Tactics Ogre: Reborn is like a blast from the past for me! It’s a series I haven’t heard of in a long time. I think the last Tactics Ogre game I played was the Playstation version, way back in the 90s.
Ah, the 90s were the golden age of SRPGs. You had Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force, Hoshigami, Kartia and a ton of other SRPG games popping out of the woodwork. Every other month it seemed brought a cool new SRPG!
Dredged up from the golden age, does Tactics Ogre: Reborn have what it takes to stay relevant and more importantly, fun, in this new age of gaming?
Find out inside!
What is Tactics Ogre: Reborn?
Tactic Ogre: Reborn is a 2D single player turn-based Strategy RPG. It’s a remake of Tactics Ogre, a game that original came out on the 90s for the SNES, Saturn and Playstation consoles. The game is available now for the Playstation consoles, PC and Nintendo Switch.
The remake’s developed by Square Enix and published by Square Enix and Bandai Namco (in Asia).
Our review copy was given to us by the great folks at Bandai Namco!
Tactics Ogre: Reborn is ultra serious, despite its cutesy looking characters.
That’s the first thing you should know about the game. There’s no humor, no lighthearted japes or quips. Just death, death, death and more death. Your allies die, your friends die, your siblings die…everybody dies.
Death is an integral part of the plot, with you in the shoes of young warrior Denam, who wants to overthrow the yoke of oppression over his country and kinsmen. Wearing Denam’s shoes, you’ll also make decisions for him, which affect how the story unfolds.
Will you be a pragmatist who’s willing to commit heinous deeds for your end goals? Will you be kind and put the needs of others first? Will you mercilessly kill your enemies? Will you let them free if given the chance?
There are a ton of choices to be made in the game and a lot of them directly influence the plot and what you face in the future.
It’s a great plus point for Tactics Ogre: Reborn, because the choices actually affect a lot of events and not just the main, important ones. Even side content can be affected by what you say and your actions.
That means that once you’re done playing, you’ll want to jump right back to in to see how things would’ve unfolded if you’d done something else.
No matter what though, be prepared for a ton of fights.
Battles are really complex because it takes into account where your character’s facing, elevation and line of sight. Spells and arrows for example, will hit your own characters if they’re in the way and area of effect attacks will damage your own team too if you’re not careful.
Even the types of weapons used has a bearing on how much damage you do to armor types!
The visuals harken back to the original, though the new sprites are much better and more animated. Environments look better as well, despite retaining their old school looks. Spells and special effects aren’t as cool as they could be though but I guess it’s all in line with the aesthetics that Tactics Ogre: Reborn has going for it.
Like its contemporary, Final Fantasy Tactics, it also incorporates a job system for your characters. The system dictates what weapons and skills you can use so it’s advisable to have a well rounded party that’s made up of the game’s classes.
One thing I really dislike about the class system is how disorganized it is. You switch classes with Job cards (that you can win through battles or buy) so there’s really no incentive to stick with one job and master it, unless you really want the unlockable skills.
You can mix and match skills to a certain extent so while there’s not much incentive to sticking with a job that you don’t like, there’s still some degree of customization to be done.
Annoyingly, the game imposes a Union Level on your party. It’s basically a soft level cap that shows you how high you can level your characters at any given point of your story. I honestly hate it because it forces you to grind unless you like going up against enemies that are stronger than you.
Let’s say the Union Level is 7 and you’re level 5.
If you choose to proceed with the story at that point, prepare to get your asses handed to you because enemies WILL be at level 7. You can’t level past your enemies and steamroll them so you HAVE to grind and level up to stand a chance.
So what do you do when you hit the Union Level cap? Your extra XP is converted in XP charms that you can use to give free XP when the Union Level rises. Of course, it only rises when you progress the story, so if you’re having issues with a certain battle and have hit the Union Level cap, you’re screwed.
That’s more likely than you think too because Tactics Ogre: Reborn will not hold your hand.
It will almost always pit your crew against overwhelming odds, and on terrain that the enemy has an advantage on. It’s a hard slog and most of the fights aren’t won through cunning or tactics (despite the complex battle mechanics) but healing through the damage as you focus your attacks on one enemy at a time.
Healing is paramount because death is incredibly punishing if you do bite it.
Death is permanent in the game, so if your characters fall in battle, you either revive them before their death countdown expires or you lose them for good. Thankfully, if you win the fight with dying characters (aka downed characters with their countdown timers), you won’t lose them.
New to the series are the addition of cards that randomly appear during battles. These can give a temporary buff to your characters, nullify all the buffs or in the case of green cards, permanently increase a character’s stats.
Your enemies can pick up the cards too, so you’re not the only one who can use them. While most of the buffs aren’t that noticeable, the green cards that permanently raise stats are a MUST whenever they do drop.
There is also one more new addition to the game in the form of the Chariot Tarot. It basically functions as a rewind button, allowing you to go back a certain number of turns (the number depends on the battles) and try out a different plan if you’re being trounced.
Hands down, this is THE best singular addition to the game because it basically allows you to no spend hours upon hours retrying a battle if it doesn’t go your way.
There aren’t any random battles in the game, so that’s a plus because you’ll be fighting more than enough times.
All of the fights take place with an isometric viewpoint, that you can zoom in and out of, as well as look from the top down. Weirdly enough, you can’t rotate the camera, which lends to a ton of problems in some stages.
You’re constantly forced to look at the top down view (which doesn’t show elevation) to navigate around areas because you simply can’t see where you can move to. Why didn’t Tactics Ogre: Reborn just implement a 3D camera I have no idea but this omission alone is one of the game’s major flubs.
Another major issue?
The game makes equipping your soldiers needlessly convoluted, making you navigate menu upon menu just to check and equip gear.
You can’t just assign gear to your characters after you buy them from the shop. Nope, you have to go back into the party menu, select the character and then equip the item.
Is it period correct? Yes, the 90s had a ton of UI that were user unfriendly and it’s sad to see that Tactics Ogre: Reborn choses to retain that.
Thankfully crafting is much more user friendly.
You can craft even with equipped gear and if you don’t have the materials, the game helpfully tells you how much it would cost to buy them and ask whether you want to buy. If you do, you’ll proceed straight to crafting your stuff.
It’s sooooooo much easier than trying to buy items from the store. It’s worlds apart in ease of usage that I wonder if it was designed by two different UI designers.
The Bottom Line.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a remake that is pretty steadfast to the original.
That’s both a good and bad thing.
Those who played the original will find that the gameplay’s not only intact, it’s been enhanced. Fights are more involved (though still a contest of heals) and the story is just as mature with tons of consequence.
Those who don’t like SRPG or new to the genre will absolutely hate the game. It doesn’t hold back its punches and the Union Level mechanic is a stupid idea that penalizes you for no real reason. It’s especially punishing for newbies and they can’t just overpower their enemies through over levelling.
Hopefully there’s a patch to make the Union Level mechanic optional coming soon…
Only for the old school and SRPG fans. Everybody else will get bored after a few battles.
- Choices matter.
- Fun battles.
- Retro visuals are awesome.
- No random battles.
- Enjoyable plot.
- Rewinding time with the Chariot Tarot.
- No freely adjustable camera.
- Union Level is a stupid idea.
- No real reason to master jobs.
- Punishing difficulty on some maps.
- Buying and equipping gear is cumbersome.