Tactics Ogre - Review

An Exercise in Patience

By: Red Raven

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 7
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 7
   Plot 8
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete

70-100 hours

better n average

Title Screen

    Atlus' sequel to Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, continues much in the same vein as its predecessor. While it changed from quasi-real time combat to pure strategy RPG, TO still features multiple endings and an extremely long playing-time. Released in May of 1998, it had to battle that "other" tactics game, FFT. Seeing as they had the same programmers it came as no surprise how similar the games were. As such, there will be frequent comparisons between the two. And just for reference, Tactics Ogre came out first (it was RE-released in 1998).

    Fans of Ogre Battle will immediately recognize several similar aspects in TO. There are still class changes and for the most part they are the same kind you'd see in Ogre Battle. Most of the same species are there, along with some of the old heroes themselves (Warren, Canopus, ect.). The battles take place on huge isometric fields, with varying height, climate, and surroundings. While the battlefields are twice as big as in FFT, they cannot be rotated. After picking 10 members of your army, the battle commences on a turn-based system. Whoever has the highest speed rating goes first, and it continues until one side has won. Besides just equipment and class, you must factor in a unit's elemental rating in an attack. There are four elements (fire, water, earth, wind) and an attack can be increased or decreased in power according to your target and what type of terrain your standing on (swamp increases water, rocks increase earth, ect.). TO handles a soldier's death seriously, once a character has zero HP they die and are gone forever. No phoenix downs here. There is ONE reviving spell however, but you do not get it until much later in the game.

   Outside of the story and random battles, you are going to be spending most of your time training. A character's level is the most important aspect in Tactics Ogre; a one level handicap will spell a quick death in this game. Training consists of pitting a part of your army against the other part. You may control both sides, or you may want the computer to control the other side, or you could just have the computer handle the whole thing. Training becomes quite tedious, as you literally HAVE to do it between each story battle just to survive. Training will become roughly one-third of your game's total playing time. Outside of training, buying equipment and changing a character's class are important endeavors. Equipping is a little different, you only have 4 slots to put something, and each item will slow your character down making his or her turn come later in a battle. Magic is different as well, most of the time you have but three slots to fill. Class changes depend on the gender of your character, and of his or her alignment. Most of this stuff done easily, if somewhat slow (there is a short load time when opening a menu).

Get in
Invading a castle.  

   Music is admittedly not as good as FFT, but it isn't necessarily bad. However there are no memorial sweeping scores or any exciting themes either. The visuals are pretty much the same way. The characters designs aren't all that interesting and the portraits are okay at best. Music and graphics certainly aren't this game's strong suit.

   As far as originality goes, it is a refreshing change from standard RPGs. While permanent death is never a good thing, it at least forces you to think a bit ahead. A nice innovation is the fact that you may save during battles, a good thing since battles are longer than any other game. Being able to carry 10 troops into battle is a lot better than 5, as in FFT.

   The plot revolves around a major trading port, Valeria, and its battles between the various ethnic groups that live there. A benevolent king once united the islands of Valeria, but following his death a bitter ethnic war breaks out. You control Denim and his struggles to free the Walsta people from tyranny. Of course the battle runs much deeper than anyone ever expects. The plot is excellent and shifting, depending on your actions.

   Localization is pretty much okay, unlike the often-quoted FFT. Tactics Ogre has some interesting dialogue and I have found no obvious mistakes.

Selecting your element.  

   Replay value is a hard score because the length of the game. It is very true that there are 8 COMPLETLY different endings that you can get; every decision you make through the course of the game changes the outcome. The game is pretty fun as strategy games go, but it is incredibly long. You'll likely spend a full 100 hours just getting one ending. So if you feel like you need to see more than one, expect a huge investment in time.

   The hardness of the game is really undermined by the ability to save during battles. While the story battles are very tough, and deaths are more or less permanent, you could always save before the finishing blow and correct that mistake before it happens again. Yes it is a pretty cheap way of playing, but go for it if it helps you beat this tough game.

   While Tactics Ogre cannot stand toe-to-toe against the majestic and beautiful FFT, it still can claim the true strategy RPG crown. The battles are longer and more involved, the stakes are higher, and the quest is longer. If you want a delightful sprinkle of strategy, by all means go play FFT. But if you want the real guts and glory of a real strategy game, than Tactics Ogre is certainly your RPG.

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