With rebellion, enjoyment is born
There’s a line. It’s unspoken and it’s hard to find but you’ll know it when it’s crossed. The line is where people finally tire of a property or theme and suddenly want nothing to do with it. It’s a zeitgeist; a cultural phenom and it will spread rapidly. It happened for zombies about ten years ago, and people are starting to come back to the beloved zombie trend now, and I think we’re getting close for Persona 5.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Persona and all its weirdness. It’s almost a little like HyperDimension Neptunia in its ability to stick with core characters but adjust the style completely around them. I think the issue is that there’s been a lot of Persona 5 in its myriad forms since it was first played on Western shores in 2017. Since then, we’ve been royalling, dancing, striking, and labyrinthing our way across genres with the Persona cast. Now, we’re going tactical.
Persona 5 Tactica for the first time doesn’t feel like a canon game. That’s just my gut instinct and it could definitely fall into the canon in a weird way, but the way the story is told makes me think it’s not. There’s no mention of Royal specific character Kasumi, for example.
Despite what I said before I’m not tired of the Persona 5 characters yet. I’m certainly getting closer, but I’m not there yet. The chemistry between the characters, even the two new ones introduced in this game feels great and even though I was keen to play the next combat, I never skipped dialogue and found myself chuckling along with the crew’s antics. I think in a huge part, that’s what makes Persona a great series.
The game is based on individual missions, of which there’s around sixty. These missions generally are kill all enemies, or survive a certain amount of turns. There’s also three ‘star’ objectives that more often than not meant that you need to complete the mission, not have anyone die, and complete it within a turn limit. Pretty basic stuff, but it’s nice to have something else to aim for on top of normal completion. Finishing these extra objectives gives extra experience and yen, which can be used for fusing personas and buying weapons.
The missions themselves are interesting enough; each map theme (kingdoms) has a gimmick to it you must abide by. Sometimes that’ll be elevators that need moving, or the inability to use certain types of attacks. It’s just enough to require you to think about strategy whilst also not being super obnoxious. Elevators do get pretty close though.
There is some interesting twists though. Everyone can use an extra persona, which will augment their stats and give them new abilities. Personas can also be fused together to make weapons with augments; something I imagine will be incredibly useful in the harder difficulties, but not something I had to worry about on the very pedestrian Normal difficulty. Still, the persona weapons also have a whole slew of differences to normal weapons like altered range or damage, so they’re worth investigating regardless.
Difficulty is a bit of a tough one for me. I did play on Normal as I was under some time pressure, but I hope to go back and play on Merciless. In general I found the game exceptionally easy. Attacking enemies out of cover gives “One More”, which gives you an extra turn. It also creates a triangle between you and your two other teammates that caused any enemies in the zone to take a lot of damage. You can spread this across the entire map with some forethought, so it wasn’t unheard of to wipe out all enemies in a single attack. It’s pretty powerful. Chaining these extra attacks was a great way to cross a great distance, and some of the more puzzle oriented missions required this. Still, it felt really good to lay slaughter across the battlefield.
One of the things the series has been renowned for is its music, and Tactica does not disappoint on this front. Persona 5 singer “Lyn” is back with her extra acid jazz/jazz fusion style, and I am totally here for it. I wasn’t amazingly swept away by one of the flagship songs, but I think some extra time to percolate on it could bring me around. Still, there’s some awesome tracks here.
One gripe I had was around the cover system. After playing myriad tactics games, especially X-COM ones, the cover system here barely makes sense. If you end your turn in cover, you’re covered from all directions. Directly behind an enemy with an open shot but they’re in cover from the front? Too bad. You’ll need to push them out, or use a persona ability then follow up with a physical attack to get that juicy extra turn. It works both ways too, so there’s a lot of silliness that can happen with that. Not a fan, but it’s a gameplay choice so who am I to judge.
I was a fan of the villains though. I feel like I bring this up every other review, and in a big part it’s because games use it so frequently in narrative, but as a man with amnesia (especially retrograde) the story resonated well with me. Persona hasn’t been shy about mental health issues (or anti-authority but that’s a whole other kettle of fish) and Tactica leans into cognitive therapy. Specifically around how things that happen in our past can alter the way we act about events in the present. I won’t dive too deep into it, but I do think it’s an interesting (albeit a bit shallow) look at the way a persona acts and reacts to events. But that’s Persona. It reminds me of the reddit post about making a person rethink their actions in regards to their friends.
The PC port had some annoying issues though. Even though you could choose borderless mode, clicking outside of the game minimised it and paused everything, meaning that I couldn’t just listen along whilst browsing the web or working on something else, something I enjoy doing quite a bit. I’m sure this’ll be ironed out, but I deeply disliked it.
Deep down, Persona 5 Tactica made me a bit mad at myself. I want to be sick of the Persona 5 crew, but I’m just not, at least not yet. If you strip away the Persona skin, there’s still a very enjoyable tactics game. I think if you love tactics games though, do yourself a favour and bump up the difficulty though and you’ll have a much more pleasant experience.
Persona 5 Tactica was reviewed on PC using a code kindly provided by the publisher.