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