Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tactics Ogre - Let Us Cling Together

A nearly perfect mix of the old and new.
Review by Holyknight14

Originally released as a Japanese only game in 1995, Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together was met with positive reviews and high scores. The English speaking crowd managed to experience this phenomenal game when it was ported to the PSX in 1998. Gamers played through and uncovered literally every detail about this game and many fans hoped for a sign that their beloved series wasn't extinct. When the first details of the TO:LuCT remake were discovered in 2010, it felt like a miracle had been witnessed. Many fans wondered if a remake of the original game could live up to the high expectations that players had for it. I would say that the developers blew our expectations out of the water and implemented changes that no one could have foreseen.

STORY: The storyline of TO:LuCT primarily revolves around a war that has engulfed the Valerian Isles. Following the death of the late king who had no living heirs, three main factions rose up to claim Valeria for themselves. The Bakram nobles, Galgistani followers and Walister underdogs serve as the main participants in this massive ethnic conflict. Adding to this strife are the Bakram supporting Dark Knights of Loslorien who hail from the mighty nation of Lodis. The player assumes the role of a young Walister named Denam Pavell as he devises plans to aid his faction in the war along with sister Catiua and childhood friend Vyce Bozeck. A large part of the game revolves around the choices that Denam makes and how these decisions forever alter the fate of the people he fights against and befriends.

Many games are thought to be cliche as they simply feature a protagonist rising up from nothing to become the hero of the game and everything ends like a fairy tale would. TO:LuCT abandons this age old style for an emphasis on cause and effect. Denam's journey throughout the game leads to enormous tension and unrest. A common theme in TO:LuCT is that allies commonly become enemies and enemies become allies based on the perspective that Denam takes on the war. There are 3 main paths that Denam can follow and each of them are completely different. The overlying storyline is powerful and moving thanks to a new localization that presents TO:LuCT in an incredible way. The storyline of the game comes alive in this remake thanks to much more vivid dialogue. New story elements are present and their are new characters to add insights that were not in the original version of the game.

GRAPHICS: Nearly all of the graphical aspects of the remake were redesigned from scratch. TO:LuCT presents new artwork for every single character and class. The new artist managed to create all new artwork using a style that is reminiscent of the realism that was built into the art of the original game. These new portraits are beautifully detailed and capture the essence that was always a strong point of the graphics. All spell effects and weapon skills in the remake are brand new and fully detailed, they come alive using the capabilities of the PSP.

The remake of TO:LuCT was met with some criticism because of the developers choice to keep the original sprites and battlefields in tact rather than rework them from scratch. Many people referred to this as laziness despite the developers desire to retain a singular element that would tie the remake to the original and connect with long time fans. Regardless, every single sprite and battlefield from the original game has been touched up and slightly tweaked. In addition to this, there are in fact new sprites and battlefields that were created solely for the remake.

GAMEPLAY: Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the remake lies in the new gameplay. The old systems were completely redesigned in order to present TO:LuCT as a completely different game that still manages to retain the feeling of the original. The game takes place on 2 major planes, the world map and the battlefield. The world map allows the player to customize their army, utilize the shop to purchase arms and new troops and read the Warren Report to catch up on events that have transpired. The battlefield serves as the zone where combat occurs between your army and the enemy's.

All units assume a class as their identity and their strengths and weakness are dictated by this class. Classes are numerous and incredible diverse, ranging from Warriors, Knights, Clerics, Wizards, Ninja and many more generic and special classes. Changing classes is only possible by consuming a class mark, these items are bought in shops, given at story intervals or found in battles. Individual units differentiate themselves from one another by having different base stats that are modified by the class they assume. Unique characters often have a leg up on generic units as they can usually take on special classes reserved for specific characters and have higher base stats. Each character is able to equip 5 pieces of gear that includes 1 or 2 weapons out of 17 different weapon types, 2 pieces of armor and a single accessory. The equipment that can be armed is based entirely on the class that a character is currently in.

Classes are augmented through an enormous amount of skills, of which the player must choose 10 that fit the class best. Skills range from adding commands such as elemental magic to passive skills that improve melee or spell casting attributes. The amount of customization that was added to TO:LuCT is truly incredible and players can spend countless hours simply tweaking their characters.

The battlefield pits 5 to 12 of your units against 1 to 18 enemy unit(s) in a confined map that is filled with various elements of terrain and obstacles that must be accounted for when crafting a strategy. Objectives can include wiping out the entire opposition or taking out one specific target. At times some battles present an additional neutral force that will remain passive until provoked. Battles are very dynamic and change based on the configuration of your army. There is a lot of strategy involved as each unit fulfills a particular role and it is the player's responsibility to mold together a team that can work together. The new Chariot system allows a player to rewind the course of the battle to redo certain actions to prevent undesirable outcomes. Although there is no penalty for using the system, those who manage to complete the game without using it are rewarded a title.

New to the remake is a crafting system that once introduced will allow the player to create high quality items and equipment. High quality weapons and armor have higher stats and usually grant a special effect to the bearer and items will restore more HP, MP or remove more status effects. While the crafting system could have been a good addition, it suffers from a horrible interface that will restrict usage because of the tedium involved.

SOUND: The music of TO:LuCT was always average to me, it seemed that the tunes were limited by the systems they were heard on. However, the remade score is absolutely fantastic and manages to capture the spirit that was once lacking in the songs. Every song retains the feel of the original tune but with much more varied tones that make them less repetitive and much more extravagant. New to the remake are a variety of original songs that are brand new as well as select songs from the original Ogre Battle that were enhanced and added as battle themes. An added feature in the remake allows the player to unlock songs that are heard throughout the game in the Warren Report to be listened to any time on the world map. Sound effects are all revamped from the original game and seem to fit the game better than before. Swords, arrows, guns, magic and even the cries of units who have been knocked out all sound much better than they once did.

CHALLENGE: I grade a game's difficulty based on how well it fits the game, if the game is too hard to the point of annoyance, the game gets a 0, if the game is too easy to the point of boredom, the game gets a 0. The remake of TO features a gradual difficulty scale that starts off fairly easy and progresses to become a bit more difficult. The entirety of the main game sports a nice balance of challenge where you will be forced to use strategy in battle but not feel completely overwhelmed. TO becomes more difficult in the post game scenario where equipment and magic become more difficult to find and the enemy's army starts to display an advantage. There are also some tough battles that only the most enthusiastic of players will be able to conquer.

REPLAYABLE: Technically, most people will not be replaying TO from scratch anymore. The reason for this is the inclusion of the all new World system once the main game has been completed. This system allows the player to "warp" between various anchor points throughout completed story content. This fantastic addition allows the player to experience every single story path and recruit every character on a single save file. Needless to say, this gives the game a lot of replayability as you can play through the entire game as many times as you want on one save file after completing it once. The expansive class, skill and equipment options allow for incredibly diverse armies that can change the way the game is played at the push of a button.

OVERALL: The remake of TO:LuCT improved on virtually every aspect of the original game. With the addition of new story elements, a far better localization, completely reworked gameplay and an enormous amount of side quests, the remake of TO can easily keep even seasoned veterans of the old game busy for a hundred hours. Although a nearly flawless game, some significant interface and AI issues keep it from achieving perfection. What was once a title reserved only for die hard SRPG fans has become a game that encourages new players to become engrossed in it.

SYSTEM: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Virtual Console, PlayStation Portable



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