April 12, 2024
6 min read

What is an SRPG?

What is an SRPG?

What is an SRPG and How Does it Differ From an RPG? 

The RPG genre has many, many subgenres associated with it. Each one can offer a completely unique experience. One of the quite popular subgenres is called SRPG, also known as TRPG. What is it exactly? Time to find out!

What is an SRPG? 

SRPG stands for Strategy Role-Playing Game or Simulation Role-playing Game. As previously mentioned, the term TRPG (Tactical Role-Playing Game) is also often used to describe these types of games. 

The biggest aspects of SRPGs is the mix of tactical combat, strategic overlook and RPG mechanics, such as levelling up, improving gear, completing quests etc. 

Majority of these games have turn-based combat implemented into them. This of course allows players to have enough time to plan out their moves. 

There are also titles that possess real-time combat or active pause, adding a quick decision making aspect into them.

Is it SRPG or TRPG? 

It basically comes down to personal experience. If you’ve been introduced to the SRPGs name, that’s what you’d call them. If it was TRPGs (Tactical Role-Playing Games), you’d call them this way instead. There might be some western vs eastern market branding involved too. TRPGs subgenre is more often referred to in games created in western countries. 

SRPG is a very popular name for the subgenre in Japan. Whichever name you’d use personally, the general game mechanics should be similar in both TRPGs and SRPGs. Try both names if you’re looking for some cool titles to procure!

Key characteristics of SRPG

While not every game in the subgenre possesses all of these aspects, they feature in the vast majority of them. Let's list a few major elements that make an SRPG special. 

Combination of RPG and strategy elements 

Fighting enemies means that the soldiers or characters that you control become more adept at it. They either grow through attacking enemies and gaining more skill with their weapons, like in the Fire Emblem series. Or gain experience (and loot) for clearing out an encounter, like in the Disgaea series.

The units or characters you use will affect each engagement. Which requires you to plan based on the information you have on hand. Adding strategic elements to each engagement.

Tactical combat 

Depending on the game, you are either transitioned into a tactical combat screen, like in Fire Emblem series, start combat mission in tactical mode like in X-COM series or simply start fighting enemies while utilising active-pause, like in Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2. 

Each offers different gameplay and decisions you can perform during combat. Skills, abilities, spells, even terrain and weather can add some degree of complexity to each fight.

Turn-based gameplay 

The vast majority of SRPGs focus on turn-based combat systems. This allows players more time to strategise their actions and plan their tactics. The X-COM series allowed “interruptions” or “reactions” during both player and the CPU turns. Adding an extra layer of complexity to each action. 

Do you want to save up action points for an attack? Or do you want to check out whether the enemy is around the corner?

Each choice the player makes can drastically change how the battle plays out. Both positively and negatively.

Popular SRPGs 

We’ve picked a few prominent examples of SRPGs series with a really abridged description of what they are. Going into detail would require you to quit your day job to get a full scope. Don’t be surprised if you’ve seen or heard of these before. They’ve gained popularity for a reason!

Fire Emblem 

A whole army versus a single elite warrior? Inverse ninja law strikes again.
Soucre: Fire Emblem Warriors by Intelligent Systems / Nintendo

A very popular and well known series originating from Japan. It hit the international markets in 2003/2004 with the release of Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. 

In total there have been 17 Fire Emblem games released up to this point, some were more successful than others.

The stories themselves quite often stand alone, with some titles having some connection to each other. Although the general inspirations are taken from mediaeval Europe, Norse mythology, Arthurian legends and some other magical and supernatural aspects from various other sources.

The general gameplay is focused on tactical combat. The fights themselves are taking place on a battle grid with various units (yours and the enemies) spread on the battlefield. Each unit has a class, weapon type, stats etc. Through using their skills, fighting and defeating enemies they grow stronger. As they level up they can be “promoted” and become even more valuable. 

Which is a good time to mention a permadeath mechanic of the Fire Emblem series. Losing any unit during a fight will permanently remove said unit from the game. Making the game quite tough for newcomers and non-hardcore enthusiasts of RPGs. The feature “casual mode” was added to circumvent this but the “true” game experience is lost.

Final Fantasy Tactics 

Final Fantasy Tactics is a game that begs for a remaster. Square Enix pls...
Source: Final Fantasy Tactics by Square

A spin-off series from the ever popular Final Fantasy series. 

The main plot revolves around the kingdom of Ivalice. While inspired by mediaeval ages it does feature typical Final Fantasy things like magic, high tech artefacts and airships. 

The player follows the story of Ramza Beoulve, a member of a respected House Beoulve. Our protagonist is forced to participate in a civil war after his homeland suffers the war exhaustion from waging a 50 year war with its neighbours. 

The gameplay has 2 modes, one is world map travelling and the other is tactical combat. The combat takes place from an isometric view on a grid based battlefield with terrain and weather effects that can either buff or debuff soldiers. 

Each unit has their own stats, skills and class. The class system from other Final Fantasy titles is present here. 

