Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together - 60 job classes and miles of nostalgia-drenched gameplay

Originally released in 1995, Tactics Ogre could be described as the godfather of the console Strategy RPG. While not the first game of its genre (ed - nor even of this series – that was Ogre Battle), it’s one of the earliest and best examples of what makes SRPGs so damned addictive. The game is packed with valiant turn-based battles, fiendish strategies that require deft positioning of troops on the battlefield, and a noble story that featured a unique morality system – decisions you made in game affected the plot, characters, and ending you encounter.

Above: Ravness Loxaerion, Abuna Donnalto, Master Nybeth; they really do have ridiculous names here

15 years later, Director Hiroshi Minagawa has reunited the entire development team to give the game a rehaul; a task that has taken around 4 years to achieve. He’s even managed the impossible feat of getting original Director Yasumi Masuno to return to Square-Enix for the project.

At first glance, you can’t deny the visual similarities between Tactics Ogre and PS1 gem, Final Fantasy Tactics. Fair enough – Matsuno is responsible for both. But Tactics Ogre is simply more hardcore. You take charge of a party of up to 12 members, who are on a quest to bring freedom to the nation of Valeria. Medieval battles are waged on a 3D isometric playing field in a turn-based fashion, where you must maneuver each of your party members into place and execute attacks, magic spells, healing buffs…whatever’s in your soldier’s repertoire.

There’s an overwhelming amount of data for you to consider at all times. For starters, there’s the terrain indicator, which gives you a value for melee accuracy and ranged accuracy, depending on what the map is like – how elevated are you versus your target? Are there trees? That sort of thing. Weather conditions and wind direction will also affect things like arrow attacks; all of which needs to be considered before you even make your first move. It can be a little bit tiresome, especially when all you want to do is lamp the guy in front of you. What? I don’t have a high enough crit rating? It’s taken me four rounds just to get here! Fffffffuu-

Above: Battles are waged on all sorts of terrains – castles, deserts, forests, castles, fields, more castles...

Thankfully, there is a nifty feature that can help you out, which is the Predicted Outcome indicator. Place your cursor over your target, and it’ll show expected damage and the success rate of your attack, so you can get a better idea of how much bang you’ll get for your buck.

Furthermore, should things start to go pear-shaped, TO has a rather interesting option to help you claw back the victory: the Chariot Tarot. By hitting the left shoulder button at any point during the fight, you can bring up a battle record of the last 50 moves, then jump to any one of those points. When you make the jump, it’s saved as a separate file, so you can compare results from before and after you retraced your steps, just in case you weren’t sure you did the best thing. Pretty neat.

There are a whopping 60 class types, which range from the standard warriors, priests and wizards to the bizarre Necroprentice (who can summon dead beasties), Astromancers (users of powerful magic) and…the Octopus? We couldn’t find the last one, but spotted him in the tutorial. Our favourite by far is the Vartan – a winged warrior who can jump great distances across the battlefield, and excels at both melee and ranged combat.

Above: With 60 different types of warrior to choose from, the Warrior seems a bit plain

Thankfully, in order to make up for its punishing battles, Tactics Ogre does make things a little bit easier in the character progression department. After winning each battle, you’ll be given both general XP and Skill Points, with both go towards levelling up entire character classes, rather than an individual unit. So if, later on in the game, you want to recruit a Rune Lancer who matches your party level, it’s not a problem.

Nice little details like these help ease the fact that it will take you hours to plow through a single map. Tactics Ogre is most definitely a game for the hardcore tactician, and it’s not ashamed of this fact at all. Still, if you have the brains to master these tiny battlefields, there’s a staggering amount of gameplay on offer. It’s also nice to see that, despite the encyclopaedic volume of data available during each battle, information is laid out comprehensively and everything is thoroughly explained. The problem really lies with how much you can take on board…

Above: This lady just laid the verbal smackdown. Ouch

Visually, the cartoony graphics are sharp and bright, with Akihiko Yoshida’s character artwork bringing in a medieval charm. There’s a real gap in the market for a decent tactical RPG at the moment, and Tactics Ogre will most definitely fill that hole. It’s set to launch February 15 in the US, with a UK release just ten days later. Clear your calendars.

Jan 11, 2010