Four things Tactics Ogre does better than FFT (and one it doesn’t)

This is the second post in my series on Tactics Ogre. Check out my impressions of the game’s (1) character profiles; (5) how I used different character classes in battle; (4) an unfortunate mishap later in the game, and (5) my verdict on the game.

 

I came straight from a three-quarters-finished play-through of Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions to Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. And while I haven’t finished Tactics Ogre, either, I have played for long enough (15 or 16 hours) to see what Tactics Ogre does better – and what it doesn’t. How do these two classics of the tactical RPG genre stack up?

 

1. Class abilities make it easier to set up proper party front and back lines – The knights should be up front, the wizard and cleric should be in the back. RPG Tactics 101, right? But in FFT, there was theoretically nothing (terrain aside) to prevent making a beeline for the squishies. Now, in Tactics Ogre, certain melee classes – such as knights! – can project a one-square zone of control around themselves that prevents enemies moving past. The usefulness of this ability guarantees several knights a role in my party – and as a gameplay feature, it ensures unit positioning is of proper importance.

 

2. Debuffs are more practical – In FFT I rarely bother with debuffs and status effects. FFT usually requires the player to kill every enemy on the map to win the battle, and debuffs are so inaccurate, I might as well just go for a damage-dealing attack instead. Of course, there are exceptions – I wouldn’t have won certain rock-hard battles near the end of Chapter 2 in FFT had I not prevented some of the most powerful characters on the enemy team from attacking – but the general rule remains. But in Tactics Ogre, most battles are won by killing the enemy leader, and there are often horrifyingly resilient enemies (from armoured knights to dragons in the way). Solution: start dropping debuffs left, right, and centre! That dragon isn’t so scary when it’s asleep. And the debuffs’ decent chance to hit (so long as you invest in the appropriate skills) means that you can use them without frustration, or resorting to abusing the Chariot system.

 

3. The Chariot system reduces frustration – Tactics Ogre’s Chariot system, which allows you to rewind a battle by up to 50 turns, is basically a legitimised save/reload. Most of the time, I don’t (ab)use it. But when a story character permadies halfway through a pitched fight, then I thank heaven that I can just fire up the Chariot instead of having to restart the battle from scratch.

 

4. The levelling system is less grindy – Tactics Ogre’s levelling system is halfway between a classic RPG and the innovative system we saw in Valkyria Chronicles: experience is awarded on a class-wide basis, and every unit of the same class shares the same level. If you’ve ever spent time bringing Ladd, Alicia and Lavian in FFT up to the same level as the starting characters, or grinding multiple Arithmeticians, you will appreciate the Tactics Ogre system immediately. The Tactics Ogre system isn’t perfect – training a new class up from Level 1 is still a hassle, which makes me wish they had gone whole hog and adopted the Valkyria Chronicles system whereby all experience goes into a common pool, to be allocated between classes as the player sees fit – but it’s a big step forward from FFT.

 

Now, given that Tactics Ogre’s gameplay was remastered for the PSP version whereas FFT: War of the Lions is basically a straight port with a few frills attached, it’s not terribly surprising that the former benefits. After all, both games came out in the 90s, and a lot of water has flowed since then.

 

That said, there is one area of gameplay in which FFT does better…

 

Map variety – Whether it’s scaling hills and rooftops in a street fight, storming a fastness, picking my way between lava flows at Mount Bervenia or crossing the forks of a river, FFT has  ample map variety. In contrast, Tactics Ogre has recycled several maps so far, and several more (e.g. hilltop fortresses where you start at the base of the map and have to fight your way higher) are awfully similar.

 

For all that, both games deliver from a gameplay perspective.  Each features fast and fluid combat. In each, there’s a rush of satisfaction in first building up my characters – A learns how to be a tank par excellence, while safely behind him, B becomes a one-woman army with her bow – and then unleashing them on the battlefield. And each is good at tempting the player with just-out-of-reach toys. Right now, Tactics Ogre is making me wonder: are Ninja as good in this game as they are in FFT? What could a Witch or a Warlock do on the field of battle that my existing Wizard can’t? I look forward to finding out.

