|PS4/5, Xbox, Switch, Steam (played)
|November 11, 2022
Before there was Final Fantasy Tactics, there was Tactics Ogre. Often seen as a prototype of Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre has a similar graphical style, and a grandiose plot of political intrigue. Both games were remade for the PlayStation Portable, but in a strange turn of events, Tactics Ogre Reborn has arrived for modern consoles, while the more famous Final Fantasy Tactics remains on the shelf. Are the updates worth another visit to Valeria? Let’s take a look!
Please keep in mind that there are several branching story paths, and I have not played through them all, and some of this is from memory from playing a previous version of the game.
Violence: The artwork is classic SNES/PlayStation era pixel graphics, so you will not see all that much gore. However, the game is very violent. Many non-player characters are killed and not just in battle; civilians are slain, characters are stabbed, one is tortured with a whip for information, and in one path, a playable character commits suicide.
Language: There are a few foul words (b-t–, a-se, bastard).
Sexual Content: There are a few characters dressed provocatively, if you can even tell so in the game’s pixel art, but far more disconcerting is what is insinuated in the language at times in the game, implying that women are raped; things like “She’s yours. The spoils of war” and “We’ll put her to good use, won’t we, boys?”
If this is your first time through Tactics Ogre, the highlight will probably be the story. It is a deep, complex tale with many twists and turns, and several branching paths within the story, which was revolutionary in 1995 and still works well today. The story is dark and serious, and one of my favorite video game stories of all time. The personal drama around the main characters is not as poetic and clever as it is in Final Fantasy Tactics, but is still great. The game is voice-acted here for the first time, and I thought the performances were strong and enhanced the overall storytelling.
The reason why I say the story will be a highlight is not only because it is a great story. I say this also because everything else is still dated. Square Enix details the improvements to the game on their website, but frankly it needed far more. I still own the PlayStation Vita on which I played the PSP remake of Tactics Ogre, and comparing the graphics side by side with Tactics Ogre Reborn on a Steam Deck, they’re not that much improved. I would have rather seen the full 2D-HD treatment like Octopath Traveler or Triangle Strategy. In contrast to the visuals, the re-recorded soundtrack sounds fantastic.
Speaking of Triangle Strategy, it is under that game’s shadow that I have to continue my dissatisfaction with the systems of Tactics Ogre Reborn. Triangle Strategy kept what was fun in a strategy RPG—unique job abilities and skill points, creating different teams for different fights, accessories that let you specialize your characters—and threw away the rest. By contrast, Tactics Ogre Reborn still finds itself absolutely buried in menus and submenus, equipment management that’s boring and unintuitive, and the game is just often a slog when it should not have been. As a quick example, within shops you can see (after several button pushes) who can equip a given item in the shop, but not whether the item is better or worse than their current equipment! Final Fantasy had this figured out before the original Tactics Ogre was even released; I cannot believe this is an issue in a game released in 2022. I would have much preferred a complete overhaul of the game’s systems; I consider this much more of a grievance than the minimally updated graphics.
I am being harsh here, but I am specifically being harsh about the remake. While it still feels like you are playing an old PlayStation game, it is still worth it to do so, as this game tells a story worth telling. And it’s not that gameplay is actively bad; it’s just nothing close to what it could have been, and that’s a darn shame.
The Bottom Line
One of the best SRPG tales ever told did not get the gameplay updates it deserved.