Game genres, like most things, are subject to age and change, adopting new mechanics and concepts while using the failures of past games as stepping stones. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, a PSP remake of a SNES game, is one such stepping stone. After only a few battles, it is very easy to see the basic framework Square Enix used to make the Final Fantasy Tactics series. The story takes place in a low fantasy, magic light, world, similar to the original Tactic’s Ivalice, with the main focus on the island Valeria’s struggle for survival through civil wars and foreign invasions. While the similarities between Final Fantasy: Tactics and Tactics Ogre are extremely obvious, there is a notable gap in quality between the two games. But, surprisingly, Tactics Ogre manages to cram in enough post-game content to nearly rival Disgaea, along with multiple story paths and endings. Any RPG fans that can get through the lack-luster story and sub-par SRPG mechanics will be rewarded with a truly massive, relatively grind free, tactical RPG.
Tactics Ogre does not bring anything new to the SRPG core mechanics, and even excludes parts of staple elements, but due to the age of the original game, this is to be expected. Being a remake of an old game, however, does not give it an excuse to leave dated mechanics unimproved. Tactics Ogre has a huge amount of character classes, many of which are monster classes, but the majority of the human classes are simply unnecessary. The rune knight can learn a wide variety of magic, the berserker can hit very hard at the cost of accuracy, and the knight can support allies with healing magic, but all of these classes are inferior to the basic warrior. Many RPGs with class-changing mechanics allow players to mix and match abilities between multiple jobs, but not Tactics Ogre. Switching from class to class provides no benefit, as many skills and weapon proficiencies are available to all jobs, and the skills that are class-specific can only be used on their appropriate class, and nothing else.
While finding a perfect balance for one’s battle party is not hard, partly due to warriors and archers being the only viable choices, the battles in Tactics Ogre always prove to be a pleasant challenge. Unlike many other RPGs, both tactical and classic, Ogre scales the fights with the players highest party level should they over-level a character. Players are able to level around five to seven levels above a story battle before the level scaling kicks in, making it still possible for a player to grind a bit without growing too strong.
Sadly, this scaling system does not scale down, only up, and depending on a given player’s play style, being under-leveled is likely to happen at some point. Many of the early story battles require the player to kill only the enemy commander, which can easily be done with flying units and archers, but near the last portion of the game, the missions shift towards annihilating the entire enemy party. It is at this shift in objectives that many players will be subject to level grinding, since the simple boss killing method from earlier rewards very little experience. While it is no Disgaea, grinding in Tactics Ogre can grow very boring and time consuming. However, the game contains a surprisingly intelligent unit AI option, making it possible for players to enter random battles, switch on AI, and set their game down until the victory music plays.
At the time of its original release, Tactics Ogre likely had an amazing story, but it might be lost on someone who has not religiously followed the Ogre series. The game makes many nods to other nations, such as Lodis, and other organizations without much explanation, expecting the player to know exactly who these groups are and what they have done. From chapter to chapter, the story stumbles around without much direction until the ending comes out of left field. The ending is hardly surprising, with characters continuing their lives as most players would have assumed, but upon reading about other Ogre games, it seems that the key parts of the story are more about the position of magical swords, the Black Knights, and other secondary characters. It is very clear after playing that there is some kind of sequel, prequel, and in fact an entire series built around this game, and like a snobby elitist, Let Us Cling Together cares nothing for gamers who are not a part of the Ogre fan circle.
Many gamers might actually find it hard to believe Let Us Cling Together was originally a SNES game. The game has a massive amount of extra content to be enjoyed after the final boss is defeated, along with branching story paths and multiple endings. Upon beating the game, players are able to revisit parts in the story using the World Tarot function, replaying old battles or unlocking the story paths missed the first time, and, thanks to the level scaling, all of these old battles will remain somewhat challenging. The game easily has over one hundred bonus maps, with one dungeon containing one hundred floors. While there is no cross-class system, recruiting and equipping the perfect battle party to conquer these massive extra dungeons can be quite fun, and thanks to the AI grinding system, it is easy to build up this party while actually playing other games.
Tactics Ogre very clearly is not Final Fantasy Tactics, but it manages to easily crush the game in terms of extra content and branching story paths. Ogre series fans no doubt love this game for the way it advanced the Ogre story-line, but anyone else looking for a new strategy RPG to play is better off ignoring the story and grinding through the required battles until the extra dungeons become available. Let Us Cling Together is the perfect example of quantity over quality, and will likely only impress RPG fans who praise mechanics and power gaming over storytelling.