Square Enix is treating us to a great lineup of quality games this season, and Tactics Ogre: Reborn is no exception. Out for PlayStation, the Nintendo Switch and PC, we checked it out on a PlayStation 4 Pro.
And we realize this is starting to sound like a broken record at this point, but Square’s decision to fill Q4 with a wide range of games that aren’t Final Fantasy (though Crisis Core is still coming) is paying off – there’s been a consistent quality to them and they’re not being overshadowed by a major AAA release either, so hopefully many of them get a chance to shine during the holidays. Tactics Ogre: Reborn returns us to the roots of the now-popular tactical RPG genre, which is helped pioneer back in the SNES days.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together on the PSP was a remake of that game, and provided the groundwork for Tactics Ogre: Reborn – which revamps and streamlines the experience with subtle improvements to the gameplay and a fresh layer of paint that retains the retro appeal of the classic version of the game.
With a fantasy backdrop, the game is set inside the Kingdom of Valeria, which is embroiled in civil war, betrayal and scheming – Tactics Ogre was essentially Game of Thrones before that was ever a thing. Three factions have risen to power: the Bakram, the Galgastani and the Walister, which you’re a part of. There are other characters you’ll encounter as well, making Tactics Ogre: Reborn a campaign rich with lore.
The story follows Denam, who together with his sister and childhood buddy decides to take up the fight and strive for a better future. And while that sounds like a generic setup, the narrative is truly impressive when you consider its mid-nineties roots. There are impactful choices to be made (narratively, but they also impact gameplay mechanics), there are several branches to the story, and there is replay value in the fact that you can steer the kingdom in different directions based on your actions.
And while this is a turn-based tactics game at heart, narrative plays a big role – even mid-combat when characters interact with one another. You’ll spend the bulk of your time with combat decisions though, equipping your team and/or making decisions on the battlefield. That’s where you can see how Tactics Ogre influenced today’s games with its class-based system, which you’ll play around with by pairing classes together and/or against each other, and by seeing which loadout works best for a particular class. And as battles become larger in scale, the complexity and challenge grows.
While Tactics Ogre: Reborn can still be recognized at the PSP classic it became about a decade ago, new elements have been added to the game as well. Additional skills and items can be played around with, and you’ll find optional objectives in combat scenarios that weren’t there before. The PSP version had random encounters that are no longer here though, which I thought was a shame. I know not everyone’s a fan, but for an “on the go” system the experience didn’t have to be as streamlined as the new version is. Similarly, the level cap system has also been tweaked to reduce grind – though moments will still feel ‘grindy’ – but which game in this genre isn’t?
Audiovisually, Tactics Ogre applies polish to what was there in the PSP version but also stays true to that visual style. A few visual effects and a higher resolution are appreciated, but this one won’t blow you away. In fact, some of the user interface elements feel like they could have used some of that streamlining that was applied to the gameplay mechanics, as Tactics Ogre can feel very menu-heavy at times. That’s mostly just nitpicking though, as Tactics Ogre: Reborn is here to remind us why it’s revered as a classic in its genre. A must-play for those who never got to play it before.