Ogre Battle and Tactical Ogre are arguably the best entries in Quest's line of superb strategy/RPG hybrids that were very popular in Japan, up until Quest was bought out and absorbed into Squaresoft (in fact, Final Fantasy Tactics, the first strategy/RPG title from the Quest design team after their merger with Squaresoft, became the first Quest game that gamers outside Japan are familiar with). Both games offer interesting and epic fantasy stories, dozens of characters, and fun turn-based gameplay that won't tax your brain cells. The plots start out cliche enough: you control members of the Liberation Army who must free the people from the tyranny of evil that is corrupting the world. To do this, you command an army and engage the enemies in dozens of turn-based tactical battles. The plots soon blossom into interesting political dramas, full of surprises, betrayals, greed, and even love. |
Although both Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre have far fewer stats, character classes, and spells than Squaresoft's better-known Final Fantasy Tactics, it is a much better game in my opinion: the gameplay is more balanced, and the fact that you can send up to ten soldiers into each battle (as opposed to five in FFT) means that the Ogre games give you much more strategic options. One of the best things about both games is the fact that you must work hard to properly balance your army, because each character class has its own strengths and weaknesses. You can also equip your units with a wide array of weapons, armor, and healing items. Similar to most RPGs, you will gain access to more powerful spells and weapons in later battles, and your units also get stronger and more powerful. And the story focus means that you will gradually learn about various secret agenda, backgrounds, and grudges your soldiers have under your command. Character development of these units takes place in the form of lengthy dialogues or cut-scenes that happen right on the battlefield, and makes the games even more fun. For example, that powerful mage you just gave a ton of spells to might suddenly reveal that he's a secret agent for the other side, and suddenly switches sides on the battlefield. Talk bout biting the hand that feeds :)
There are nice real-world touches that translate into tradeoffs you must consider when "upgrading" units or changing its class, since every "customization" has drawbacks. For example, units that have more carrying capacity will move more slowly than others. Unlike Final Fantasy Tactics (but less so in Ogre Battle), units in Tactics Ogre are relatively expendable as you can recruit new soldiers in most towns. Completing each game will take you over 50 hours, and you will likely want to play them all over again due to the presence of nonlinear battle structure, multiple endings, and tons of secrets in each game.
The battles take place close-up in an attractive 2D/3D isometric perspective where you clearly see all the units involves, as well as terrain details and elevations. When you are not fighting, you move your whole army from a world map, which shows cities, towns, temples, and other manmade structures as well as rivers, forests, and mountains. Although they both look "dated" by today's 32-bit console standards, Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre remain highly playable, highly addictive, and superbly designed games. Definitely "purer" and in my opinion more playable than Final Fantasy Tactics, the most well-known game from Quest, both games are must-haves for every strategy/RPG fan - and anyone who think that console systems are incapable of supporting challenging strategy games. The Ogre Battle for download here is SNES version, while Tactics Ogre is the re-released PSX (Playstation) version because the SNES one was Japanese only (it was thanks to Atlus who re-released the game in English for the Playstation, after Enix closed its US offices). Two thumbs up, way up!
Reviewed by: Underdogs