Tactics Ogre Reborn – A Turn Based Classic Returns

Tactics Ogre Reborn - A Turn Based Classic Returns

Grandad’s still got some moves

I’ve spoken about the importance of worldbuilding in games before. In my eyes, a world that lives and breathes is as important as almost anything. Very few games do this exceptionally well, and in the SRPG space, none do it as well as Tactics Ogre.

There’s a bit of an unrealised wish for the Ogre Battle series though. It’s sat on a shelf for quite a while; the last release was in 2010 for the PSP, and whilst it has good reviews it seemed a lot like no one was working on it. The games that are released are all part of an overarching plot but we haven’t seen quite a few of the story elements, instead diving in halfway through some of the bigger plot points. Thankfully, the games all stand on their own.

This is actually one of the very few times I’ve felt waves of nostalgia when playing a game. We start seeing Denam, our protagonist for the game, planning to attack the Dark Knights. He’s only got a small group with him but they still set out to attack the guy who razed their town years ago. Unfortunately for Denam, his intel sucks and he attacks the wrong guy. Seeing the error in their intel, they join forces with the people they attacked and end up helping the Liberation Front. This is the start of the game, and it only amps up with intrigue, betrayal and all the trims of a juicy political war from there.

When remaking a game, especially one that’s so incredibly old as Tactics Ogre, there’s a balance to be had; game design has come a long way in the years since release, but returning fans still want that big ol’ hit of nostalgia. Tactics Ogre: Reborn manages to skirt these two worlds amazingly. Some of the design is old, for sure, but many of the upgrades are fantastic. Overhead views, familiar but upgraded graphics, the re-recorded music with an orchestra, and the work on the rewritten script to make it more thematic for the time presented are all huge standouts to what makes this game absolutely fantastic.

Tactics Ogre: Reborn is the core example of a great SRPG. Each move you make breaks down into careful decisions. Will it put me in a good position for the upcoming turn? Will it mean I can get attacked? Am I attacking the enemy from an angle that I will get an assist in? Am I blocking movement to protect my squishy backline? All of these questions will run through your head as you move, but even if you screw up there’s a newly added mechanic to rewind a bit of play or undo the turn and you can take another stab at it.

Configuration is key too. The same class of unit can be built in multiple different ways, so they end up feeling completely different due to these changes. Changing classes is free anyway, so if you don’t like the new way they’re playing you can change that also and try something else. These mechanics mean that even across multiple playthroughs, the game could feel extremely different. That’s the reason people keep returning to Final Fantasy Tactics, and I hope the re-release of this game also brings it back into the zeitgeist.

Grinding is not needed either. Due to the team-level system, level caps are locked behind progression. This sounds awful at first, but it’s there to remind you this is a strategy game first, and you won’t out-level the combats. You’ll never completely stomp an enemy encounter without a great strategy, and that makes those combat wins all the sweeter.

There’s a whole slew of differences between versions of Tactics Ogre, as it’s been remade and redone a bunch of times. I’m not sold on all of them, but there’s some good stock here. Equipment changes mean you can equip items right after finding them, instead of having them level and skill locked. Technical Points have been replaced for spells with Magic Points, meaning you can cast and use weapon skills if able, but also that your MP will regenerate (and can be affected by skills) every turn. Charms will also appear on the battlefield, meaning if you move into specific squares you’ll earn a temporary buff. I’m not sure about this one as it adds a bit too much RNG to something that should be totally skill-dependent, but the buffs don’t offset the game too much.

Tactics Ogre: Reborn really set the gears in motion for a genre. Since the first launch of this game in 1995, a lot has changed and this title has been staunch in both keeping to its roots and also making some needed changes to modernise the game. I hope this means more is coming in both Ogre Battle and SRPGs in general because this game has only made me all the more hungry for them.

Tactics Ogre Reborn was reviewed on the PS5 with code kindly supplied by the publisher. 

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