Tough as Nails: Tactics Ogre

Posted: July 18, 2011 in Retro, Tough as Nails
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It seemed like every summer growing up there would be THAT ONE GAME that ate up all of my time. In 1998 it was Final Fantasy VII (yes, I was late to that party) and in 1999 it was Falcon 4.0. In 2000, that game was Atlus and Quest’s epic tactical RPG Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Where FFVII held me in with its storyline and Falcon kept me working to become a better pilot, Tactics Ogre was a different kind of animal(or Ogre) from anything I’d yet played. While I was familiar with turn-based strategy and had previously rented Final Fantasy Tactics, I’ll admit that I wasn’t prepared for the challenges that awaited me when I picked up the Tactics Ogre disc at Funcoland.

Within about 30 minutes I knew: this was a game that would take some dedication. Difficulty-wise, this was less like Final Fantasy and more like X-Com. This game did not muck about.

Canopus is about to do something cool, but then...that's kinda what he does.

Come to Ogre Battle…FIGHT!

A sequel to the SNES cult classic Ogre Battle (all the Ogre games are fairly obscure), Tactics finds the player (personified as the hero character Denim, who I mercifully renamed my typical RPG moniker of Revion) leading a force of freedom fighters in the kingdom of Valeria. From there, battle, political intrigue and various war crimes ensue, ensuring that this isn’t your run of the mill adventure of teenagers with mismatched outfits against an unquestionably evil empire. There are choices here!

But that’s just the fluff. The meat and potatoes of the game is in two areas: combat and recruiting. While most of your characters start as basic Soldiers or Amazons, as they level up they can advance to better prestige classes. Naturally, this is easier said than done, as the FNGs are always the first to fall when the archers open up. To have a hope of surviving, you need to take your soldiers and have them fight skirmishes against each other. You might think, “Oh, well if they die I can just raise them from the dead or drop a Phoenix Down on them, right?” HA! The gods of Ogre Battle mock your misplaced confidence. In Tactics Ogre, dead is dead. Accidentally lead your Exorcist into an Archer’s line of sight? Well, enjoy not being able to turn undead for the rest of the game.

Hell Gate? In the Month of Fire? Why don't we ever go anywhere NICE?

Of course you can choose to forgo training and let your meaty pincushions march into battle against your enemies, but doing this is a fast track to the morgue for both you (as your player character personally attends the battles, good field commander that he is) and your troops. So remember. Superior training! Superior weaponry! And if you’ve had a particularly unpleasant battle where one of your soldiers was the squeaky wheel, feel free to let your soldiers unload all that aggression on him during a training skirmish. Sometimes it’s important to let your inner sadistic drill instructor out. Trust me, it’s good for your troops AND their stats!

However, even with proper training your battles can go south if you aren’t prepared. The missions are varied, from simple “slaughter everyone” and “slay the leader” to “get to character x and protect them before force y murders them”. This can force you to think long and hard about how you want your units to fight – will they be slow but sturdy Knights, powerful but relatively unprotected Berserkers, or fragile but speedy Rogues? Since you can only take so many soldiers to each battle, it pays to work with them and to recruit a variety of troops so you’re always prepared. And then have them take the high ground. Luck favors the prepared, and if you’ve done a decent job preparing…you might survive. No promises, though. And much like X-Com, when your soldiers have survived a lot of battles you get rather attached. You mourn fallen troops and vow revenge on the curs that felled them.

I Challenge the Mighty Titan and His Troubadours!

The thing about Tactics Ogre, and in my opinion what makes it so damn satisfying is that every battle is a hard-fought battle. The game is programmed to kick your ass and relish the act, and when you conquer an overpowered enemy without losing a single man, you feel incredible. It’s a game that never holds your hand, unless it’s going to yank your arm and push you into the mud. The game is difficult (and lengthy, I think my playthrough was somewhere around 80 hours), but in this case, it’s a game where the toughness makes the end of a long day’s warfare all the more sweet.

Ultimate satisfaction is at hand! TIME TO TRAIN!

  1. Sadly, I never got to experience either Ogre game. However, Since FF Tactics kicked my ass all over the place, I knew that me and tactical RPGs weren’t meant to be.

    On a related note, I just started giving Fire Emblem a try. Let the tears of frustration commence…

  2. Gregg B says:

    Nice one Chad, I only recently read about this in a top JRPGs list over at Gamasutra, so to see it recommended here as well suggests I ought to check it out as and when I get a PSP Vita. I’ve been a bit of an Advance Wars zealot for a while now so to sink into a one of the Tactics games (Ogre or FF) would be very welcome.

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