Sunday, April 11, 2004

Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis

Tactics Ogre Knight of Lodis
SRPG - Game Boy Advance
Backup Memory - 3 save slots / 1 quicksave
1 Player

Tactics Ogre Let Us Cling Together is a tough act to follow. Considered by many to be THE strategy RPG to play, it really relied on planning. FFT vs TO:LUCT arguments aside, the combination of unrelenting difficulty and the unique timing system, which gives you a faster or slower turn depending on what your actions were the previous turn, makes Let Us Cling Together a classic.

Knight of Lodis was known as "Gaiden"(side story) in Japan. I'm not sure why it's known as a side-story, because there is a definite connection between the events of this game and Let Us Cling Together. But not all elements from both games are related. Several members of Quest, the creators of the Ogre games, have joined Square, leaving this franchise with newcomers and a handful of the old staff. Can they duplicate the efforts of old Quest?

In a word: no. Knight of Lodis is absolutely boring. I do not claim to be a SRPG fanatic, but I've played a variety of different titles in my lifetime. This is easily the weakest one I've tried.

You know the drill. You pick units and place them on a grid. Every turn, you move each individual unit, attacking or healing if necessary, with the goal of terminating the enemy units one by one. So you use your melee units to take them straight on, and use spellcasters and ranged units to clean them up from afar.

But where KoL fails is that it's nothing more than that. Shining Force 3 has a friendship system where each character gets bonuses based on vicinity and assistance. Super Robot Wars and various others have defense settings where you could defend, counterattack or dodge. Black/Matrix has you consider the effect of dead corpses on the ground. TO:KoL just strips the SRPG down to its basic nature of moving and attacking. It removes the brilliant WT system from Let Us Cling Together, and instead allows you to move all your units at once. This reduces the game to the only strategy of surrounding an enemy unit and hitting them til they're dead. Since you can move your 8 characters all at once, it's simple to kill whoever you want during your turn. Also in games like Langrisser and Advance Wars, there are consequences to sticking a particular unit next to an enemy so it's actually a risk. Here, it's pretty negligible whether you stick a wizard or a knight to block an enemy's path.

Herein lies another of TO's faults. It's easy. The AI is dumb as a brick. Sometimes they could be in range to kill one of your party members on their turn, but instead do something absolutely illogical. Sure that means less frustration for you, but if you wanted a game to hold your hand, why do you play games in the first place? Even later levels are not much harder. I've come across one level where I actually had to plan out what I'd do. One level out of the 40 odd scenarios they throw at you.

And worst of all, the pacing is extremely slow. You can't choose to skip animations, nor can you do anything to speed up the slow walk speeds of the characters. Due to lack of GBA buttons, there's no shortcut buttons for anything, so you must navigate through menus to do every little thing. Everything moves so sluggishly that it's no wonder I'm so bored.

The main draw of the Ogre series is how you can change classes. There's about 12 or so classes in the game. Some are pretty similar (Cleric vs Priest for instance), and some are completely different. In order to become a specific class, you have to fulfill a set of invisible requirements. In general, one of these requirements are medals. That's the only thing new in this outing. Depending on what you do, you are rewarded with medals that either help your stats or can allow a class change. But unfortunately, obtaining these medals also end up being fulfilling a list of invisible requirements. Invisible meaning without, you wouldn't know how to get many of the medals, and thus many of the classes. How silly is that?

Even more ridiculous is the last part of the game. It's so ridiculous that I have to mention it. The game forces you to fight 5 fights in a row with no ability to save, aside from the 1 quicksave. In the final battle, if you just happened to not have a specific item equipped, you cannot damage the last boss at all. They don't tell you this until you try to attack the last boss and by then you can't switch chars/equip anymore. So the game "story" continues and has the last boss annihilate your party, and you get the bad ending with credits and all. That means if I want a chance at the good ending, I've got to fight 5 more 1-hr long battles from the last point they let me save. Brilliant game design.

This is junk. A strategy game without difficulty is no strategy game at all. Add in painfully slow animations, a stripped-down-to-minimum SRPG engine, and some truly terrible decisions in game design and you've got Tactics Ogre Knight of Lodis. I honestly can not see any redeeming factors to this game. It took me over a year to finish and I only got there because I forced myself to, in hopes that I would find something others were seeing in it. But alas, my frustrations just grew as the months went by. If there's any plus to it, the storyline is quite elaborate. A little too elaborate for me, as I lost track of it way early in the game, but people familiar with the Ogre universe will probably get it. Recommended only if you like the Ogre saga story. Otherwise, don't bother. It's a disgrace to what the original stood for.