Tactics Ogre: Reborn (Switch) Review
Here is a remaster of a remake, a rejigged version of 2010’s Let Us Cling Together, itself a remake of 1995’s Let Us Cling Together. Simple, neh? I have absolutely no history with this series, I simply enjoy tactics games, and boy is this one to sink your teeth into. Perhaps too much for some. Tactics Ogre: Reborn feels both classic and new, with somewhat simple visuals situated inside some rather impressive turn-based mechanics, all blanketed in a layer of remastered music and new, fully voiced performances. Given the industry’s penchant for the ‘classic game’ look, I would not bat an eyelid if you told me this was a brand new, 2022 game.
Knowing that the base game is from a prior generation, I am impressed with how much is here, with the game showing an incredible amount of genre foresight and, no doubt, subsequent influence on the tactical games that followed it. As I witnessed an AI team member use a heal spell against an undead opponent to damage them, it was so unexpected that it gave me an exciting new tactical mindset when fighting those enemies and the other undead filth that followed. Similarly, when my mages and archers failed to make what seemed easy shots, their spells or arrows ricocheting off intervening geometry – or even other members of my team – I knew that this game was the real hardcore deal.
It follows a realistic approach to tactics, with tile height, terrain type, and both the position of your team as well as their orientation playing a large part in whether or not you can even reach enemies. Frankly, I wasn’t quite ready for how intense each battle was, but I can appreciate the dedication to meticulous management. Battles are slow, arduous, and will often end in either the death of party members or the near annihilation of it. But then, after a 40-minute slog on one map, you might pull off that final move that slays the opposing leader and the resultant flush of relief to see the word ‘Victory’ will make it all worthwhile. And if you do lose, there’s the option to run back through recent moves and choose a point to change your fate.
This is a game of nitty gritty. There’s no (as far as I can tell) auto equip button, and so after every fight you will spend half an hour selling stuff, buying equipment, items and so on, and then going through your roster one by one, updating their class, weapons, armour, items, skills and more. If that sounds laborious, then this might not be the tactics game for you. Initially, I thought that I would fall in that camp, but I must admit to getting into it after a few battles, and my lunch breaks at work simply melted away – forty minutes for a fight, twenty minutes of faffing about, lunch done!
I can’t say that I connected much to the story, which is told with impressive gusto via voiced performances. It’s all very high fantasy, with angular place names and vying kingdoms. You can have some party members that act of their own AI volition. These are usually denoted as ‘guests’, but you can also manually place members of your party under general AI directives, which may or may not bring positive results. Still, if battles are just taking too long, it’s a cool option to give over control to half your team and enact fast turns.
There’s no fear of being locked into one class here, as you can use shop items to simply switch classes, so experimentation is heavily encouraged (another thing to pore over for hours). Levelling up is capped to make your team more even, and you can hang around certain towns to fight in practice battles to level up in between missions and make sure you are moving forward with everyone up to scratch. This mechanic replaces the random encounter battles of the prior version. Any bonus XP gets converted into charms that can be used later for bonus XP. Other charms created in this process allow you to change the elemental affinity of characters.
One new element here is that different cards spawn between turns on the field. These are aligned to specific classes, so a melee damage buff is worth grabbing for your sword and axe swingers, while a staff card beckons a mage to scoop it up and receive a boost to their magic. Other cards might increase certain stats for the duration of a battle, and there are red cards that will remove the buffs if you want.
The fact that so many of these show up during a fight, that they stack upon each other, and that your enemies can also grab them, makes this element a kind of mini game in itself, where it becomes more about working out the value of changing where you want to move if it means you will gain a card or just to take it so that a nearby enemies won’t be able to.
Permanent death is a thing here, but it only happens as a last resort. Apart from the ability to rewind battle turns, downed characters show a 3-turn countdown that is often quite generous. I’ve often had two or three characters down and decided to go for the kill with the enemy leader and managed to win the battle before they’ve been permanently removed from the board. I haven’t reached the point where I’m so attached to any one character that their death would upset me.
Terrain plays a major part in how you go about victory, with some units unable to cross certain spans, such as ravines or rivers. Whether you win or lose will often depend on your forethought when it comes to spending precious turns taking long ways around or splitting up your forces. With so much happening, and battles taking up to an hour or so if you are micromanaging, I often found it difficult to tell which of the low-fi sprites on the screen were on my side and which were enemies. Usually, your opponents have different coloured armour and robes to you, but this is not always noticeable, and I had many confusing rounds where I just couldn’t remember which units I was meant to be attacking, because it is possible to damage your own.
Your enjoyment of this is going to depend on how much you are in the mood for a truly involving turn-based tactical romp. If you prefer a simpler, less time-intensive option, then Tactics Ogre: Reborn might prove to be a bit much. I was hesitant to dive in at first, but soon engaged with the combination of AI control, fast battle option and the fact that you can switch classes around quite easily. I enjoyed the card spawn aspect a lot, as well as how the attrition of fights made it seem that I would lose, only to snatch victory in a final moment of all-in daring.
If you are already a fan of this series, then this is arguably the most complete version to play. The addition of randomised cards is almost a new game unto itself, and elsewhere there are streamline edits that create a more enjoyable experience. This is a serious time sink, though, and there are certainly more friendly tactics titles out there. If you are in the mood for staring at loadouts and menus just as much as actually taking part in battles, then this is the game for you.
A tactics behemoth, only those with spreadsheet minds will emerge victorious. Tactics Ogre: Reborn shows that a good old game can be edited and added to with grace and remain impressive in its field.
+ Card system is great
+ New music and voiced lines
+ Last-second victories feel amazing
+ Provides play guides for the uninitiated
- Difficult to tell teams apart
- May be too involved for some