Ogre Battle 64 – Person of Lordly Caliber
Genre: Real Time Strategy / Tactical RPG
I have a shameful secret that I’ll share with you now. I am absolutely terrible at Tactical RPG’s. Time and again, I’ve begun a game, teetered on the edge of holding my own before finally falling down in the mud. One of the games that I’ve tried this with was Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. After my last attempt a few years ago where I just kept having the floor wiped with me, I threw in the towel. Recently, a friend of mine has helped me ease into playing Final Fantasy Tactics, and I’ve gotten a rekindled interest in the genre under his heavy-handed job class coaching. So I decided to revisit the Ogre series fresh, with a title I hadn’t explored before. When I popped the game on, I hadn’t quite realized what I was going to be getting into with Ogre Battle 64.
I’ll admit it now, this is a later title in the Ogre series. While hardcore followers of the series may blanch at this faux-pas, I can safely report that I could jump into the storyline with little trouble. You play the role of Magnus Gallant, who is assigned as captain of his own squad of fellow graduates from the Ischka Military Academy in Palatinus’ Southern Brigade, in Alba. After seeing the cruelty of the upper classes being perpetrated by the men around the prince when dealing with rebels during the beginning of a civil war, you end up joining the cause of the rebel leader, Frederick Raskin. After first uniting and conque-… liberating the southern region you reside in, you make your way across the world before finally marching on and conquering the capital. Threats appear from within and without during your campaign, and your battalion “The Blue Knights” are under threat from all sides.
The game features six possible endings, running from the rebellion casting you out and erasing your name from history for your cruel and aggressive tactics as a deadly monster who solves everything by force, to being named The Paladian King and ruling over all of the ‘liberated’ lands that you have taken, since Frederick Raskin dies in the war. It tells that his line (or at least his son) takes over when he dies, and they are remembered as just and noble rulers by all the classes.
There are a myriad of colorful characters in both armies in Ogre Battle 64, despite some interesting translation on the dialogue. Barring the generic units that you acquire throughout the course of the game, most of the people you come across actually have motives, personalities, and driving stories, even if they aren’t directly affecting the main plotline. The story itself has twists and turns and intricacies that aren’t found often in games. This is all to say nothing of the games class system.
Like in your typical RPG, characters are broken up into certain classes, which tend to be gender based in the Ogre games (though other than Male and Female based, there are also non-human based classes). So while a woman can be a priest or a valkyrie, a man can be a knight or a puppetmaster [my favorite class, for sheer sake of its strange theme]. Each class excels at a different position, near mid or far in the squad, and benefits from other units being in front, behind or beside them. A change of class is done through changing the equipment base, which will change what they can carry, what equipment they can equip, and what sorts of things they’ll do in battle from what position they are in. When building your squads, it’s best to keep a mix of classes that will work well together – if you have two front liners and two mages, your best bet would be to throw in a healer, unless you like to live dangerously. Magnus himself can lead up to fifty units total in his battalion, and each squad can have up to a total of five units (including one advanced class unit that acts as the leader).
While battles take place in a more traditional Tactical based grid with the squads fighting in real time, the map is a large overview of the battlefield which generally involves a series of towns, and two strongholds. Many maps have an objective to capture the enemy stronghold, though there are just as many quests that involve defeating a certain enemy unit, or capturing an area of their towns. This can net you different benefits, the most basic of which is that your units can rest up faster inside of towns, and have a defensible point to guard when enemies try to come and attack. Attacking enemies (or defending from them) matters – depending on which direction you and the enemy are facing, you can start with an advantage or a disadvantage. If you come across an enemy who has made camp in the open, you can jump them while they’re sleeping to gain a significant advantage. If your squad is tired enough that you’d risk setting camp, you can also fall prey to enemies.
Since I had never had the chance to own a Nintendo 64, I never got the pleasure of playing this game in its prime. Graphically, it still holds up well as a Playstation / N64 era game, and the sounds are at least tolerable, if not enjoyable. The controls are a little clunky, though even they are serviceable. It just takes a bit more getting used to than more modernized games in the genre.
I can see why this game is pretty well liked by people who played it. It’s a little clunky for a modern RTS or Tactical RPG, but overall it’s an enjoyable play through. Ogre Battle 64 is available on the Wii Virtual Console for pretty cheap. If you enjoy the genre and are looking for a solid plot to keep you engaged, it does the job well.