Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
So you’ve beaten Golden Sun and are jonesing for something that’ll chew your waking hours and give you dull cramps in your hands. Well, look no further than Tactics Ogre for all your masochistic needs. Like most strategy-RPGs, TO eschews narrative and exploration to focus exclusively on fighting battles. It’s probably for the best because the plot here is marred by spotty localization and peppered with holes. To make matters worse, TO’s heady list of exotic names and places makes it a chore to keep up with the storyline. The good news is, you don’t really have to understand every twist and turn of the tale to enjoy the game’s deep strategy battles. Veterans of the original TO or its remote cousin Final Fantasy Tactics (both PS1) should know that this is an overall easier game mostly because you can save mid-battle, anytime, anywhere. And similar to the job system in FFT, characters live and die in TO by the nature of their class. Everybody begins as a generic soldier, but can graduate into a knight, ninja, wizard or any of the 14 other classes in the game. Combine these class variations with painstaking tactical details like different weapon techniques, terrain modifiers or random weather effects, and TO is a strategy junkie’s dream come true. Frosting on the cake comes in the form of the game’s excellent Versus mode, where you play head-to-head against a friend. It’s an incredibly hardcore game for such a tiny little system.
Strategy-RPGs are a rare breed. Chess-like in their depth, linear in storytelling and incomprehensible to many, they’re enjoyed by an even rarer breed of gamer. The latest Tactics Ogre sustains that notion. If you’re a fan of the series, or if games like Final Fantasy Tactics lured you into the genre, you’ll enjoy 7'0’s rich, layered gameplay. This sort of game requires a steep level of commitment though, as mastering the multiple job classes, keeping up with the labyrinthine plot, and surviving the hours-long battles are not tasks for less-determined gamers. But for those cut from the right cloth, TO remains an uncompromising joy.
Tactics is everything a fantasy strategy-RPG should be and more. It has a mythical storyline (with a few too many names of people and places to keep track of). It has lots of very cool character classes with different abilities to master-this is what turns it from a plain-ol’ strategy game into an addicting drug. You can’t put it down because you don’t want to stop leveling up your party members (Final Fantasy Tactics fans know what I mean). It has amazing graphics. But because Tactics is so full of detail, chock-full of little icons, stats, menus, numbers, etc., it’s a little bit too much game for the small screen. Play it with a magnifying glass.