Tactics Ogre is a landmark game in the evolution of the strategy RPG genre, but it has never received the appreciation it deserves outside of Japan. Part of this has to do with the long shadow cast by his younger brother, Final Fantasy Tactics, directly inspired and much loved. Despite receiving an incredible remake in 2011, PSP exclusivity once again limited Tactics Ogre’s audience. Now, with HD launching and Tactics Ogre Reborn vastly revamped on every platform under the sun, Square Enix is taking action to right a long-standing injustice, though some presentation issues and gameplay changes prevent this from being the definitive version. of the all-time classic.
Our story follows young Denam and his sister Catiua, two brothers from the Walister clan. The Walisters have suffered under the oppression of the Galgastani ruler for years and a resistance movement has begun to form among them. What begins as a plan to avenge the death of the brothers’ father turns into a mission to rescue Duke Ronwey, leader of the resistance. But as Denam becomes part of the growing resistance force, he discovers how far Duke Ronwey will go to advance his cause, forcing him to make some very difficult decisions. As the fighting expands to involve neighboring states, Denam must find his own way to end the conflict.
If you’re familiar with writer/director Yasumi Matsuno’s previous works (Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy XII), you’ll find similar themes here: intertwined politics, moral dilemmas, class struggles, and idealism gone wrong. Depending on the decisions you make (including some absolutely gut-wrenching, life-or-death decisions), the path of the story, as well as the special characters you can recruit, will change drastically. There are plenty of twists and turns to experience, enhanced by a combination of an excellent English script by famed localizer Alexander O. Smith and the addition of voice acting for cutscenes. The World Tarot system from the PSP remake also returns, acting as an improved New Game+: upon completion of the game, you can return to previous points in the story, exploring different outcomes and routes while keeping your current character roster.
The game is similar to other grid-based strategy RPGs: you farm and field a carefully selected mini army to fight against a CPU-controlled squad by moving around the battlefield and using attacks and abilities to gain the upper hand. When each character gets their turn and how far they can move is determined by a multitude of factors, including stats, gear, buffs and debuffs, and the number of actions they took on their previous turn. The effectiveness of attacks and abilities are similarly affected by a wide degree of variables: stats, elemental affiliations, attack type, and even the direction you’re approaching from are just a few of the things that influence decision-making. crucial.
What makes combat fun is the sheer number of options at your disposal and the variables to consider. Do you go with swords swinging your big bruisers to pull the enemy towards you, or do you hold off until your MP resources build up first? Looking for smaller sustained attacks against a target or trying to wear down your status-afflicted foe before landing a massive killing blow? Should you kill the monsters you encounter for rare items or try to train them to use their unique powers in the battles that follow? Figuring out a way to approach each fight and executing your plans (or at least trying to) is tremendously rewarding. And if mistakes are made, there’s a way to reverse particularly stupid moves: Chariot Tarot is an optional feature you can activate to “rewind” turns in battle and try a different course of action.
With the release of HD and hugely revamped Tactics Ogre Reborn on every platform under the sun, Square Enix is taking action to right a long-standing injustice.
But all the setbacks in the world won’t save you if you don’t have a strong army to begin with, and building a squad of heroes to your liking is one of the most engaging and rewarding parts of Tactics Ogre. There are a myriad of classes to discover throughout the game, from genre staples like wizards, knights, and archers to fear-inspiring Terror Knights, undead-controlling Necromancers, and projectile specialist Riflemen. Each class has specific skills that they can learn and equip, but only four can be assigned per character. You’re also not stuck with a specific weapon type in each class: all classes have at least a few different weapons they can equip, and specific classes can also use magic spells. This flexibility means that it is possible to have multiple units of the same class with very different constructions; for example, you could have a ninja unit focus on a mix of ranged bow attacks and ninjutsu magic alongside another ninja character built to deal debilitating damage with two-wield melee attacks that inflict status ailments. Exploring classes and playing around with different builds is tons of fun, and it’s easy to spend hours micromanaging your virtual soldiers.
Adding to this experience are some revamped gameplay mechanics that are completely new to Tactics Ogre Reborn. The systems for learning and using skills have been greatly simplified, making it easier to keep track of what characters have learned and equipped. New abilities have been added, such as an ability for some classes that triggers a tracking pincer attack when an enemy unit is surrounded and attacked. Also, instead of the PSP remake’s confusing and cumbersome class-based leveling system, characters now gain levels through a more typical individual EXP system where each unit gains levels through EXP that carries over even after switching characters. class. Another new addition, charms, are single-use items that can increase character stats, raise their levels, and change their elemental affiliations, giving you even more control over your customization. And if you want to increase the levels and skills of some units, you can choose to engage in training battles where the risk of permanent death is mitigated. That also means no more random battles when traversing the map.
There are many other changes and improvements to Tactics Ogre Reborn’s quality of life: a trajectory viewer to see exactly where ranged attacks will hit, removal of item crafting glitches, a revival system more akin to Final Fantasy Tactics with a countdown timer. on fallen units to permanent death, and being able to scout the battlefield before combat. Most of these alterations are for the better, but there are some that are arguably worse. Adding randomly appearing buff and debuff cards to collect (or try to force enemies) onto the battlefield is a good idea, though it can end up making battles more chaotic (not to mention the mess when they’ve sprung up). all over the sand). Abilities and finishing moves that used a resource called TP in the PSP game now use MP instead. This makes resource management a bit easier, but also makes MP resource management much more challenging for certain classes, like hybrid heal/tank knights.
Finally, one of the biggest changes is the introduction of a party-wide level cap that only increases once you’ve beaten specific parts of the story. This is done to prevent you from leveling up to win the story battles. While it does help keep the challenge level constant, it prevents a player who is struggling in a particular encounter from going out of their way to help get through it, which they should be free to do if they wish.
The other big problem is the images. While the high-resolution character portrait artwork looks fantastic, the upscaling of the sprite art leaves a lot to be desired, as it looks like a particularly bad filter has been applied. I got used to it after a while, but compared to awesome HD-2D reworks like Live A Live, another Square Enix title, Tactics Ogre Reborn looks plain in comparison. Certain music selections have also been redone, but the emphasis on heavy orchestration removes some of the intense, melodic qualities of earlier performances. The ability to switch to more authentic pixelated graphics or use older soundtracks would have been a great addition, but alas.
Tactics Ogre’s intense tactical combat, deep character creation, and excellent storytelling make it a must-play for fans of strategy RPGs. It’s wonderful that this game is so much more available now, and most of the updates make the package even better. While some may balk at the $50 price tag for a remake with a dodgy graphical and sound overhaul, the excellent strategy gameplay and branching story paths will hold your attention for a long time. While it may not be a perfect remake, it is a very good one.