I originally wasn't going to buy Tactics Ogre. When it first came out, there wasn't much noise about it, until a few weeks later. Then reviews came out and it very, very quickly climbed up the charts on gaming websites. I read reviews and I gathered that it resembled Fire Emblem in gameplay. But I didn't like the graphics and it starkly reminded me of Final Fantasy, most likely because Square Enix developed both Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre.
Recommend this product?
After going through enough reviews and screenshots, I finally figured why not, and I started playing the game about two months after its release.
The first impression I had of it was of being overwhelmed. After putting in your basic information (name, birthday, and a few personality questions that determined your stats,) I was thrown right in. Head first. And I crashed. The first scene that included dialogue confused me. I had no idea what a "Bakram" was, or the "Galgastani" for that matter. Even after skimming through the background information of the booklet, there was just so much information to take in. Even throughout the game, a good deal of background reading (fortunately supplied within the game and added on to as you progress) is necessary to fully grasp what was happening.
However, that may just be my one major complaint. And even then, I know there are a number of players who would enjoy being thrown right in as opposed to needing to read all that background information first.
The basic plot is this: the land has just recently recovered from a war, only to find itself being on the brink of another. There is a power struggle higher up on the social ladder, and clans are fighting other clans to rule the land. You are of the Wallister clan, which just so happens to be the smallest clan in the land. There are different clans as well, including the Galgastani and the Bakram. The Xenobians are from Xenobia, and there are a handful of people you will encounter free from a clan. What is also interesting, however, is that the game puts you in positions where you must decide for yourself what the morally right decision is. There are also moments where you must decide whether to fight for peace for the entire land, or to fight for the Wallister.
As stated before, the gameplay resembles Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. But that is where the similarities end. Tactics Ogre is different from Final Fantasy Tactics, and even more so from Fire Emblem. The game is a turn-based strategy game full of controllable units. Each unit has a certain amount of speed (which is determined by their race, whether they are a man, dragon, etc.; their level; their class, whether they are a warrior, archer, sybil, etc.; and the weight of the armor and weapons they have equipped). This speed determines when each unit can move. Unlike many other games, in which you can move all your units in your own phase and then the enemy can move all his units in his phase, there are no phases at all. Each unit - friend or foe - is determined when they get to move by their speed. As confusing as this may sound, Tactics Ogre supplies a handy list of characters in the form of sprites lined up on the bottom of the PSP screen to tell you which unit will move next.
Also different from many other games is the fact that individual characters do not level up alone. They level up as a class. For example, if you only send one warrior out into the battlefield and you have three other warriors on standby, the three warriors gain the same amount of experience as the one warrior who went out there. Experience is also divided evenly among other classes. Upon winning a battle, you get a large sum of experience, which is then distributed among each class equally. This helps your healers and magic users massively, as no longer do you need to send your healer out into the battlefield to attempt a feeble attack that will probably get him killed.
The units you can control range from wizards to warriors to archers to dragons to even the undead. Characters can be recruited. Sometimes characters can be recruited through the storyline. Other times they can be recruited by your own units if you go up and talk to them.
However, to recruit units, you need the skill to be able to recruit. Each unit can have a maximum of ten skills, ranging from improving their accuracy to increasing defense to increasing critical hit rate. Skills can be acquired by giving up skill points to get them, and skill points are gained in the same way experience is: at the end of the battle, there is a large sum of skill points which is then distributed evenly among all units. However, unlike experience, skill points are only awarded to the units who fought in the battle.
However, the many layers of gameplay don't end there. Terrain can affect the accuracy of your attacks, and whether you face the enemy head-on or stab him in the back from behind affects accuracy as well. Higher terrain means the ability to shoot arrows farther away. The weather affects the accuracy of everyone on the battlefield, particularly archers when it is raining. It is possible to change the weather with the use of magic, or to simply wait it out. Certain armor resist some magic and some attacks better than others. Recruiting a Bakram and having the Bakram kill a member of his own clan in battle can lower his allegiance toward you. Your decisions may not be agreed upon by some members of your group, and as a result they may sometimes desert the party. Some units can enter the water and others can't. Some classes can wield both magic and weapons while others cannot. There are many different types of magic and some can be wielded by certain units while others cannot. The amont of depth that went into the creation of Tactics Ogre is astounding.
Alchemy is another aspect of the game that was added. It is possible to take weapons you already own and improve them. Improved weapons tend to be heavier than the ordinary weapons, but they also deal more damage and sometimes give status ailments to the opponent. Aside from weapons and armor, you can also create herbs through the use of alchemy.
A little less than halfway through the game, it is possible to unlock a training ground to increase the level of your units. It is also around this time that you are allowed to change into more interesting classes as opposed to the standard warrior, archers, etc. classes.
The replay value of Tactics Ogre is also incredible. Depending on your responses to certain events that take place in the game, there are four possible endings. Fortunately, Square Enix made it easy for gamers and created a World system. The World system maps out each event that takes place in the game and tells you where you made an important decision. It is then possible to return to that exact point in time and choose a different response.
While there are no difficultly settings for Tactics Ogre, there is a "Chariot" function that serves as an undo button. If an attack doesn't go as planned, or if you just want to see what would have happened if you tried something else, the Chariot allows you to do that. The changes are stored separately from the original battle, so it is possible to switch back to the original if you don't like the changes you made.
There is no voice cast, other than the cutscene that transitions you from one chapter of the game to the next.
Concerning graphics, I didn't take to the graphics very well. It's not that they were bad, but they were in a different style than most games. I did get past that very quickly, however. The soundtrack is also nicely composed. It's not the best I have ever heard from a game (Silent Hill takes the cake on that) but if I had to rate it, I would give the soundtrack a 7/10.
Overall, this game is very possibly the best tactical strategy game I have ever played. Despite being initially overwhelming, it is possible to catch up as long as you don't skim through the cutscenes and dialogue. Load times are literally almost non-existent, but if you really insist on the fastest speed possible the game has a data installation function. I don't think I have covered every single piece of Tactics Ogre, but I believe that would be impossible because there are just layers and layers of information everywhere. It really is a very, very thoroughly thought out game. I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who enjoys tactic games, or even strategy games. It's a moderately difficult game, but not overly so, and so it is a perfect for people used to tactic games. I would not, however, recommend this to people just getting into tactics due to how overwhelming this game can be. Regardless, Tactics Ogre is an excellent game, and it is very easy to put in over 100 hours on just the regular gameplay alone.
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