Ogre Battle fans are probably worshipping Atlus for bringing over this sequel to Ogre Battle March of the Black Queen to the Playstation. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is Episode 7 of the Ogre Battle Saga and takes place in the continent of Valeria which seems to be in the midsts of a civil war. The game introduces six new gods, Gurza the Goddess of Water, Zoshonell the Goddess of Fire, Bartha the Goddess of Earth and Hahnela the Goddess of Wind. The Goddess of Light Ishtar and a God of Darkness, Asmodeus make appearances and who could forget the Four Wind Gods and the weapons they forged?
The game is divided into 3 main screens. The Regional Map where you move your character, edit units and various other options like training, shopping and checking the Warren Reports for news and character information, the Attack Team Edit screen where you edit your battle party just before a battle, and the Battlefield where you fight your battles. Battles are fought out just like Final Fantasy Tactics where characters move a certain amount of grids and attempt to get within range to execute attacks or find secret items. In summary, you could say the game plays out exactly like Final Fantasy Tactics, but before you go accusing Tactics Ogre for being a copycat, you must realize that this game was released way before the guys of Squaresoft ever even thought of Final Fantasy Tactics. It's more likely that the team that worked on Final Fantasy Tactics got their inspiration from Tactics Ogre! Unlike Final Fantasy Tactics, you can have up to 10 characters inclusive of the hero in your battle party and even more if you have Guest characters! With the large amount of characters in battle, you can really expect long and challenging battles.
Death of a character in Tactics Ogre is a really big thing. If a character dies in battle and you don't revive him/her with the Revivify spell before the battle ends, you lose the character forever! Oh, did I mention that only the Priest class can use the spell and that there is practically and probably only 1 Revivify Scroll in the entire game and that you get it really late in the game? So with this in mind you'll know that you can't take the death of a character for granted, especially if an important character dies. If your hero dies however, it's game over.
Tactics Ogre also has it's own Class System just like all Ogre Battle games released so far, and what class your characters can change into depends on their stats, number of kills and alignment. Some special classes can be found too, like the Lord class for the hero if he allows a tragic event to happen in Chapter 4, the Shaman class if you found and rescued the Four Sisters, Sisteena, Selye, Olivia and Shelly or the all powerful Lich class which requires a character to have the necessary stats and an Undead Ring equipped before they are killed. Some classes from the previous Ogre Battle games are no longer available for your characters to change into but are, however, available to your enemies. Some examples are the Fire Brass or Werewolves. Unlike Final Fantasy Tactics you cannot learn skills in the character classes and bring them over when you change into another class. Spells are bought or found and Special skills are learned in specific classes or taught by a character in a game. The benefit of changing a class is the customizing of your character's stats, for example if you choose a Wizard class and the character levels up, their stat increase will focus more on Intelligence, Mentality and MP. Class changing also allows access into abilities unique to that class and the ability to use certain spells. This system allows for a diversity in character development and yet it is much more simple than Final Fantasy's Job system.
The graphics in the game are 16-Bit and not very varied in terms of colors. The characters all utilize sprites and look much more spectacular than the battlefield backgrounds, which seem to look quite dull as the colors are basic and there is not much variety. Simply saying, all the trees, bushes, grass, gravel, water and other objects are simple in design and lack variety in color. Most of the plants are simple green, water is blue and the graphics for all the weather effects are repetitive. But even with minor graphical flaws, castles look intimidating and dungeons look reasonably spooky. The sprites for certain characters and monsters like the Holy Dragon look cool and really special. The portraits of the characters are incredibly well done and give the game more of a Western appeal.
The music is splendid for such an old game. The opening theme is the same as the one you'll hear in almost every Ogre Battle game and most of the music is atmospheric and a real pleasure to listen. My favorites are the ones you hear during castle assaults or rescue missions. Not much can be said about sound but still it is a bonus to the game. The sounds are simple; 3 basic death cries from males, females and monsters, all extremely simple. The sounds of spells are slightly better, ranging from thunder, fire, ice blades, acid clouds, meteors falling into water or smashing into the ground and various other spell sounds that make the spells feel more spectacular.
The controls are simple and easy to learn with the help of the Tutorial and the Select button brings up the Help menu which explains practically everything you point at! This is amusing when you use the Help function on obstacles like trees and rocks because it will explain to you what type of tree or rock it is! It gets especially humorous when you use this function on the statues in Hell's Gate.
The story of the game begins with you naming the hero, whose name, by default, is Denim. Denim, his sister Kachua and friend Vice attempt to assassinate the Dark Knight Lans because he killed their friends and family and, simply put, made their lives miserable. Instead they stumble across a Lans of a different type, it's Lans the Holy Knight from Zenobia and this alone would make players and fans of the Ogre Battle Episode 5 really happy. With him are also more familiar heroes, Warren and Canopus! From then on it's battle after battle and the choices you make for Denim will affect the way the game is played, characters that join and enemies you face and which of the 8 endings you get! The battle for the unity of the continent of Valeria is really engrossing and the story plays out beautifully with plot twists, betrayal, tragedy and a search for the truth. On a side note, there are 3 types of alignment in the game. Lawful, Neutral and Chaos. If you think Lawful is good, think again, it just means you tend to follow orders blindly without regard to whether it's good or bad. Near the end of Chapter 1, Denim will be given a tough choice which will determine whether he will follow the Lawful route or the Chaos route, and another tougher and tricky choice later on in the Chaos route which will determine whether he remains in the Chaos route or follow the Neutral route. The best route in my opinion is the Chaos route because you will find more important characters and many more side-quests than the other routes but the Chaos route also happens to be the toughest. And, with the Chaos alignment, the best class you can get for Denim, other than the Lord class, is a Terror Knight. The Lord class is the best class in the entire game but it requires a really painful and heart-wrenching sacrifice and if you want to see the best possible ending, I really would not recommend it.
This game, with 4 large Chapters, is huge enough as it is, but with many special side-quests, like the Grimby City battle, the Shaman quest, the Fireseal quest, and, my favorite, the Hell's Gate Dungeon it's really long. There are also many appearances made by some familiar characters. Overall, Tactics Ogre is a great Strategy/RPG and with it's depth and replayability this is one game fans of the Ogre Battle Saga should not miss. Atlus deserves credit for bringing another great Ogre Battle game over to the Playstation and making many people happy!