In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2022 (opens in new tab), each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We'll post new personal picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
There are a handful of classics that I'll always replay when given a chance. Tactics Ogre is one of the reasons I fell in love with turn-based strategy games like BattleTech, the Disgaea series, or my all-timer Final Fantasy Tactics. About every two or three years since around 2001, I dig out my copy of Tactics Ogre on PlayStation and devote about 60 hours to a world filled with morally gray political intrigue, magic, war crimes, and flying bird people.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn is the remastered version of the classic 1995 turn-based strategy Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, originally launched on the Super Famicom in Japan. It made its way stateside in 1998 on the PlayStation. However, most people got their taste of the game in 2010 when it was the PSP, the platform I played it on the most.
I first learned about Tactics Ogre after I played Final Fantasy Tactics in 1999. I didn't know at the time, but the game director of FFT, Yasumi Matsuno, was also the game director of Tactics Ogre, which makes sense since a lot of story themes and even game mechanics show up in FFT.
The story in Tactics Ogre: Reborn remains unchanged since the original game. You control a young rebel, Denim, and his crew of medieval fantasy fighters trying to free their land from an oppressive invading empire. It's standard medieval fare up until the end of the first chapter, when the campaign makes a hard turn toward "shit just got real.". Minor spoiler: you're asked to do a terrible thing for the good of your country, which you can turn down, which cascades into a series of more equally stressful decisions for the rest of the game.
Preempting games like Mass Effect that popularized branching storylines, Tactics Ogre has multiple points where the story will branch off dramatically based on your decisions that in turn affect your role in the world and the characters who join you. The game has three 'routes' your choices will take you down; Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic. And yep, that means three endings.
Aside from updated graphics, Reborn also has revamped its combat (no more random battles), skills system, and AI for more balanced fights. However, the most remarkable thing about the remaster is the inclusion of fully-voiced dialogue for every line in the game. It adds a bit of gravitas and seriousness to the Fire Emblem-Esque character portraits and sprites spouting the dialogue.
One of the more interesting new features of the remaster is the Tarot Card system. In short, it's a mechanic that lets you rewind a handful of turns in battle. Fights can last long, making it easy to lose track of the ten soldiers, wizards, and lizardmen you're controlling at any given moment. In the original game, straying one tile too far could cost you the battle you spent over half an hour fighting. I don't know if it was intentional, but this redo feature is something we saw in our 2018 GOTY, fellow turn-based strategy game Into the Breach (opens in new tab).
Once you beat the game, you'll even have the option to go back to key pivotal story moments and make new decisions in these truncated playthroughs without having to replay the entire game or manage a billion save files. It's a great way to see the stuff you missed, and I want this feature in every game with a branching narrative.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn still has problems, like an overcomplicated skills and class system, and some of the battles are still flat-out unfair. But it's well-written, the combat is fun, and it has enough quality-of-life changes and improvements to recommend to folks who don't have a history with this game.
Tactics Ogre: Reborn releasing on Steam certainly makes it easier to play than trying to run it on an emulator or tracking down a copy on eBay (opens in new tab) for PSP. Now, I just need a Final Fantasy Tactics remake, as was hinted at by the massive Nvidia leak (opens in new tab) almost a year ago.