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Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together

 

Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PSP
Category: Strategy
 
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Developer: ArtDink/Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix

Features:

1 player
224MB game save
Umd/PSN Download
Rated Teen

Tactics Ogre was originally developed for the Super Famicom by the same team that later created Final Fantasy Tactics, with both games focusing on grid-based, stat-driven combat between diminutive soldiers and storylines steeped in political intrigue. This relatively obscure cult classic once again takes to the field of battle with a PSP remake. Was it the right decision to rekindle and re-master this turn-based war?

Graphics

The few areas where Tactics Ogre falls short tend to be where it doesn't distance itself enough from its roots. It is the game's graphics that may have most gamers balking, at the old-school look and feel. Although every character's updated portrait is crisp and fits with his or her personality, the main sprites still show their tiny, squishy, and somewhat cartoonish age.

The graphics and presentation are a real mixed bag. Virtually nothing has been done to change the fuzzy sprites and backgrounds of yesteryear, still looking like they belong on a Super Famicom. On the other hand, the detailed character artwork and maps outside of combat are gorgeous, although not in a technically impressive way. I find that in this type of game the game play actually beats out the graphical flavourings. It would have been nice to have a complete upgrade on the game's looks, but for the most part they will suffice.

Sound

The game's sound work is in a word fantastic. The soundtrack is top notch and the sharp sound effects can have a profound impact on a tense battle. In fact, I think the sound plays an even more important role than the graphics; we get great crisp clean effects that really add a layer of lustre that the graphics don’t. The music is made up of mostly a classic orchestral nature and it’s a superb fit. Appropriately enough, the high drama of the battlefield is backed by a driving orchestration. The sound team has expertly expanded on Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata's original work. Beyond the complete re-orchestration, they've added new tracks into the body of regal marches and ominous backroom slinks. Delicate harps and wistful woodwinds hide among the military surge, keeping balance and adding subtlety. Most maps have their own battle themes, which keeps the music fresh and the volume firmly unmuted.

There is no voice work to mention, but the music more than makes up for any lack-there-of. As is the nature of the game, gamers are going to spend an incredible amount of time thinking about the next move in battle and dealing with the party outside of combat. As we think and plan, the game's background music is paramount to our enjoyment, even if is on a subconscious level. It can get a little repetitive but it’s beautiful, and it never wears on the player.

Gameplay

Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together (TOLUCT) shares a few things in common with Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, the excellent Tactics remake that came out on PSP a year ago. Most in common is the art style, which carries over from the character portraits to the in-game sprites, and the rather old school dialogue that can make the plot more confusing than it needs to be.

Ogre Tactics is a pretty involved tale of warring nations, factions, rivalries and so on, with a lot for the gamer to keep track of. If you manage to follow all of it though, it ends up tying together quite well, and there are a few different outcomes to explore via the Chaos, Law, and Neutral paths you can take.

You'll take on the role of Denam, a young man who is partnered with his sister and friend Vyce on a quest for vengeance against the dark knight that destroyed their hometown and executed the majority of its citizens. It's a very basic premise that ends up being something far more complex, which I will let you find out on your own. Needless to say there is a ton of double crossing and revelations to be uncovered throughout the plot, and even a couple of things that threw me for a loop. The ability to make key decisions during dialogue points isn't new to videogames. In fact it's one of the oldest tricks in the RPG library; but the choices you make do have quite a bit of impact on the story within Tactics Ogre. Depending on the path you take you'll gain different unique members for your party, so it's worth taking the time to plunge into the lengthy campaign more than once.

