THERE are a dozen reasons to not recommend the original Tactics Ogre.
The name really does imply everything you need to know: it’s a tactical game, and it’s brutish in nature, evoking the high difficulty and permadeath of the early Fire Emblem games we never saw in the West.
Tactics Ogre’s characters are better realised than ever before.
The game doesn’t hold your hand much at all, assuming that you’ll either be delving into the in-game tips and tutorial menus or are well-versed in strategy RPGs.
If you haven’t been down this road once before, then you will be a fish out of water, as there’s not even a difficulty option here to ease you into things.
Despite all that though, if you have been down this road once before, then this could be considered an essential RPG.
For all of those frustrations and the quality of life features you may have expected that haven’t been added anyway, Tactics Ogre: Reborn feels like a very pure experience.
There’s no layer of irony when it presents its world and races, no nudge and wink when it revels in the presentation of its lore like the player just might be entirely unfamiliar with Tolkien-inspired fantasy.
It’s honest, straightforward, and that’s how the battles play out too.
Thankfully you can dive into a menu and undo a turn if you truly end up regretting your moves, and a turn is only set in stone once you’ve used an Action, just so you don’t end up repeating arrow shots until you manage to score a critical strike, and still leaves you with the option of repositioning to get your attacks around allies and onto foes.
Yep, this is a tactical RPG in the same vein as Final Fantasy Tactics, just a fair bit more brutal.
But that overall harsher tone carries through to the story.
Nothing about the world of Tactics Ogre feels whimsical, it involves orphaned children, religion, knights, mercenaries, necromancy, and all of it feels dire.
It’s a world where any kind of social mobility for our protagonists happens through murder, ordered by a lord of some kind that only ever has their own interests at heart.
People come to your aid if you’ve paid them to do so, nobody is a part of your party out of the goodness of their heart, not even really the people your protagonists grew up with. The power of friendship is always secondary to the power of survival.
That’s the Tactics Ogre that players have had the chance to get to know already, but Reborn is a new remake.
It manages to make the story more impactful than ever thanks to full voice acting, which truly brings each and every character to life.
It can’t be understated how much of a difference this makes, and of course, that’s going to make you care that much more when you hear a voice you’ve come to care for cry out in pain.
They don’t die instantly, instead getting a three-turn countdown, but if you don’t make it over with a revive spell or item in time, they’re gone forever.
Permadeath makes you care about each unit, and giving those units a voice enhances the effect.
The presentation outside of battles is also fantastic.
Menu animations swing by at a smooth 60fps, and the layouts allow you to understand the build of each of your units better at just a glance – though, there’s still plenty of nuance for you to dig into, or go over your head.
It all feels incredibly polished, but then, in-battle things don’t seem to have been given as much care.
It’s strange, each level has essentially been recreated, allowing you to now move the camera so you can look at stages from overhead views.
Moving between the two viewpoints gives you a lovely 3D perspective to look at the stage from.
But the stages themselves are still very faithful to the original, for lack of a better word.
The pixel art of the original game has been saturated here, looking brighter than before, but it’s been given a smoothing filter that ends up being a bit distracting.
Characters and environments have been given the same level of smoothing, and most retro enthusiasts – myself included – would’ve much preferred a classic pin-sharp presentation.
While Tactics Ogre is going to be fairly unforgiving for players that are new to the genre, it also manages to feel like an essential.
Modern tactical games often eschew permadeath and high difficulty in favour of mainstream appeal, but thanks to a lack of compromise, Tactics Ogre: Reborn stays true to its roots, and in 2022, shows us an amazing example of what the genre can be.
Classic stages and new animations sometimes clash in Tactics Ogre: Reborn.
Written by Dave Aubrey on behalf of GLHF.