by Samuel Curd
reviewed on PSP
A classic tale, retold
Tactics Ogre is one of a rare breed of games on PSP: a tactical turn-based strategy. When you think of that particular niche you might think of the Final Fantasy Tactics series, which we have yet to see another iteration of. Luckily, Tactics Ogre for the PSP is a revival of the old Playstation franchise brought to handhelds by none other than the team that made Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, both Ivalice Alliance games (my favourite Final Fantasy game world).
Tactics Ogre is somewhat hard to review as most of you reading this are the kind of people already into turn-based strategies or at least RPGs, and as a remake of an old game with next to no graphical upgrades it is not going to wow any new gamers into picking it up. Either way, if this kind of thing is for you, here's what Tactics Ogre has to offer.
The world of Tactics Ogre is a somewhat dark, medieval fantasy setting, torn apart by civil wars with three rival factions vying for power. You play as a young man in what amounts to a small-scale rebellion, intent on punishing those soldiers responsible for the death of his parents, the Black Knights. Along with your sister Catiua and friend Vyce you join the forces of the local Duke and begin to build an army, recruiting noble fighters to your cause. I haven't made it very far in the story, not through lack of interest, but because of the lengthy battles, but I felt I should write this review before I lose a month of my life to this game like I did to Final Fantasy Tactics. Suffice it to say, if this is your kind of thing, it will hold your interest for a very long time.
The game has multiple occasions where you must choose the way it progresses, and these choices affect your conditions for victory in upcoming battles and even add up to alter the course of the entire game, which has branching storylines and multiple endings. Good stuff!
The battles you fight consist of choosing a selection of the many fighters available to you (up to 12 in one battle) and controlling them one after the other, with the fastest characters acting first. Seen from an isometric birds-eye view, the maps are quite sizeable and vary in terms of elevation and terrain (rivers, grasslands, marsh etc.) so the player not only has to take into account the enemies' positions but the best positions available for your own troops. Players have a wide range of character classes to choose from, so how they fight each battle is entirely up to them. If they prefer to use a majority of melee fighters or archers or magic users, the game caters to that, but the best tacticians can switch between them to fit the situation.
A battle will usually take you fifteen to twenty minutes, so be ready to properly sit down and play this thing. You need to concentrate and watch your opponent's moves in a fashion not too far removed from chess. For the most part you need to balance offence, support and defence simultaneously. Whether pushing ahead with your knights, healing wounded with clerics or firing upon enemy mages with archers, you need to think ahead and avoid showing a weak spot. Luckily, the game features a “Chariot Tarot” system that allows you to rewind a set amount of turns to replay a section of the battle if you really mess up. Now, this may seem like a game-breaking cop-out that lets you undo any mistakes, but it has limits and, trust me, it does come in handy when you are half an hour into a battle and it all falls apart as you let one of your healers die.
A real thinking man\'s tactical TBS, many hours of gameplay
Somewhat dated graphics, new players will have trouble getting into it