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4 Responses to Four things Tactics Ogre does better than FFT (and one it doesn’t)

  1. Randy says:

    You’ll find a bit more map variety as you play further on. There’s a lava level, some half frozen streams, a big big dungeon that isn’t quite so dark ;). In fact, I think that after you account for the large, multi-map dungeons like the forest, there’s simply more maps here, so there’s more room for repetition.

    But to FFT’s credit, I believe that it’s leveling system is much superior to the original tactics ogre, wherein you had to train units against each other (boring compared to random battles) and each unit did in fact level up individually and a single level difference was a big deal.

    Also, the skill system in this re-released version wasn’t present in the original, although I don’t know what exactly was there instead.

    So it’s clear the designers learned a lot going from the first tactics ogre to FFT, to this version of tactics ogre (many of the same people, in case you didn’t know).

    • Peter says:

      Yeah, I’m now up to (presumably late) Chapter 3 and I’ve seen the ice levels, which I like, plus TO’s very own volcano!

      Probably my biggest issue with TO is that it’s still a hassle to train a new class — I’ve had to take a lengthy detour from the story to train up my Swordmaster, Beast Tamers, Ninja, Warlocks and White Knights, and I’m not looking forward to training up any other classes (such as dragons). Still, it could be a lot worse…

      And you’re right — FFT WAS a lot less painful than the original TO (which I briefly played) — and I think you have a good point about the team learning lessons as it went from one game to the next. (Yeah, I knew it was Matsuno and co. :D) I think the PSP version also benefits from the more forgiving, or perhaps I should say, the less unforgiving ethos of modern games — consider the increasingly lenient way the PSX TO, FFT, and the PSP TO treated character death.

  2. Pingback: » Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together – The Verdict Matchsticks for my Eyes

  3. ALLAHU AKBAR says:

    Hmm. There’s actually a lot less to it if you do it right. I discovered in FFT for psx that if you set all your characters to automated defense of another character, you can get the AI to completely take over, and random battles are a cakewalk for the AI, as it plays very conservatively, using the armored people as frontlines and keep squishies in back. One priest and one alchemist is all it takes.

    I don’t know if you’re allowed to set AI for characters in PSP, but the method runs like this. 1 defends 2, 2 defends 3, 3 defends 4, 4 defends 5, and 5 defends 1. Setting up this AI to protect each character in turn like this makes the game completely hands off. You can train and eat dinner at the same time. They will, in effect, act exactly like the opposing side AI, where the AI intelligently heals the weak, protects the squishy, and uses skills appropriately. Other version in PSX, where selecting AI to focus on defending one character while setting it to attack, failed to produce a similar result. Healers wouldn’t heal all healed allies, only their designated, unlike the setup above.

    This makes training anyone in a relevant class in FFt a breeze. In TO, you simply set up your highest experience characters with two shields to limit their damage output and make them pretty slow, and then fill your other side to the gills with characters that need to level up, giving them bows. Then you set both to AI and go eat dinner again.

    When it comes time to level up together because there’s no standout punching bags in your unit since they’re all similarly leveled, go into a random battle, set AI for all characters, and just wait for control of Denim. You’ll level up and make some money.

    The number of times you have to reset in either game is a testament to how badly you plan. Don’t be too upset by this, I liked to have one of each character in both games. You can imagine how badly that plays out. The AI usually has two knights and two archers in either game, or pairs+ of mages, and so on. That’s actually more strategically sound than having one of every unit.

    FFT debuff spells may have an actual decent hit/miss rate, so as not to be overpowered, but don’t look down on them. If you have two disablers of the same class, you’ve got the beginning of a strategy to work around. I used to play all damage every single trgp I played. Nothing to do with debuffs because I found them underwhelming, but that was because I wasn’t planning or using them properly. Putting 3 people to sleep in FFT is a huge deal. I thoroughly enjoyed the secret character Beowulf and his skill set which included disabling abilities on top of damage.

    If you understand the system, you can improve your % chance of hitting disabling spells, and silencing those two mages that are hosing your front line is more effective than doing a little bit of damage to both of them with one of your own mages.

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