Continuing in the tradition of the PSP remake of Final Fantasy Tactics, Square Enix is bringing back another awesomely hardcore tactics game, Tactics Ogre, which first appeared on Super Famicom in 1995 but only ever had a US release on the PlayStation in 1998. With tons of new content, beautiful new art, and an updated level of polish, it looks like they're on track to do it up right yet again.
The original Ogre Battle for SNES started with Episode 5: The March of the Black Queen, so to honor the game that started it all, here are five reasons we got super pumped for Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together during our recent first look.
It's an ultra-refined, hardcore tactics game
The guts of Tactics Ogre are similar to those of Final Fantasy Tactics, and in fact we're told that FF Tactics was created as a simplified version of Tactics Ogre, which actually came first. All the trappings you'd expect are here – isometric grid-based, turn-based battles with lots of character classes, tons of skills and magic, three distinct races, weather conditions that affect battle, and permanent deaths are possible for all characters besides the main character if you let them remain KOed in battle.
One thing that really struck us while watching the first few battles in the game is the refinement of the presentation. The main battle screen displays a ton of info without feeling overcrowded, including a news ticker on the top that provides flavor text for what's going on in the story and hints about battle mechanics, and a queue along the bottom of the screen that displays the current turn order. You can also play with the camera to see the battle from any angle you want, including a chessboard-style 2D top down view, which is a welcome inclusion for those of us who occasionally get frustrated with a static viewpoint when the areas of the battle become obscured by terrain and so forth.
Overall, it may a bit more involved than FF Tactics, but it also has little touches that make it less punishing too, like the Wheel of Fortune system (which we'll get to later) and a leveling system where entire classes level up at once rather than individual characters. If you use a white mage in battle, all the white mages in your clan gain experience as if they all fought too, which encourages using a diverse party. In other tactics games, you're often pressured to keep your clan small to avoid grinding, but in Tactics Ogre you can recruit more freely without worrying about bringing your clan level down.
Its morality system makes it totally nonlinear
Morality systems are fairly common now in western-style RPGs, but even though the original Battle Ogre in 1993 ('95 in the US) had an alignment system with multiple endings it's still a rarity to see any kind of morality options in a tactical RPG. In Tactics Ogre, depending on the choices you make in the story, your quest will branch off in different ways, and you'll even fight entirely different battles.The Warren Report (pictured below) gives you aclear, graph-based summary of your past choices and their consequences.
We're told you'll have to make some tough decisions along the way, choosing sides and inevitably leaving some corpses and pissed off people in your wake. However, we were also teased with the possibility of a so-called impossible "super ending," but it may just be a myth – there are so many possibilities and permutations that no one knows yet whether a perfect playthrough is actually possible (or so we're told).
You never have to reset/revert to a previous save if you screw up
The big feature that sets Tactics Ogre apart from other tactics games is its Wheel of Fortune system, which allows you to rewind battle anytime you want up to 50 turns, and also rewind the story at specific "anchor point" moments where the story branches severely depending on your choices. You can use it whenever you want, however much you want, and there's only one small catch: in battle, when you rewind, you have to make at least a slight change to your actions, so you can't just do the same thing over and over until you get a better roll or chance on a critical hit, etc. Not every action/move in the rewind needs to be different, but at least one action does.
It looks gorgeous
Tactics Ogre, like the FF Tactics remake, looks absolutely beautiful. The detail in each piece of hand-drawn art is stunning, and helps to differentiate each character in the ultra-complex story. Masao Tsubasa (you can see some of his recent work on hisblog) is the lead artist for the PSP remake, whose work you may know from the Metal Gear Acid series.
Factoid: Did you know that the original Ogre Battle had absolutely nothing to do with ogres, and contained no mention of them whatsoever? The name actually comes from the Queen song "Ogre Battle" from their second album, Queen II. If you're a Queen fan, you're in for a treat, since Tactics Ogre contains lots of little shout-outs throughout to pay tribute to series designer Yasumi Matsuno's rock inspiration. Even the subtitle, Let Us Cling Together, comes from the title of a Queen song too.
Above: Battle Ogre by Queen
Nov 9, 2010