Review:Tactics Ogre: Reborn [PS5]
Tactics Ogre: Reborn is the rebirth of a strategy legend.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn from Square-Enix is a remaster of the a game that has appeared on multiple platforms since the Super Nintendo. It’s specific form of tactical role-playing is somewhat of a dying breed in the Triple-A world of gaming, relegated to more of the indie scene. So why now did Square-Enix choose to remake a game like Tactics Ogre: Reborn?
Famed producer Yasumi Matsuno, responsible for one of the other seminal strategy titles Final Fantasy Tactics, wrote most of the modern rules for strategy gaming. Still Tactics Ogre seems to have never gained the mainstream success due to depth of the series. Borderline unapproachable to casuals, the series punishes those who don’t take the time to plumb the depths of the menus and understand all of the systems at play. Tactics Ogre: Reborn sets out to remedy some of those problems.
Remaking a Legend
You begin as Denam, a somewhat naive solider who is fighting to defend his home. He and his sister Catiua, of the Walister clan, have been oppressed by the Galgastani for many years. Denam and Catiua, along with their friend Vyce, plan to form a rebellion and free Duke Rowney. They meet up with a group of mercenaries from Lodis, and plan their attack. Yet as time goes on, Denam will discover the difficulties of choosing sides and will learn about the horrors of war.
Tolstoy would be proud
The story is deep and can be difficult to follow with all of the various factions and titles being thrown about. The developers of the remake sought to remedy that by adding in voice acting for all of the dialogue, which is a welcome addition. The voice acting is tastefully presented and helps with the pronunciation of terms and names, which can be daunting at times. The script has undergone some enhancement from localizer Alexander O. Smith to try to tone down some of the antiquated speech of the original. Overall, I would say the story is easier to follow this go around.
Also to help with the formidable amount of information is the Warren Report. Think of it as the newspaper of the game. It contains helpful information for playing, along with a resource for terms and the various factions that make up the game. Certain events and titles can only be unlocked by checking the Warren Report, so it’s pertinent to refer to it from time to time.
The World Tarot system from the PSP version of the game returns here. This means that upon completion of the game you can return to any previous branch in the story. It acts a sort of new game plus if you will. So seeing alternate versions of the story play out is at your fingertips.
The horrors of war on display
The developers chose to add a graphic filter, and upscale the beautiful original sprite work. Not all will find that to be an improvement. Traditionalists will denounce the new look. To me, the new graphics give the game a kind of pastel look. I found it to be quite nice once I adjusted to the new look, but I also understand those that prefer the original look. I really feel that it’s a missed opportunity to not be able to convert the graphics back to the original style for folks who would be so inclined.
But to be able to view the battlefield on a giant TV screen instead of a handheld unit has its own upside. There is a lot of tiny text and details to take in, especially when configuring your units. A larger canvas is definitely an improvement over the PSP version.
Likewise, a new musical score has been created for the game. It’s certainly regal and bombastic, if at times overly so. Once again, I feel we should be given the option to return to the original score.
Take the battlefield
Battle consists of the typical grid based system, with characters moving a set number of squares per turn. Additionally, once within range you may choose to attack the enemy, cast a spell, or use an item. A lot of refinement has been added from that point forward to the game. The menu system has been totally remade to make it easier and less confusing.
One major change is that certain skills will activate automatically. Healing, too, has been given a considerable boost, making healing units much more valuable.
Additionally, ranged characters have been toned down from previous versions of the game. To help compensate a trajectory viewer has been added to help eliminate missed shots. Archers are no longer death dealing hellions that rain down pain but remain valuable.
One considerable change is, items are no longer available to the the group as a whole and must be assigned to individual characters. This change can make healing items and reviving fallen comrades much more difficult.
Furthermore, the game provides an auto refill of equipped items as long as you have the required amount to refill. I understand the change as the difficulty has been scaled back some. Still, it can be vexing when you don’t have the required item on a nearby character.
Class is in session
Gone is the confusing class system from the PSP version of the game, where all units of similar type leveled up together. Now every unit that survives the battle gains individual experience like most traditional role-playing games. Characters also carry over their levels even when changing class which makes class changes more desirable.
The skill system has undergone major changes. Previously, you could have all of the skills that you wanted provided you had the points to afford them. Now, each character is limited to four skills each. Some prior skills are now automatically added with level ups. It is both a boon and a curse to be limited in skills. It definitely makes for less customization for your forces.
Also new are charms which can raise stats, raise levels or even change your element. It adds customization where it was taken away in other areas.
Further, magic is limited to just four kinds now which is disappointing as well. I understand trying to simplify some of the myriad of systems in the game, but for those of you who like to experiment, you will be disappointed.
Leveling up is easier than ever
A new level cap has been added. This means that no individual member can exceed the party cap. This eliminates tank character being able to wade through damage. For good measure, training is available instead of random encounters, making it much easier to level up your group.
Despite all of the changes, the gameplay is still some of the best in the genre. You will marvel at every spell cast, and labor over every decision that you make. The basic structure of the game is still some of the best the genre has to offer. Expect to spend 40 hours or so plotting Denam’s journey.
When the war comes to an end
For the modern casual player, Tactics Ogre:Reborn‘s changes make the game much more approachable. Limiting options and cleaning up the menu go a long way to clearing up some of the less obvious aspects of the game. In addition, the great thing about remakes is that the originals are still there for you to enjoy. If you prefer the old version, it’s still out there for you.
I heartily recommend those that have shied away from the series to dive into this entry. It is far more approachable and easier to understand. Veterans of the series too should dive in to see the changes here.
The series has endured for one reason. It is simply one of the best in the field. Its battles are challenging and addictive. The story has substance, along with twists and turns. The characters are interesting and you care about them. The replay-ability is staggering and varied. The value contained in this game is off the charts. I’ve taken to calling the series Lord of the Rings-Chess. Like Lord of the Rings, there is a lot to digest, but that is why it endures.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a stellar refinement of an already fantastic strategy legend. Veterans and new players both should sign up to serve.