Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tactics Ogre: Let us cling together review

Ok let’s be honest and get the obvious out of the way first. Firstly, yes this is very similar to Final Fantasy Tactics as it was made by Quest but Quest who made the Ogre Battle series before FFT came out lost several key members who then left for Squaresoft to then make FF:Tactics and Vagrant Story so you could say that this is a variation or improvement of it. Secondly, as like me, a lot of you are who only played and knew of Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen back on the SNES were hoping for something similar to it, but where Ogre Battle was the 5th chapter in the series, Ogre Tactics is the 7th and places itself further along in the saga of world known as Valeria and thus required a different approach. Also to my surprised this game has already been re-released previously from its SNES roots to the Sega Saturn and Playstation back in 95-96. The PSP version, which was only recently released in February doesn’t really matter as I am so entrenched in (much to my girlfriend’s chagrin), is a re-make, not that I’m complaining.

 For lovers of turn-based rpgs this game will not disappoint. A lovingly epic story unfolds as you guide your young protagonist Denam, his sister Catiua and best friend Vyce plan to get revenge on the country and people responsible for destroying their hometown and loved ones. Through fate they end up joining the Walister (their clan) resistance whose people have been suffering from prejudice and tyranny from the other two major powers (Galgastan and The Bakram-Valeria kingdom) after the death of the king who unified the country. After showing your bravery in battle the leader gives you your own group of soldiers whom you get to name and get sent out to fight for the cause. After a few battles where you get used to the mechanics of the game, things get interesting as the game sends you down various paths depending on the choices you make, from the alignment (Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic), plot and moral choices, which offer plenty of replay to get all of the dramatically different endings and characters that can only be recruited on certain paths.

Rich story script can be found in cutscenes and during battles.

As for the mechanics the game offers numerous classes and throws a twist on them by only allowing you to change between them by using Marks that you find through loot and from the shops though some can only be found by defeating certain enemies which can give you pause when it comes to character development though the game encourages to do so as various skills can only be learned through specific classes, example: the Trajectory skill which shows you the arc your arrows will fly, without it you will learn the hard way that even if you can hit your chosen target with 100% success, it can still land in your friendly comrades back (ouch!). It did made me wonder why archers and melee classes had access to it yet not to the casters who can still fireball your allies if they don’t have a clear line of sight. Note that xp and skill points are divided by all participants and levels are determined by class level and not by character alone, so as you recruit your new Beastmaster, they will start at lv1 unless already brought up higher by others which can make things difficult with item level restrictions. Along with keeping to the tarot system from Ogre Battle you can use the cards to cast beneficial or detrimental effects, though compared to the bags of loot on the battlefield the cards cannot be retrieved unless specifically moving a character onto it which also bestows a small permanent stat change.  One of the more fun and intriguing mechanic in the game is the chariot wheel which allows you to backtrack up to 50 turns in a battle, so if you ever wondered what would’ve happened if you casted a different spell or dispatched the priest instead of that knight then you can give it a go. Though for you purists and stat fanatics, the game keeps track on how many battles you’ve won without using it.

Archers are a favorite of mine for their distance and high damage.

With a well written story, beautifully drawn character portraits, crisp graphics (my favourite being the spell and weather effects, the lighting storms especially) and challenging gameplay it is a must have for the PSP system and rpg fans alike, especially for the long car trips like the one I will be doing from Ottawa to Boston for PaxEast. I give this game an A.
Please feel free to post your thoughts about the game and give it a thumb’s up if you enjoyed this review. Thanks! =)
PS. I found myself smiling a bit at the game’s spells as they used French words for them and as it is my first language it made me chuckle as I read their descriptions and nodded happily to see that they fitted fairly well.

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