Best Strategy Game
Fire Emblem wasn’t always the most approachable series. Tactical RPGs are already not the most friendly games out there, but Fire Emblem could be particularly cruel. Despite its anime style warmth and intriguing storytelling, these games would put players through the wringer with permanent death, no opportunities for grinding, breaking weapons, and missable secrets. But eventually the dam broke, and Nintendo went in a new direction. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is about three games deep into the “new” Fire Emblem, and it takes an even more accessible approach. While there’s still a limited amount of playtime, due to its calendar, players have much more freedom to work on strengthening their armies, customizing their play styles, and bonding with their characters. There are several difficulty options and, while the classic strategy combat is still there, the focus has largely moved to the experiential rather than tactical. The hardcore options exist, but default Three Houses is a drastic change for the series in many ways. In making that approach, the creators really brought out what’s appealing about Fire Emblem beyond brutal challenge.
Fire Emblem is largely a product of developer Intelligent Systems. The house of Fire Emblem sometimes does other things, such as the Advance Wars series. Yet, we haven’t really seen a new one of those since the Nintendo DS. Enter Wargroove, an indie title from Chucklefish that aims to bring back Advance Wars' distinct look and gameplay style. It has its own charms of course, but what it does best is bring back familiar, long-lost genre play that hasn’t been reproduced in a long time, at least with as much polish as there is here.