Review – Tactics Ogre: Reborn

Tactics Ogre: Reborn

Tactics Ogre is the game I should have played, but never did. Shining Force is one of my favorite games of all time, Final Fantasy Tactics is the best Final Fantasy bar none, and Fire Emblem: Awakening is a modern classic. I love JRPGs, I love tactical strategy games, so games that bridge that gap are made for me. Yet, despite its fame, I never got around to trying Tactics Ogre. I missed the original release, and then the re-release for the PSP as well (despite catching Final Fantasy Tactics both times). So when I heard I was getting a third chance, with Tactics Ogre: Reborn coming to modern consoles, I knew it was finally my moment. However after playing it, and while respecting its reputation and influence, I feel like the wait wasn’t quite worth it.

Live to fight or fight to live?

First off, this isn’t a proper remake. Despite the recent popularity of HD-2D and it’s use in both the Final Fantasy VI Pixel Remaster and Dragon Quest 3 remake, Tactics Ogre: Reborn features none of it. It’s the original graphics instead, but with increased resolution and the pixelation smoothed out for a cleaner look. It’s not an ugly game by any means, but when compared to the treat for the eyes Triangle Strategy was, it’s not hard to think of what could have been. The sound and voice-acting have been remastered however, so that’s something. Sadly the voice-acting direction seems to have been lacking, with way too much of the cast sounding bored most of the time. The music is phenomenal however, and easily my favorite part of the game. 

Now for the game itself. Tactics Ogre: Reborn is a tactical strategy Japanese roleplaying game. Which means you control a bunch of units from an isometric viewpoint in turn-based combat while a deeply dramatic and usually political story takes place. Think Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. Compared to those titles though, I found it really hard to find something where Tactics Ogre stood out. Nothing about it was bad sure, but it felt very much been there done that. The story was another tale of a bunch of kingdoms with impossible to remember names with impossible to keep track of relations that were headed towards inevitable open warfare again (because of course A Great War had just ended with wounds still fresh for all involved).

It seems a cramped UI, but I actually found it very readable.

And of course I recognize it’s Tactics Ogre’s own success back in 1995 that is responsible for this. Success breeds copycats, and this and Final Fantasy Tactics remain faces of the whole genre. But as a newcomer to the game, I just couldn’t help feeling disappointed. It doesn’t help that I just played Lost Eidolans and Triangle Strategy. Both games hit exactly the same spots Tactics Ogre: Reborn is aiming at, but do it so much better. Especially Triangle Strategy, with it clear to me now where that game got many inspirations from for both story and game direction. But it did it so much smoother, and looked way better while it was doing it. The battle system was quicker, more fluid, with way more variety. Not knocks against Tactics Ogre: Reborn again, but the genre has simply evolved beyond it. 

Not having played previous versions, I can’t speak for myself on changes for this one. Having looked into it however, I personally feel like they were mostly for the better. The change from a class level system like Final Fantasy Tactics to a character level system like Triangle Strategy definitely cuts down on grinding. And since Tactics Ogre: Reborn is more of a strategy game than an RPG, stuff that cuts down downtime is perfect. Likewise the trimming of the skill system while expanding the importance of equipment is a great example of balancing out game elements. Now you have to pay attention to all elements of character development, everything matters. No wasted UI space, which equipment in these games sometimes are. And the removal of random battles in favor of training battles is another great feature that lets you play the way you want to. 

I must say, I’m a sucker for a beautifully drawn world map.

For my money, Tactics Ogre: Reborn is the best version of the game to play. It’s the best looking and sounding version for sure. The soundtrack is especially a masterpiece. There’s also been plenty of tweaks and adjustments to the gameplay, all for the better in my opinion. It balances things out, adds new depth to minute to minute gameplay, and cuts down on grinding. That being said however, I can’t help but feel this is a game that time has passed by. It feels like a product of its time, with newer games doing the same things, but better. Especially Triangle Strategy, a game I now recognize takes a lot of cues from this title. It’s still a good game, and worth playing for people curious about the history of the genre. Beyond that however, I just don’t see the hype. 

Graphics: 7.0

The game looks fine, an improvement over the original release for sure, but a far cry from modern Fire Emblems or Triangle Strategy

Gameplay: 6.0

The gameplay is fun, if a bit outdated and unpolished compared to modern tactical strategy games, especially considering this is a remaster of a remaster.

Sound: 7.5

The music is absolutely incredible, but the voice-acting sadly not so much.

Fun Factor: 5.0

While definitely an important gaming classic that greatly influenced the genre, said successors also evolved the genre leaving Tactics Ogre: Reborn feeling outdated and lacking.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Tactics Ogre: Reborn is available now on PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Tactics Ogre: Reborn was provided by the publisher.