Title: Tactics Ogre: Reborn
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: November 11, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Square Enix
Back at the beginning of this year, Square Enix and Artdink released Triangle Strategy, a strategy RPG that drew heavy inspiration from the 1995 Super Famicon game Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Some people on the Square Enix team responsible for greenlighting things thought it was thus only fitting to rerelease an updated version of that original game with Tactics Ogre Reborn.
While Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together has seen several rereleases on the Sega Saturn, PlayStation 1, and PlayStation Portable, Tactics Ogre Reborn, a vastly inferior name, let’s be honest, will see the game come to PC and Nintendo Switch as well as PlayStation 4 and 5. I tried to play this game once when I was much younger and dropped it after I didn’t get very far. Then I just sort of forgot about it. So now’s a great time to try again and put the world to rights once more.
Tactics Ogre stars the war orphans Denam Pavel, his sister Catiua and childhood friend Vyce Bozeck from the realm of Wallister, oppressed by the realms of the Bakram and the Galgastani. These three, part of a small resistance, attempt to ambush and kill the leader of the Dark Knights, Lanselot, only to find their target is an entirely different man with the same name. However, with his and his allies’ help, the group can rebel and save the Duke, so they can start fighting back to retake control of their country.
Or so it would seem, but Tactics Ogre is hardly so simple, as you, in the shoes of Denam, make essential choices that will cause the story to diverge drastically from just the ending of the first chapter, and it makes for an incredibly gripping and emotionally charged story.
If you can even make it to the end of the first chapter.
Tactics Ogre is a grid-based SRPG that has you control Denam and his forces, a collection of generic units customizable with changeable names and job classes, which you will move around the map to take down your foes. It sounds simple enough, and it is. However, you don’t start with many skills and have some guest characters to help curb everyone around you.
But then you start picking up new techniques, gear that alters your physical and elemental resistances or grants passive effects, characters get better with particular weapons as they use them, and suddenly things start getting a little more complicated. And I haven’t even gone into the permadeath yet (just like in Final Fantasy Tactics, if a unit hits 0 HP, you have three turn cycles to revive them or end the map before they’re killed off). This all makes each battle a slow, methodical process, wherein you’ll need to make the most of your character’s skillsets or switch their class so they can fill another niche.
The original game was significantly more complicated, with TP and MP for skills, classes with abilities that needed additional components, and SP gained from battles for learning abilities, including wearing equipment. Tactics Ogre Reborn streamlines these systems, getting rid of TP and SP entirely and having skills learned by classes via level-up, allowing easy switching of roles.
The entire system has been rebalanced, which includes a total removal of random encounters, new training maps which don’t have permadeath applied to them if you need to grind up a weak unit, and the carry-over of the chariot mechanic from the PSP rerelease, which allows you to undo turns and saves your changes as flowchart splits so you can technically make optimal decisions. I don’t think for even a second,d though, that they’ve made this game any more accessible. Anything you can do, your enemies can do, and you have a level cap raised over the story. You’ll never need to grind, and I only ever undertook training battles to test the viability of specific strategies.
When I first played this, I thought I was just not good at strategy RPGs. It made sense at this point; I’d only played Pokemon and some Final Fantasy games and didn’t even know what Fire Emblem was. Coming back, no, after becoming significantly better at the genre, playing more video games, and running through Fire Emblem challenges for fun. I see now. I wasn’t bad at all; Tactics Ogre is that hard.
And I kind of wish there was an easy mode. Not for me, as spending aeons on each map planning out what moves I’d do and running into a few failures now and then made my successes all the sweeter. I adore this gameplay. But this title isn’t just gameplay. It’s got an extremely compelling cast, now entirely voiced, and a story so incredibly engaging that when you beat the game once, you’ll want to check out the other paths and bonus content to see how wild the domino effect can be.
Characters will develop entirely differently in other routes just because of your choices. This game is more significant than Final Fantasy XI, which is absurd. I wouldn’t say I like the smoothed-out pixels in the character sprites, but the maps and character portraits are fantastic. The music, rearranged by the original composers with a live orchestra, is magical, featuring new tracks entirely as well, and there are even little composer notes for them all as well.
This game is filled with soul, and I know that people will see the fantastic scriptwriting with lines like ‘I will fear no reproach. For man is a creature of sorrow and fault, and ever will be.’ And then immediately get their skull caved in.
Tactics Ogre Reborn is a remake that filled me with joy and nostalgia for something I couldn’t even get close to beating as a kid. It’s an enriching experience with some of the best strategy gameplay around. I hope this leads to remakes of other Ogre Battle games and maybe Final Fantasy Tactics titles while they’re at it.
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