Strategy RPGs are having a bit of a resurgence in recent years and as a big fan of the genre, I’m all for it. Just this year alone, publisher Square Enix has even put out a couple of brand new titles in the genre with Triangle Strategy and The DioField Chronicle. But when thinking back to classic titles in the genre, many people will be quick to bring up either Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre. While I was more on the FF Tactics side of the conversation growing up, playing through Tactics Ogre Reborn has allowed me to see what many have loved about this series for decades and has brought many quality of life improvements to this latest re-release of the classic Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Tactics Ogre Reborn is a remaster of a 2010 PSP remake of the classic game and brings the game to a much wider audience of new players, especially those that either never played the original game or never owned a PSP.
The plot of Tactics Ogre wastes no time throwing you into the deep end, hitting you with quite the number of characters, concepts, worldbuilding and the numerous factions that make up the story very quickly. I did initially find this a little overwhelming, but looking back I really did appreciate that it didn’t try and hold my hand and over simplify those things in the attempt to have me onboarded better to the world and rather allowed things to feel like my characters belonged in a world that was already developed and had conflict that didn’t directly solely involve my player characters. Making the world all the richer for it. A first playthrough may be a little rough for newcomers, but stick with it and you’ll grasp a lot of the context before too long.
Best of all, Tactics Ogre doesn’t just feature an interesting world and story. It’s main narrative twists and turns based on your gameplay decisions, influences the recruitable characters you can have join your squad and also how the overall story plays out. With varying paths to take, the replayability factor is certainly there for anyone that wants to go back through and do multiple playthroughs. But even if the game does prove a little too hefty to do it all over, the game’s World Tarot system actually allows you to go back to the diverging points, maintain your currently developed team and play through the different routes on offer too. I loved that this was a viable option as I did want to see what some of the alternate outcomes would be without having to push through the whole game again from the beginning.
I was also surprised to see that the game features fully voiced cutscenes too. It’s always a welcome surprise when games from the East make the extra effort to include dialogue within their titles as even in 2022 for many brand new RPG titles, fully voiced scenes continue to be a rarity.
Outside of the story cutscenes, the primary gameplay consists of grid based strategy battles against enemy creatures and armies. If you’ve played a Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem game, you’ll be right at home here. Each unit in your army has the ability to perform a number of actions on their turn and the capabilities of each action are influenced by their individual class and customisations. Things like movement distance, weapons, castable spells and unique skills are able to be tweaked on a unit by unit basis allowing you to build the perfect army to suit your playstyle and fill gaps that exist in your strategies. Evolving your team is a constant part of Tactics Ogre as you’ll be recruiting a lot of party members and partaking in many bouts throughout the lengthy campaign. Outside of the characters and enemies in the battle, I also loved that each encounter had it’s own aspects that kept the battles fresh. The fields often contain different vantage points that can grant advantages as well as terrain and weather effects that can impact the battle for both teams, but used cleverly can also provide advantages for you in battle.
The strategy aspect is well and truly one of the best components of the game. Being presented with a new combat stage, coming up with a best plan of attack and then executing the plan to success is incredibly rewarding. Even in situations where things may not go to plan, a quick strategy shift can still sometimes save the day. But even if the worst happens and your plan completely falls apart, you can typically work out where the strategy failed and go back in next time better prepared and it’s still just as rewarding when you pull off that win.
Similarly to the World Tarot system, the combat side of the game also implements a similar mechanic with the Chariot Tarot, this allows you to turn back turns during battle if you realise your current strategy is failing or you’ve really messed something up. The number of turns that can be turned back increases the more you progress through the game, and is a very welcome addition so that the whole encounter doesn’t necessarily have to be started over from the beginning.
That’s not to say there aren’t still risks when it comes to combat encounters though. As mentioned, the amount of moves that can be rewound is limited, and sometimes you can be too far gone that the Chariot system can’t fix you. In fact Tactics Ogre features the biggest possible risk a game can offer. Permadeath. If you have a unit hit zero hitpoints you have 3 turns to be able to traverse to them and pick them up and stabilise them or they’re lost forever. Yep that’s right, gone. Thankfully there are plenty of units to recruit and build out your army, but given that you’ll spend time customising each and every one, there’s still a real sense of loss anytime you happen to fail one of your troops and they die.
Tactics Ogre Reborn provides quite the challenge. Which is great, it is a strategy game after all. Some stages did provide a small amount of frustration if I’m being completely honest. But the game is always fair. If you mess up an encounter, you know why. If you approach an enemy with the wrong unit type and get squashed, you know why. And if everything goes awry and you have to wind back the turns to completely start from a previous point, you’ll know why, and probably be grateful you have the ability to do so. These moments of intense difficulty really help make it feel like your army accomplished something when they eventually come out on top and you can finally look back at the cleared battlefield at the end of a tough bout.
Tactics Ogre Reborn delivers a really solid strategy RPG, containing an engaging story and a large and varied cast of characters. If you’ve never played the game before, there’s never been a better time to check it out. It’s now available on more platforms than ever and contains quite a number of balance adjustments and quality of life improvements have been implemented that weren’t part of the original release to provide a more streamlined and rewarding experience for the player. If you like grid based strategy games and don’t mind a bit of a challenge, you’re in for a great time.
A Nintendo Switch review code was provided for the purpose of this review.
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