Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Genre: Tactics Role-Playing Game
Release Date: February 15th, 2011
The Tactics Ogre series has been around for a number of years, and has its own cult following. Original Playstation copies of still sell for $90+ on ebay and other sites. Let Us Cling Together is a remastering of the PSone classic (which was a remake of the Super Nintendo version) with a few little extras. The story begins with two siblings and their friend preparing an ambush on who they believe to be the knights responsible for the massacre of their village. The men at the end of their swords are not the Black Knights, but rather a band of mercenaries with their own reason for leaving their home country behind. With their newfound allies, the young hero and his companions set out to take their revenge. In the process they rescue their local duke from execution. From there, they become heroes of their city, and are taken under the dukeís wing. However, war is spreading across the continent, and racial disturbances are causing widespread unrest. Our young hero (named however the player wishes) learns the true harsh nature of war. Will he follow orders, even if it means turning his back on the very people he has sworn to protect, or will he stand against his duke and bear the mark of a traitor?
The lore of the series may cause a bit of confusion for those unfamiliar with the games. Like any world, the people have their own unique customs and conflicts. The playerís hero is of the Walister clan, one of the smaller groups of people in the homeland of Valeria. Other groups include the Galgastan, Bakram, and Xenobia. Bear in mind that depending on what version of the game, these names may be a bit different. The story is driven by the politics of war. The game provides backstory and a chance to review scenes in the menu, giving players a broader perspective of the world their characters are from. Character profiles are also available for the player to peruse.
The art design for the characters is lovely. Akihiko Yoshida, who also designed characters for several other popular Square-Enix titles (Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII, Vagrant Story), gives the character portraits a lush, attractive appeal. The sprites donít have too much detail, but you can easily distinguish special units from the standard foes. Get used to looking at the same maps, because you will be revisiting many locations for battles. Weather and climate changes give the battlefields a bit of change, but a bit more unique levels would have been welcome. However, given that the war takes place in a limited area of the world, this is slightly understandable. The graphics are polished and colors on the sprites have a good pop, so the only real drawback is how many times youíll have to look at it all without drastic change.
The music for the entire Ogre series has been hailed by fans and even those who have never played the games before as some of the best featured in any game. While the battle music can become repetitive, the chance to go through the menu and listen to some of these classic tunes is a real joy to have. The in-battle and map music have a very retro feel. Aside from a voice over during between-chapter segments, there are no other voices aside from the death cries of the characters and demons.
Grinding is a bit different than in most RPGs. Random battles are few and far between, with only a limited number of maps to battle on. Characters level up in two fashions: their assigned class levels up, then they themselves receive experience points for participating during a battle. For instance: an existing character of the archer class may level that class up to, say, level 10. Switching a warrior unit to the archer class will place them at that same level. However, their individual experience will determine what skills they may add to their combat list. Even if you level an archer unit to level 20, if you switch to a different class (dragoon for example), they will begin at whatever level that class is. If you do switch to an unleveled class, be prepared to babysit that character during battle. Their stats, weapons, and skills will reflect that lower level, which can cause them to easily be killed in one shot. On the bright side, this works in the opposite direction as well, and changing to a job class with a higher level of experience will be rewarding.
Battles take place on a grid field, allowing the player 8 to 12 (more or less) units on the field. Movement across the map may be hindered by water or mountains, but some units have the ability to fly or wade through deep water. The battle order is seen at the bottom of the screen, allowing the player to plot their attacks ahead of time. One feature is the Chariot Tarot which allows players to undo previous moves, whether they want to retry an attack on a different opponent or start all the way back to the beginning of the battle. Regular enemy units and monsters may be recruited, and your party can stock up to 50 units. However, given the number of unique characters, and how powerful your own units can become, recruiting new units usually is only for gear collecting or to make battles end quickly (more so than usual). Be wary, however, because you units have a loyalty meter. If you select their name when you have their stats menu open (press the select button), a statement will appear with a varying degree of how loyal s/he may be. The screen will flash red when a unitís loyalty is close enough to cause them to abandon your cause.
As fun as the game is, at times I felt that the only real difficulty came in the form of the friendly AI. During some battles, rather than pull back for safety, guest units charge after the enemy and never bother with healing. If you are trying to recruit said unit, or need to save them in order to progress, getting close enough to draw fire from them and to provide support can be a real pain. Most missions are assassination style, with only one enemy needing to be eliminated before the battle is over. Focus firing on that unit with a few good arches and a mage can win a battle in a short amount of time. Speaking of archers, one unit you get early on in the game is Canopus, a winged man, has a wide move radius due to his ability to fly, strong melee, and great archery skills. He begins with a finishing move for both his axe and his bow, which make him very lethal. The only real risk is overextending him to the point where he canít retreat far enough from foes. Some later units also seem very powerful, which makes most battles against human enemies a breeze.
Let Us Cling Together offers the player a bit more from the original version, including new characters to recruit and new classes to experiment with. The branching paths offer three different main storylines, and your choices can determine the fate of various characters. One path may lead you to an unexpected ally, while a different may give you that same person as a loathsome enemy. Donít like the law or chaos routes? Try for the neutral to see how well you can maintain your party. A multiplayer option exists, however it was not a feature I tried. I doubt after a year there would be any other players.
While the game felt a bit short and sometimes too easy, returning to such a classic title is pure joy. Tactics Ogre may have been overshadowed by Final Fantasy Tactics, but any fan of tactical rpgs should certainly give it a try. The story is rich and deep, and the various paths offer a nice bit of replayablity. A single runthrough is also fairly short compared to other games of this genre, so for those simply looking for a quick game to play while waiting for some bigger name titles to come out, Let Us Cling Together is a nice filler.