Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga meshes both tactical RPG mechanics with complex management systems. Developers Dancing Dragon Games, and publishers Freedom Games, have recently made a name for themselves for creating incredibly polished RPG Maker titles. This game is, unsurprisingly, no different. And on top of that, it’s incredibly fun.
Our story begins shortly after the war of Veridian Succession. This chaotic conflict led to countless deaths and economic uncertainty, both for the Veridian Empire and their opposing regions. 10 years on, the world of Tahnra is seemingly heading back towards peaceful times. That is until General Antares kidnaps Empress Florina in one final act of rebellion.
Our protagonist, along with their extensive group of colourful friends, halts this before it gains any sort of traction. However, Prime Minister Casamir uses this as an opportunity to enact his plot for the Veridian throne. He executes Empress Florina and frames our protagonist in the process by stating they conspired with General Antares.
With no other witnesses present to this scheme, Casamir successfully gains leadership of the largest known kingdom in the world. Now, living as an outsider, our protagonist puts together a rebellion of their own. They aim to avenge Empress Florina, and take down the villainous usurper.
Lore and Characters
One thing that Symphony of War has going for it is its expanded lore. It’s clear that a lot of time and dedication has gone into crafting the world, regions, and historical events. This is why its slightly disappointing that the overall narrative is fairly mediocre. This is especially true regarding the main cast of characters and their personal development, which, at times, feel rushed.
For example, characters will instantly resolve any issue by giving one another cheesy pep talks. Not only does this lessen the value of each hurdle, but it also massively impacts the characters triumphs. It’s honestly ridiculous how often this occurs, and it verges on the line of parody at times.
Similarly, I wasn’t particularly a fan of the main characters design. The bright blue hair and clothing made them look like cheap Marth/Lucian rip-offs. It just felt a bit cliched and passé, and I would have preferred if they had their own unique look. With that said, the story did feature a number of twists and turns that kept me entertained throughout. I simply hope that any subsequent games dialogue match the level of detail in the worldbuilding.
Symphony of War places you at the helm of an army. You build up and maintain each of your regiments by providing them with a squad leader, soldiers, items and artifacts. At first, the number of options can be a bit overwhelming. This isn’t made any easier by the game, which, for the most part, leaves you to figure out the endless array of menus on your own.
Overcoming this barrier does prove to be worthwhile though, as the level of customization is simply outstanding. Every squad occupies a 3×3 grid which, stat dependant, can hold up to 9 individual units. You are given free rein to manage their class, their whereabouts on the grid, and what sort of traits they have.
There are more than 50 different classes in the game which allows for endless possibilities. These include swordsmen, mages, medics, paladins, and a personal favourite, dragons. It’s incredibly satisfying watching your squads operate successfully in battle, even more so knowing that they’re your own creation.
The combat sections of the game are played on a gridded battlefield. Each army takes a turn to manoeuvre their squads around, while engaging in conflicts and capturing various objectives. The fighting itself is simulated automatically, so it’s important to consider which squads you want to use for any given encounter. Making a wrong decision can be catastrophic, and ultimately cause your entire army to wipe.
The maps environment is also something you’ll have to take into account. This can affect multiple different things such as movement speed, dodge rating, or guaranteeing a critical attack. Capturing objectives on the map will reward you in various ways. Most of the time it’ll be different currencies for your army, though some also do things like revive downed allies.
The scale of each of these conflicts vary from short espionage missions, to large scale battles involving 200 individual units. Its rather surprising, and commendable, the sheer amount of scenarios Dancing Dragon Games managed to produce for this title. The gameplay is very moreish, and I’m still eager to play more even after completing all 30 chapters.
Graphically, Symphony of War has 4 distinctive aesthetics which are inspired by various SNES art styles. The storyline cinematics are stylistically designed to look like a traditional 16-bit RPG, à la Chrono Trigger. The background environments suit this particularly well, as the vibrant colours make them pop on screen.
The simulated fighting sequences are stunning in their own right, and feature blown up versions of the character sprites. This provides an additional level of detail to help make the animations feel more fluid and seamless.
The battlefield board is a stripped-down version of the cinematic style. It primarily removes details from the backgrounds in order to make them more practical for gameplay. This was a great design decision as it eliminates any confusion regarding enemies positions, points to capture and so on.
The last of the art styles in the game is, in my opinion, the weakest of them all. During the portions in which conversations occur, the game will change to a side by side shot of each character. These are still images that change slightly depending on the current mood of the discussion. The problem here is that the characters look rather outlandish. Their proportions feel massively off, and the presentation simply feels out of place. The best way to describe it is it looks like an off brand visual novel.
Overall, 3 out of 4 of the art styles match the games thematic greatly. The artists have done a great job at keeping to a unified idea, all while switching between different styles. All of the backgrounds look absolutely gorgeous, and I hope they stick to this art direction for future entries.
The music in Symphony of War ranges from awesome, to somewhat forgettable. The most noteworthy track in my opinion is the combat theme. It feels like something you’d hear from famed Dragon Quest composer, Koichi Sugiyama, in the mid-90s.
There are moments where the SFX wavers a bit, with the outlandish dying screams being the most memorable example. Frankly speaking, I found these to be more funny than annoying, though admittedly, it did minimize some crucial narrative moments. Thankfully, the sound effects used during the battle sequences match up exceedingly well with the on screen action.
Symphony of War: The Nephilim Saga is a fabulously fun tactical RPG. The squad-based gameplay and management mechanics co-exist incredibly well, and there is a surprising amount of complexity in each of the systems. While the expanded lore has had a lot of thought put into it, the games narrative does feel rather rushed and uninteresting. If you’re a fan of management RPGs, and are looking for something that will scratch the Ogre Battle itch, then this is a game worth checking out.