The base squire and chemist classes allow your soldiers to specialise into either frontline or backline units (or mixed if maxed out both). So if you want to have a powerful spellcaster you’d have to level up base “chemist” class (spellcasting) . If you’d like to have a powerful warrior, you’d need to level up your “squire“ base class. 

Unlocking higher tier jobs requires that you level up relevant classes first. For example, a knight would require that you level up your squire job to level 2. Similarly to get a black mage you’d need a chemist to reach level 2. You can switch between jobs out of combat at will.

The game itself has a huge following to this day, possibly helped by the release of Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, basically an overhaul of the original. Even to this day fans are hoping for a remaster of the original game which was released in 1995. 

Disgaea 

Our glorious overlord Laharl with his "loyal" vassal Etna, along with super helpful prinnies, dood.
Disgaea 1 by Nippon Ichi

Another popular SRPG title from Japan (there might be some sort of pattern here…). The first title in the series was released in 2003 both in Japan and outside of it and continues to this day, with its 7th title being released in January 2023. 

The series usually follows a story of a named protagonist in the “Netherworld”, a demonic realm where demons reside. The Netherworld itself is quite huge, which allows you to explore each game separately without playing previous ones (unless it’s a direct sequel). 

You can of course meet notable characters from earlier games but it’s more of a nod to the fans, so newcomers won’t feel left out without context. 

The game is meant to be more lighthearted and comedic in its themes, but there are more serious topics and sadder themes intertwined within each game.

The gameplay itself happens from the “hub” area. From there you can choose missions, buy equipment and equip your team members, improve the items in your possession through “Item World”, etc. 

Story progression is decided by the players, the game itself gives a lot of “grinding” potential. You can revisit previous missions infinitely. The game also offers a new game+ mode, letting you keep all the items and levels from previous runs. Which in turn gives a chance to achieve ridiculously high levels measured in thousands.

The combat itself offers a very large number of mechanics, special “Geo Panels”, ability to capture enemies etc. Allowing fans of strategizing and tactical planning lots of options but also a challenge when facing really powerful super bosses. 

It can be a bit tough for newcomers to grasp everything the game offers from the start but once that hurdle is overcome, there is plenty of fun for anyone who enjoys SRPGs.

XCOM 

Moments before disastrous 99% chance miss, followed by a squad wipe.
X-Com Enemy Unknown by Firaxis Games

Both the old school X-COM: Enemy Unknown (a.k.a. X-COM: UFO Defence) and the modern versions of the same title are titles that got a lot of people interested in the genre. Both games offer different experiences but are essentially the same in a broad sense. 

You are a commander of X-COM, an organisation created to combat interstellar invaders threatening earth. 

In both instalments, you have to deal with alien incursions around the globe. Failure to complete missions can cause the country where the battle took place to withdraw their support towards your organisation. If enough of them do that, you get a game over. 

Each game allows the “geoscape” view, where you can select missions and check the global situation, build new bases (X-COM: UFO Defence) or intercept alien craft.

The battle itself takes place on a tactical map (battlescape) where you must fulfil designated objectives. Your soldiers gain experience as they survive each mission and become more efficient. This of course means that each lost character can be quite costly. 

Between each mission you have a chance to research alien artefacts, equip your soldiers, build facilities etc. Your decisions here can make combat engagements a lot easier if you keep up with the aliens as they ramp up their invasion. 

You can soft-lock yourself if you fail too many missions and don’t manage to properly equip your soldiers. But in the end, that’s where the fun comes from. Winning against the overwhelming onslaught of technologically advanced space race!

What is the difference between RPG and SRPG?

How much different could subgenres really be? Quite different indeed! Let’s address the SRPG vs Idle RPG for example, shall we?

SRPG vs Idle RPG

While both titles require planning and thinking ahead, idle RPGs, as the name suggests, focus on playing themselves. The progress IS constant whether you play it or not, it is of course much slower without input from the player. SRPGs also focus on actual tactical combat, while Idle RPGs have the player characters ,as mentioned before, play themselves (minus the equipping and levelling up which is done by the player).

SRPGs not intense enough for you? 

Our upcoming mobile action RPG Origins: The Fall of Azoria, while not exactly an SRPG, still offers tactical engagements that will require you to think about how you’ll engage your enemies. Giving you an opportunity to practise both your quick thinking and planning at the same time!

FAQs about SRPGs 

How does SRPG differ from a traditional RPG? 

Traditional RPGs focus mostly on storytelling and adventuring through stories woven by the DM and are shaped through actions of the players. SRPGs focus mostly on tactical combat, overworld planning, management etc. Mostly they share the basic RPG mechanics but differ quite a bit in the general feel of the game.

Are SRPGs turn-based or real-time? 

Vast majority of SRPGs are turn-based, due to the complexity of combat engagements and the necessity to control multiple units at the same time. While there are some real-time titles, they usually employ some sort of active pause mechanic. 

Are SRPGs multiplayer or single-player? 

SRPGs are generally single-player focused but some of them allow for multiple players to either fight each other in a tactical engagement or play campaign in co-op mode.

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