Shining Force EXA is an entry in the Shining Force series, but unlike most of the earlier titles it has a more action-oriented RPG approach, rather than featuring turn-based strategy gameplay. The game uses a real-time combat system, an "art" system for special character, weapons, and an armor upgrade system. As such it is considered the spiritual successor to Shining Force NEO inheriting many of the game's traits.
Players choose to be either the warrior Toma or the sorceress Cyrille. They are almost immediately joined by the knight Gadfort and the elfin archer Maebelle. They all have different reasons to join the quest and find the holy sword Shining Force. The main storyline focuses on the devastating war between humans and demons. The game takes place in a world divided into two kingdoms: The Noswald Empire (humans) and Fyrlandt (demons).
The player's base of operations is the Geo-Fortress which is a mobile base, and along the way there is the ability to upgrade the fortress. This is done by collecting "rare material" which allows the fortress to be upgraded to three forms, each time more powerful. Only in the final form it becomes possible to travel around. The strategy elements center around the fortress. Players can make room for shops, train party members and choose who to take along on quests. It can also be attacked and needs to be defended.