This is the fourth post in my series on Tactics Ogre. Check out my earlier impressions of the game’s (1) character profiles; (2) four things it does better than FFT (and one it doesn’t); (3) how I used different character classes in battle; and (5) my verdict on the game.
The legend of King Arthur reaches its tragic end at the battle of Camlann, one that could have been avoided but for a stroke of ill luck. Arthur and his foe Mordred, so the story goes, sat down to negotiate. Their armies looked on, ready to pounce in the event of treachery. Sure enough, one knight pulled his sword – but it was to strike at a snake, not the king. It did not matter. The armies saw the steel, not the snake. And when it was over, Mordred was dead and Arthur lay dying.
Certain events in Tactics Ogre, though far, far less drastic, reminded me of Camlann all the same.
(Minor spoilers follow.)
At one point in Tactics Ogre, the story calls for the main character to set off on a parley. But I didn’t do this immediately. It took me a couple of hours of real time to get around to it—for one, I had to fight another story battle, and I think I must also have spent some time grinding in random battles, crafting, or rearranging my party.
Upon finally making it to the negotiations, up popped the party selection screen – the same one that comes up before every battle. “Hmm,” I thought. After all, Tactics Ogre is a tactical RPG – battles are the meat and potatoes of the gameplay. The obvious implication was that the day would end in bloodshed. So I did what I always do when I see that screen: I sent in the hero plus a full complement of party members, all of them armed like medieval Rambos. Sure enough, the resulting cut-scene showed the situation degenerating into violence. I shrugged, mowed down my foes, and moved on with the story.
And then, several days later, I learned from GameFAQs that the bloodshed could have been avoided, had I sent in the hero alone and unarmed.
“Wait a minute!” I thought. “How on earth was I supposed to know to do that?!” But something still bothered me. Maybe the game had given me the appropriate hint, and I’d just forgotten about it?
So I went back to re-watch the cut-scene before the hero left for his ill-fated parley. And sure enough, he did say that he should go alone and unarmed.
The game’s developers had indeed given me a hint about what to do, and I had indeed forgotten during the time it took me to get around to the parley. But even if I had remembered that line of dialogue, it would have been undermined by the game having conditioned me, by that point, to expect a fight after seeing the “party selection” screen. So moral of the story #1 is to reaffirm the hidden danger to taking time off from a game’s plot. Moral of the story #2 is, when gameplay mechanics train the player to do X in a given situation, designers should be wary about then expecting the player to do Y instead. This would all be small comfort to the generic enemies who lay dead in the snow. Sorry, guys, I’ll be sure to spare your lives on my next run!
At least I got an in-game title, “Bloodstained Hero”, out of the affair…