Combat plays out very much like other grid based strategy role playing games; we have all played them in some form or another. At the outset your job is to create a group of characters from a fairly large roster, which can be upgraded by story points and the ability to recruit enemies while in battle. Your core group or numbers of characters might vary from battle to battle, sometimes with groups as low as 4 or 5, going all the way up to 10 plus. Essentially each character takes a turn moving and attacking, and the enemy will do the same. Turns are intermixed and you're able to reference a handy chart during game play that will give you an idea of whose turn is coming up next. One new inclusion to the PSP version of the game that relates to turns comes in the form of the CHARIOT system. This allows you to take back turns, up to 50, which comes in handy for correcting a tactical mistake. The system reminded me of the rewind feature on Forza 3, a little bit of a cheat. Some would think that this might literally break the game, but when you factor in that most later battles involve 20 or more characters, you're really only setting the clock back about two and a half turns all together. It's enough to correct mistakes sometimes, but definitely not to guarantee a win. You really do have to re-think your moves; if you don’t you can go down the same path of defeat just as easily. There's no cost or penalty for harnessing the power of the Chariot, but if you decide to take your lumps, there's a three-strike system for permanent character death. If you do lose someone for good, you can hire a decent replacement. Because it's the profession and not the character that actually levels up, you can sustain a few casualties without totally crippling your army. The downside is that it takes a bit of old-fashioned grinding to level up new combat roles later in the game.

What makes the game addictive at least to me is not the combat but the whole recruiting system. I found that on numerous occasions it began putting a serious hamper on my actual story progression. The lure of finding that perfect character to plunk into a given role is quite satisfying. It's a little bit like Pokémon in that there are so many classes and races, that you feel the urge to collect everything possible. You can literally create armies, and some of the beast units are pretty incredible once you start to build up their skills. Overall the process does take a long-time, but that’s what Tactics is all about. I must warn some gamers to remember that, the game is Chess not Checkers! I must say thankfully the combat is good enough to make that actually fun.

In the end though equipping all these units is the exact opposite of fun, even for the most ardent fans. I found my attention waning after some hours of having to tinker. I’m really quite unsure how the Tactics fans endure such a long process. The actual mechanics of accessing and switching is handled by the PSP quite admirably; being able to switch between units quickly within various sub-menus is really nice. However, the shops where you buy equipment and do crafting needs a bit of an overhaul. I do believe there was some work already done to the user interface for this remake, but there are still some issues that should be addressed. For one, I found it quite annoying not to be able to try on equipment for my characters in the shop. You can see what classes can equip whatever equipment, but for some reason you can't view how the stats will improve, or even if they are already wearing a particular piece of armour. This compounded by the sheer numbers of units you own, you may find yourself literally needing to write down what you currently have equipped, go into the shop to buy the appropriate equipment and then go back into the party menu to equip it. Whew! That seems like a lot of work, way too much for the casual gamer indeed. I’ve seen lots of other RPG Tactic games that have a dressing room or a staging area that addresses this very shortfall.

Another annoying aspect comes from crafting, which is actually overall a really useful aspect, but a complete pain in the ass to do. Most of the weapons and armour upgrades are going to require multiple materials to make, with a certain ore being used to create them. Ores like silver, gold, iron and so on. However, if you have 20 basic ore pieces (just a round general figure), you can't select silver ore and simply create 20 from your basic pieces. You have to craft each piece of ore one at a time, yes ONE AT A TIME! Unfortunately it is a ridiculously time consuming, annoying waste of time. I find it to be the most glaring and major oversight in the game period. It's a shame too, because by crafting upgrades to weapon and armour you can make great improvements on your current equipment. I could easily see the average player not wanting to put up with the frustratingly slow process to even bother with this side of the game.

The game's battles are fought turn by turn, and the mechanics of combat appreciably show depth where you wouldn’t think. Even secondary factors like terrain and weather can make a difference in a battle. A preview window displays your basic chances of landing an attack, but you can't just go by the numbers. An archer on high ground can fire past his indicated range, or a mage may hit an unintended target with a poorly aimed spell. I love how some of the little things can affect the outcome of any given battle.

The game has no online capability which is a bit of a shame. The very lengthy and deep 1 player game is enough to keep most gamers happy, but it would have been interesting to pit your army of units up against a friend or someone else halfway around the world. The possibilities of this type of game online are quite limitless.


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