I ended up not completely hating it.
I'm a sucker for a great tactical RPG. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is not a great tactical RPG, but I ended up not completely hating it. Tactics Ogre is better than its predecessor on Playstation as well as Final Fantasy Tactics Advance but is worse than the original FFT and Disgaea.
Another thing that'd be helpful to know is that I haven't actually finished playing Tactics Ogre all the way through the final level. According to some walkthrough on GameFAQs, I have two battles left and while I'm sure I'd feel slightly better about myself after trounsing the game's typically stupid AI, that payoff isn't worth the game's variety of minor annoyances that finally caught up with me. Tactics Ogre is to other tactical RPGs as a jackbooted Nazi thug is to other tactical RPGs. It starts by harassing you with an unnecessarily steep leveling curve early in the game, then moves on to forcing you into an electronic labor camp in order to find the best loot in the midgame, then finally bores you to death with the cumulative effect of watching the its painfully slow battle animations.
|Hi, this is Hutton Gibson. You sinful heathens may know my son from such sacreligious films as The Man Without a Face and What Women Want. I have not actually played this game nor any video game for that matter because they are tools of Satan and the Jews created to brainwash our children to the subliminal signals broadcast over HAM radio by the Masonic Illuminati, but if I did, I would tell you that this game is worse than jackbooted Nazi thugs but only if you are playing with the original GBA and not the SP. Also, you are going to hell.|
Of course Tactics Ogre is much more than German National Socialism brought to life by your Game Boy. Let me get back to why and how I managed to play through 95% of this game, which is an amazing feat considering that to this day I completely hate the first Tactics Ogre for PSX. I hated its steep leveling curve along with not wanting to fuck with equiping and paying attention to ten dudes on my combat team. The GBA sequel still has some of the painful initial leveling curve, but cuts the number of character stats in half and the number of dudes in your battle party down to eight, making things seem more like a game and less like data entry. Tactics Ogre has slightly more than 25 different classes of human jobs and beast/demihuman species, and less than half of them are completely useless (the Archer and Octopus are the worst offenders), beating out most other console RPGs. Additionally, there are 4-5 unique classes available through strory characters you pick up along the way. Be sure to recruit a female generic named Deneb and change her into a Witch if you want to use this class, since it's the only way to get this "unique" character and the normal Witch class sucks balls.
Why do game designers think its fucking deep or insightful to have you as a player answer questions to some gyspy hag that determine the initial stats of your main charater? It was gay in Ultima (eat me Richard!) and you'll find no better fare here. Later on you face an important choice with the outcome leading you down one of two different paths for the main storyline. Tactics Ogre doesn't trust you with such an important decision, at least on its face value. Instead, this choice is hidden within an opinion survey of bath soaps, so you won't know which path you got until it's too late. Both paths net you a different unique character and both are more powerful than your generic party members and you don't get either until the final section of the game.
Due to the kneejerk backlash of our shoot first, shoot again later administration in the post-9/11 world, all new RPGs are required by the Patriot Act to introduce a new but essentially worthless schtick to their combat system. Tactics Ogre's schtick is an emblem system wherein by meeting certain criteria in combat such as killing more than one enemy with a magic spell, defeating an enemy with a counterattack, etc., a character receives an emblem that grants a bonuses like increasing certain stats or opening up advanced classes. After one character earns an emblem you can check its requirements in your menu so that you can pick it up with all of you other characters if desired. You can also earn most of the emblems in training mode, which turns it from a frustrating and boring addition to a tedious and boring addition. Of course most of you probably gave up on earning merit badges after your senior patrol leader smoked you up, your scoutmaster played stake the tent with your shorts, or you got a driver's license.
|See if you can find the hidden spell - Penisicle! |
Right here I thought about warning fans of tactical RPGs that this game uses team based turns in combat as opposed to each individual character earning turns based on a speed rating. The conventional wisdom is that giving each character actions based on their speed rating adds more strategy to the game, but I think that it winds up just making speed the most coveted stat. I realized, however, that most hardcore RPG gamers probably already own this game and have 30 megs of Tactics Ogre nude fanart sitting on a zip disk and any warning coming from me would be a moot point. For those of you who are such hardcore fans, I welcome you back from your masturbation break!
Tactics Ogre also allows two-player combat over a game link, but I've not tried it personally. I don't have any friends living nearby that are as much of a video game nerd as I am. I can't tell if that's good or bad. Anyway, instead of talking about TO's two-player combat, I want to take a moment to yell at game developers again. Is it that hard to add this feature to your games? I mean the whole point is to build up an unbeatable little army to stomp on enemies, and what better enemy to stomp than your circle of loser friends? Or how about a co-op mode where each player has separate pools of experience, equipment and money?
Back to the Gestapo. Tactics Ogre's large faults are threefold: a stupid hidden item system, a section where you suddenly have to use two different and unique eight-dude teams from your roster without prior warning, and horribly slow and unskipable spell animations. The first is dumb because I hate games that reward you with the best items by doing things that are counter-intuitive to the main point of the game - in this case, beating ass. In the world of Tactics Ogre, you find hidden items by stepping on predetermined squares on the battle map. Sometimes you get lucky and have to cast a fire spell to burn the grass or melt the snow covering the square before you get your goody. Thanks Quest/Atlus for making me do fucking yardwork in your game! And by thanks I mean fuck you! There's also a quest mode where you can pick up some decent stuff in combat, but even the best items you get from this mode suck compared to the treasures earned from mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, with MAGIC!
As a transition into my next complaint, I'll preemptively point out that I've changed one of the three worst parts of this game mid-review. Game designers surprise you with shit that sucks halfway through their games, and I learned by watching them. With that said, being forced by the game to use two teams with no warning doesn't suck quite as much earning an imaginary allowance from doing imaginary chores. This is because you pick up enough side characters to bring you up to around a dozen dudes and bringing up recruits to your main guys' levels isn't too painful. The main suck level comes from having to equip everyone since money and decent equipment are scarce. I wouldn't have minded splitting up or even having to use a few extra dudes, but prepping two full squads was no fun.
|Official Currency of Lodis: Chubby teenagers in trenchcoats named Bloodraven or Daimien.|
Finally, the battle animations in Tactics Ogre are slow, slow, slow. I really wish all future tactical RPGs would have an option to turn off all spell and special attack animations. Among the area attack spells the Earth one has the slowest animation and the Ice/Water one has the fastest. Of course if you're playing on an emulator, then you can frameskip to your heart's content.
On a scale of The Tuxedo to Rush Hour, I give Tactics Ogre a rating of Rumble in the Bronx.