Persona 5 Tactica Preview – Stealing the Grid

I think I could literally hear the internet let out a collective sigh when we found out (from an internal leak, no less) that Atlus was developing yet another Persona 5 spinoff. Personally, I’ve never understood the issue – it’s not like they’re making these games instead of Persona 6, and I’ve enjoyed all of them. Tactica actually intrigued me even more than Persona 3 Reload, which was leaked at the same time.

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After all, a new title in my mind has more potential than a remake, and with it now exploring a genre that Persona has never touched before and using a very similar aesthetic as the Persona Q series, Tactica had my full attention. Now that I’ve gotten to play it at PAX West, I’m happy to say that it’s got me in its clutches so far.

Tactica, like Persona Q2: New Cinema Labyrinth, sees the Phantom Thieves trapped in another world from which they must escape. This time, they’re stuck in a medieval fantasy world trapped under a tyrannical ruler, and they join the young resistance fighter Erina to rise and begin the revolution. This demo didn’t cover very much plot ground, but Erina slots right into the group in a similar way as Sophie did in Strikers, so I’m confident these characters are in solid hands.

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Really, the exciting part here was the gameplay. Persona 5 Tactica is, as you might guess from the name, a tactical RPG taking place on a grid map, where the goal is to outmaneuver your foes without ending up in a precarious position yourself. The movement feels unique, as rather than just picking a square to move to, you can freely move the turn character within their range. I like this touch because it emphasizes that you can reconsider your choices on the fly without having to undo and then redo your actions.

As you’d expect from Persona 5, once in position, you can make a regular attack, use your gun, or summon your turn character’s Persona for a magic spell. The One More system has been integrated to allow your character to make a second action after striking an enemy weakness or scoring a critical hit, and this is now even more important than ever because of the way All Out Attacks are now performed.

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Rather than knocking down all enemies, you can knock down just one, but you then have to enclose the foes you’re trying to hit in a triangle with your characters. This adds even more consideration to how you position your squad, as it may be better to get someone in the right spot for an all-out attack, even if it means they can’t perform their own individual strikes. Still, you also may have to give up on your plan if something more pressing has to be handled first.

It’s an exciting new flavor of risk/reward gameplay that mixes well with the other changes to Persona’s typical combat. For example, your magic now has an area of effect by default rather than the player needing to learn multiple versions of the same spell to attack multiple targets simultaneously. The title also introduces an XCOM-style cover feature that adds even more layers to character movement, as ending your turn in a vulnerable position can quickly spell trouble.

Persona 5 Tactica looks set to add yet another solid title to the franchise that proves that there’s always more that can be done with a beloved set of characters. When I originally finished Persona 5 and then Royal, I was already longing for even more to do with this cast; more adventures to go on with this crew I’d spent almost two hundred hours with already. If Atlus wants to give me that chance and keep delivering quality experiences, I’m certainly not gonna say no.

Persona 5 Tactica releases on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, and PC via Steam and Xbox consoles via Game Pass on November 17, 2023.

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