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Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis

Review By:  Christopher Coey

Developer:  Quest
Publisher:  Atlus
# of Players:  1
Genre:  Strategy/RPG
ESRB:  Everyone
Date Posted:  9-30-02

Tactics Ogre has been my first foray into the world of strategy "tactics" games. It will not be my last. I love this genre. Iím not saying Iíve never played a game like this before, but it is innovative. And I particularly enjoyed this title BECAUSE of the fact that Iíve played other games like it, just not for a long time. With graphics, sound, and raw processor power at the levels they are these days the genre of "turn based" games seemed to have left us. This is unfortunate, since many of my all time favorite games are turn based. Forgive me for mentioning other systems for a moment, especially the PC, but the quality of games such as Civilizations, or X-Com: UFO Defense outpaces anything Iíve seen on any of the consoles.

For those of you not familiar with the entire "turn based" concept; think of it like chess. You make a move (or in most cases, your whole team each make their moves), then your opponents each move. Nothing is real time, and there are no button combinations to push. The whole game is based on strategy. The strength, agility, or magic power of the characters on your team determines battle outcomes. Again, think of it like chess.

What makes Tactics Ogre innovative is the depth of the characters, and battles. I wonít even attempt to list all off the variable that go into calculating a sword or bow hit. For starters we have the usual: strength, agility, armor rating etc. But you also need to take into account distances, weather, and terrain level. Then, you have various weapon and equipment interactions, elemental signs, and previous success or failures. Finally, and remember this list is not all inclusive, the game even tracks each characters horoscope and biorhythms (yes, you read that right!)

The other innovative feature in this game is the Ďclassí system. Certainly not a new concept, but itís handled very well. It is actually quite difficult to Ďlevel upí and change classes. The reason is that it is much more than simply leveling up. Not only do you have to achieve specific levels of experience, strength, agility etc. in order to change to a new class (say for instance: changing from Soldier to Knight), but you need to perform certain Ďfeats.í These feats range from simple things like killing 5 enemies, or finding a hidden treasure. But others can get complicated, such as dying, and being resurrected as undead. Or persuading 5 dragons to join your party.

The story involves a young soldier, the son of a nobleman who has trained since an early age to become a knight. A knight of the Holy Lodis Empire, in the Order of the Sacred Flame of Felis. The general arch of the plot (of this particular edition, as well as the previous ĎTacticsí games) seems to somewhat mimic actual history when the Catholic Church sent out itís own knights during the Crusades. Just as then, in the game, the Church of Lodis send itís missionaries to subjugate the island of Ovis. That subjugation took place 15 years before the beginning of this game. The problem is, not everyone was happy to covert to Lodism, and recently there have been uprisings. Along with his friend and Captain, the Ďheroí finds himself on the Island investigating the civil unrest. It is there that he begins to question his calling in life.

These may seem like heavy concepts for a handheld game, and the story is certainly deep. The themes surround many social and physiological issues that are complex, and yet important and familiar. The main character struggles to find who he is, and whether the decisions he has made to get him where he is, were the right ones. Are memories truth? Or do they, in the end, even matter at all. Can one choose their own destiny, or are we subject to the forces that surround us.

Graphically, this game is nothing outstanding. It is after all, a 2D turn-based game. Fortunately, for that reason exactly, the fact that the graphics are rather simply isnít much of an issue. The sound is as good as any GBA game (read: not very fun to listen to most of the time.) From a gameplay standpoint, there isnítí much to talk about. The controls are fairly simple since most of the game involves menus. That being said, keep in mind that this game is mostly menus. There is no action, apart from the brief wait while attempting an attack, before finding out the damage.

My biggest complaint is the gameís speed. This is going to turn away a lot of players, and rightly so. Some battles, even random battles, can take over an hour to complete. Even if you way out-power your opponent, and are sure of the win, thereís no way to skip battles or speed through things.

As an added feature, at any point in the game you can link up GBAs and exchange weapons and equipment with friend. Or, try to beat a friendís army in battle on a number of various battlefields. If youíre by yourself, you can attempt various side "quests" that unlock as you work through the game. Or, split your army up and practice battles against your own team. The great thing here is that you can gain experience and level up while practicing.

My final thought is that, once again I have to stress to gamers that we are talking about a 16-bit system here. This isnít an X-Box or PS2. GameBoy Advance games are not about flash, they are about gameplay. And once again, the gameplay is excellent.

Highs:

  • Excellent experience and class system
  • Great use of an old-school genre

Lows:

  • Very slow gameplay
  • Extremely long length of play

Final Verdict:

The game starts out very slow, and finishes even slower. It can be described as tedious and repetitive. These are hardly things that most gamers want to here about a prospective title. This game certainly requires patients. But Iíve said this before, and Iíll say it again: sometimes you have to work THROUGH a game in order to get at the real heart. Tactics Ogre has heart. Itís a solid, fun, turn-based strategy game. There is a lot to do here, and it will take a long time to fully explore all of the gameís nuances. If you are familiar with this style of gameplay, I recommend picking this title up. If youíre into quick, easy, and mindless, stay far far away.

Overall Score: 8.0

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