Back in the day, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together made massive waves in the tactical RPG genre. With a fantastic story and deep gameplay, it quickly went on to be a cult classic. Years later, it received a PSP port, allowing a new generation of gamers to experience the classic on the go. Over a decade later, Tactics Ogre is back with Tactics Ogre: Reborn. With a fresh set of paint, some quality-of-life improvements, and the beloved gameplay, can it still stand the test of time, or is it a reminder of how far we’ve come?
As previously mentioned, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together received a lot of praise for its narrative. For those unfamiliar with it, the story takes place on the Valerian Isles, which has a history of political conflict. Eventually, one man, Dorgalua Oberyth, brought peace to the isles until he passed away a good bit later. With no direct heir, civil war broke out on the Isles, ending with the Bakram, and Galgastani, which brings the narrative to the present.
From there, the adventure follows Denam, aided by his sister, Catiua, and their childhood friend Vyce, who banded together to protect their town from an incoming threat. After a brief misunderstanding, the groups band together, starting a larger narrative about sacrifice, honor, and rebellion.
What helps the narrative a lot are dialogue options. Not only do they help shape the direction you take, sometimes for the better, other times for the worse, with them having a distinct impact on how the adventure plays out. It makes subsequent play-throughs interesting since things will feel different than a slightly different line of dialogue. That is, assuming you have the skills to navigate this world multiple times.
Since Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a tactical RPG, it plays very similarly to Final Fantasy Tactics, or Disgaea. On the surface, it’s a straightforward game. Players take turns moving characters around the board, hoping to accomplish whatever a mission requires. Typically these include a central goal, like killing a specific character, along with optional functions that can be as simple as healing to changing how you approach a stage.
Part of what makes Tactics Ogre: Reborn tricky are the various tactical elements. One of the simplest is cards, which randomly spawn across the battlefield and give a specific positive or negative effect. The trick isn’t just picking them up, a task that requires players to end their turn on the space where the card spawns, as much as controlling the board. For example, specific attacks can move enemies over an area, making position very important. Ideally, this will result in an enemy losing their buffs, though it can also force players to avoid buffing the enemy. It makes things interesting, even if the randomness can cause issues down the line.
This Indicates My Shot Will Hit the Wall
Similar conditions also apply to attacks. While bows can easily hit enemies at a distance, obstacles or other challenges might ruin your shot. Likewise, magic will shoot forward, but not through different characters. If you’re not careful you might hit the wrong target or, worse, an ally, which is something to consider. Specific attacks also hit an area, such as a spear, meaning you can hit multiple enemies at once, have an enemy go through one of their allies to damage you or stab a friend to get your target. Paying attention to these elements is essential to winning.
Along with combat, there are a surprisingly high number of mechanics/equipment to deal with. Characters have the equipment, spells, skills, finishing moves, items, different classes, and more to consider. Specific challenges might force players to move more towards ranged weapons, characters with a higher jump, or just going for the attack to quickly end any threat. Enemies also have specific weaknesses that are helpful to exploit or devastating to deal with.
Unfortunately, navigating menus can be rough. There is a lot of information on each page, sometimes too much to be helpful, which can be overwhelming at first. Thankfully, there is an option that explains how the mechanics work, what every stat does, and explanations for how specific mechanics work, it just takes some time to get used to.
Even though difficulty was reduced, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is not afraid to punish players. From bad tactics and poor placement to even incorrect usage of skills, there will be times you’ll need multiple attempts to win an encounter. Sometimes it isn’t even tactics that fail you, as much as situations are overwhelmingly in the enemy’s favor.
While this can be discouraging, Tactics Ogre: Reborn has some other things that can further mitigate it. Upon losing a fight, you’re given three different options. You can restart the fight, restart “mid-way” through it, or outright give up. Mid-way is an exciting concept, as it helps players who either did the start right or don’t want to deal with the slow part where two or three turns are used to get pieces in place. During combat, there are two mechanics as well.
Who Doesn’t Like a Mulligan?
Chariot Tarot allows players to go back in time up to 10 turns. This will enable you to save yourself from a wasted attack and provide some course correction when things get down to the wire. It goes back to many turns, and players can also see what happened each turn. There is an option that explains who moved, what they did, and even what the outcome of that action was. It’s an excellent concept that helps accessibility. You can also make a quick save if you have things to do or want to keep that specific point.
Despite a lot of the improvement, graphics are a small step up from the earlier releases. Building on the gains it saw with the PSP version, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is just a fresh coat of paint. It looks much nicer with the pixel art design, though not as lovely as modern games with that style.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn Review Verdict
Tactics Ogre: Reborn hinges on what you’re looking for from a tactical RPG. If you’re looking for a game that challenges your ability to formulate a place, requires some grinding, and harshly punishes mistakes, you’ll love it. Likewise, if you want a fantastic narrative, it’s tough to beat the writing in this adventure. However, if you’re looking for something closer to what Disgaea does with a more serious tone, you’ll probably be disappointed.
[Editor’s Note: Tactics Ogre: Reborn was reviewed on PlayStation 5, the PC version was tested, and a copy was provided for review purposes.]