Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is a surprisingly entertaining turn based battle strategy role playing game with a strong story. I’m not one for story so I will tell you about the game itself. You are a commander of a band of do-gooders, who set out to save a land from an evil empire and various quests along the way.
So why is this surprisingly entertaining? It is one of the most realistic role-playing games in existence because it relies on tactical strategy. With a normal role-playing game, you wander the countryside looking for a battle, when you find it, you have a choice, fight, use magic or run. With Ogre Tactics, when you battle you see an entire landscape of a battle area, trees you can hide behind, buildings, water and so on.
You have control over each character of your army and up to eight can be in a battle at a time. Control them to move, fight, use spells, special abilities, items, and use real battle tactics! Maneuver a character behind an enemy and have them stab the enemy in the back! This ensures that there is no counterattack and a defense from the victim is rare. Have your archers take the high ground and bombard the enemy with arrows or you can fight the enemy head on!
Before you confirm an action against an enemy you see the damage you will do and the percentage that you’ll hit them. Its nice, precise information in determining the best course of action even if there’s a random chance they will dodge or guard.
Perhaps the worst part about the game is how slow it moves. The options give you an array of choices to turn off dialogs and speed up messages, but its still slow. You need to wait for everything to be carried out. It would have been better for a faster move and animation speed, but that might be too much for the GameBoy Advance’s processor. Every battle can feel long especially against heavily armored enemies like dragons.
There are dozens of weapons, spells with dazzling graphics, armor and so on to equip to characters of your army. Arrows can hit any enemy in its long range. Swords and typical melee weapons can only attack in four directions. Weapons like pikes and spears can attack two tiles in one direction. These pieces of equipment all come with a weight that gives you less distance to move. Its all something to consider when equipping someone. Other gear lets you move further.
When you take a turn, you can move or attack an enemy in range. When that character’s turn is over, you chose the standby command that will let you point in a direction. So it gives you the opportunity to have your back to a wall or high ground or at least face your enemies. Of course they can always run around you and stab you in the back. A critical hit can also push a nearby enemy away, denying them from a counterattack. One of the craziest situations is using a skill that accidentally hurts an ally, they will counterattack.
Each battle gives you an objective, either to defeat the leader of the opposition or wipe them all out. When leaders are the toughest member of their party, you may find yourself wiping out everyone else before tackling the boss. You can also take on training battles, but this is you making two teams from your clan and controlling both teams. This kills any sort of fun that training might have, so its just better to push your troops into real battles.
You can have a maximum of thirty-two characters in your clan. To get more, the easiest way is to hire them in shops. When you hire them, you can pay extra for a higher level and name them. I opt never to name anyone and a random name is just bestowed upon them. The other way to get more allies is to convince your foes on the battlefield to join your cause. The catch is that they need to have low health as a sort of “join us or we’ll kill you.” Its a real trophy to persuade an enemy. You will also have plenty of computer controlled guest allies during a mission that will join your party when you win.
There are several character classes, such as knights, soldiers, magicians, clerics, archers, ninjas, beast tamers, dragon tamers and yes even monsters like octopuses, lions, fairies, devils, griffins and dragons can be a part of your army. There are limits on the number of a class and its gender you can have in your clan. I suppose this is to always ensure that you have variety. Outside of battle, the human characters can change classes or upgrade if they meet the prerequisites. Its a game full of customization.
To upgrade classes, the character needs to have earned the correct emblems on the battlefield. These are like achievements that have their pros and cons. Killing five beasts grants an animal hunter emblem which makes it tough to persuade a beast to join your cause. When a priest has a fist fight emblem, they are granted a powerful counterattack. When a character counterattacks fifteen times, they will earn the knight’s certificate emblem to enable an upgrade their class to a knight.
With classes, they each have their strengths, weapons, skills and weaknesses. Ninjas can move far distances, walk on water, use magic and specific abilities. Beast tamers use whips that stun enemies and they’re effective against non humans. Hawkmen can fly and get over taller terrain. Soldiers are typical melee classes with a lot of health and choices for gear.
Magicians can use long range magic and more powerful spells have an effect radius to damage several enemies at once. The radius also breaks up the tactic of standing shoulder-to-shoulder and making a wall of units.
Each character builds mana with every turn. So to get more, you just have to wait. This will always keep magic users in the battle without overpowering them since a lot of spells have long range. Spells are interchangeable in each character’s inventory.
There are four major elements (earth, wind, fire and ice) in the game with six overall (light and dark). To keep things interesting, everyone has an element assigned to them, but if you hire someone, you can assign their element. For magic users, it becomes effective to use spells with elements that match the caster’s own element. Like other role playing games, elements have an effect on weaker elements as a sort of rock-paper-scissor system.
Since turns take a while to perform, the strengths and weaknesses have more impact. No move feels frivolous. Even something as simple as moving a character becomes a strategic win or a loss.
In terms of leveling up and experience, each character will level up with one hundred experience, but where it gets interesting is you get more experience for taking down higher level foes. It makes sense since lower leveled foes are just easier to defeat, so its better to put your lesser units into combat. Enemies will also drop item sacks that you can either land on to collect or they are all opened when you win the battle. If a foe lands on a sack their party will get that item.
When the game starts, you will be asked for your name followed by six other questions that tailors a story toward your answers. Its a good way to start the game and does enhance the experience by making it for you. Then its off to a training battle where you control only your own character so its nothing overwhelming for new players.
There is brief dialog to start and end each battle to give them all a small story that build to something greater. Saving a fairy from Cerberus, dragons and demons will let her join your party, because she’s looking for her sister. You’ll find her later in a different battle. Everything links so well together even if it is a bit dialog heavy at times.
The map consists of points that you’ll uncover and travel from point-to-point. Some of the points have shops, but you’ll never be in a town so much as a battlefield that looks like a town. There’s no exploration in Tactics Ogre. Back tracking can uncover battles in case you’re ever stuck on one.
One of the best things about the game are the details. If it stays raining for a while, the water level will rise. The opposition can do the same things that you can. They can pull out a lot of potions to restore health and if the losing condition is to defeat your party’s leader, the enemy will attempt to kill your leader to win.
At a close second place for the worst offense of Tactics Ogre is a game over is brutal, because you need to reload your last save. So if you forget to save for the last three hours, that’s three hours you’ve lost. Make sure to save the game after each battle, because these matches are around thirty minutes long. An automatic save would have been nice or at least a reminder.
Each battle is different no matter how many times you replay the same battle. You can have different characters, different stats, different equipment, different tactics. Any number of things can happen, box in a leader between four of your characters. Defeat every enemy except the leader. Use arrows, flank enemies, take them head on or use both tactics.
The battles themselves have a diverse array of units. One battle you’ll be fighting a bunch of ninjas in a village at night; another your opposition is a bunch of flying creatures in a stream. There are confrontations against a mixed bag of opponents, a knight, a few soldiers, an archer, wizard, cleric and so on. Its always fun.
The positives still manage to outweigh the negatives, making Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is an amazing game with a lot of hours packed into it.