The strategy genre is by far my favorite in gaming, unfortunately, the last few years have left quite a bad taste in my mouth. That is until I came upon Persona 5 Tactica. It reminded me of why I fell in love with the strategy genre in the first place, and for that, I sincerely appreciate it. It’s a game that’s both fresh and familiar, and the perfect entry into the Persona series. In my Persona 5 Tactica review, I’ll see what it has to offer for the strategy genre and the franchise itself.
Persona 5 Tactica’s Story
Persona 5 Tactica’s story picks up where Persona 5’s story left off but with a slight twist. Instead of the story taking place in modern-day Tokyo and the Metaverse, the events take place in a Medieval-Europe-inspired realm that’s aptly named “The Kingdom.” How did the Phantom Thieves end up in this strange place you may ask? Good question.
You see. It happened because… [REDACTED].
Let’s keep it spoiler-free, shall we? The spoiler-free version is this. One day, the Phantom Thieves were gathered in Cafe LeBlanc for a routine meet-up. Suddenly, everything goes dark, and mysteriously quiet. Then a glowing door appears at the entrance of the cafe. After taking the door, our heroes are transported into this new world. What is the world anyway?
A Troubled World
Persona 5 Tactia’s chibi aesthetic initially gives off the impression that this new world we’re thrust into is an innocent and carefree place. Unfortunately for its inhabitants, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, this new Kingdom is plagued by a terrible affliction. The most terrible kind of affliction that could ever befall a Kingdom – an egomaniacal ruler.
The main antagonist in Persona 5 Tactica is Queen Marie. An upstart ruler that seemingly comes out of nowhere and dominates everyone with her terrifying powers. Even the Phantom Thieves aren’t safe from her wicked spell. This ties into the first couple of missions in the campaign, which revolve around you rescuing your fellow Phantom Thieves from Marie.
The Persona series is renowned for its vibrant and captivating characters, especially when it comes to its antagonists. Marie is the type of character that you love to hate. She’s egomaniacal, narcissistic, sadistic, greedy, vain, and a slew of other negative traits. And because she’s that type of character, I made it my mission to annoy her as much as possible.
Honestly, the interactions with Marie were my favorite. There’s something about annoying self-centered people that feels a bit like eating my favorite ice cream flavor. My heart fills with boundless joy every time I do it.
The Combat in Persona 5 Tactica
Combat in Persona 5 Tactica follows a tactical turn-based system on a grid-based map approach. However, unlike games like X-Com, which use a click-to-move system, Tactica allows you to freely move around when it’s your turn. The only limit that exists is your character’s movement range. But other than that, you’re free to explore the map however you wish.
Freedom I think is the best word to describe Tactica’s combat system. Whenever it’s your turn, you’re completely free to do whatever you want. The only limit is your capacity to think tactically. You can shoot your enemies, or you can melee them out of cover. You can use your Personas on them or you can skip the turn so that you gain an advantage on your enemies in the next turn.
With so many options available to you, and with progressively harder challenges being thrown at you; you’re practically forced to adapt and become better in every subsequent mission. The characters and tactics that worked in one mission might not necessarily work in another.
Thankfully, mechanics like the Baton Pass and Velvet Room are readily available at the start of each instance. And honestly, they’re a godsend! The ability to swap out any character as well as the ability to change their Persona is beyond useful in almost any instance.
Persona 5 Tactica is a game that will humble you at one point or another. You’ll have a sequence of successful encounters, only to get slapped in the face in the next one. It’s just a part of the process, and honestly, it’s the thing that makes the game so exhilarating in the first place.
Remember Sun Tzu
While playing through Persona 5 Tactica I reminded myself of my favorite Sun Tzu quote: “To win a hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.” The main thing that Tactica does (especially on higher difficulty levels) is that it challenges you to constantly improve and do better.
Each situation that you’re thrown in can be resolved more efficiently, with a more favorable outcome. So long as you’re willing to sit back for a moment and think about your next moves. I absolutely love this. That is the feeling that every strategy game should strive to achieve. If the player knows the outcome before he has even started an engagement, then that’s poor design.
Thinking prudently is especially important at some of the later levels. I tell you, Persona 5 Tactica is not a game that pulls its punches. It does a great job of setting you up and teaching you everything there is to know, and then it proceeds to throw you right into the middle of the pool. It’s a game that tells you to your face: “You’ll either swim, or you’ll sink to the bottom.”
How Persona 5 Tactica Familiarizes You With Its Characters
Tactica follows the tried and true formula of previous Persona games when it comes to familiarizing you with its colorful cast. I.e. it mainly happens in the form of dialogues between two or more characters. The dialogue screens are probably the most iconic thing about the Persona games, as they’re jam-packed with gems and other memorable interactions.
The things that I found particularly charming about the game are its beautiful hand-drawn animations and the seamless transitions into cutscenes. Another thing that helped me with the immersion was the fact that almost every interaction in the game was voice-acted. And if it wasn’t, it at least had a grunt or some other vocalization to set the mood.
Talking and getting to know the characters is highly encouraged by the game, as that’s one of the main ways to gain GP. GP is what you use to unlock new skills for your characters. And by skipping the optional conversations, you’re practically shooting yourself in the foot.
The Familiar Things in Persona 5 Tactica
Even though Persona 5 Tactica is a completely different game compared to the mainline titles, it still feels familiar in many ways. For starters, the Phantom Thieves are all the same, albeit a bit more chibi-looking than usual. Joker is still the protagonist we know and love, and, the Velvet Room along with Lady Lavenza also makes an appearance in the game.
Just like in Persona 5, you can also prep yourself in the hideout before departing. Sorting through Personas, equipping new and more powerful weapons. That sort of stuff. The hideout is also how you access the Velvet Room, which now allows you to combine your Personas into even more powerful Personas that you can use later on.
The Strange Things in Persona 5 Tactica
Many things feel familiar in Persona 5 Tactica, but, there are also equally as many things that feel strange and unfamiliar. A thing that I missed is the semi-open world map of the mainline games. In Tactica, you’re restricted to just the mission selection and the occasional quests. While that isn’t bad per se, it’s just something that I found uncanny.
Another nitpick that I have is that the game seemingly hasn’t kept up with TBT trends of the past 10 years. The cover system is incredibly weird. For starters, flanking is nonexistent. You could walk up right next to an enemy and shoot them in the face and they’ll still take reduced damage. I think that is beyond ridiculous, and it makes zero sense to me.
Verdict & Final Remarks
All in all, Persona 5 Tactica is a tremendously well-made game. Frankly, you have to go out of your way to find a fault with it. The art style and music are dazzling, the gameplay is fun, polished, and captivating, and the story is a lot of fun to follow. My only real gripes with the game are personal nitpicks, which won’t necessarily reflect your experiences with the game.
Personally, I prefer Persona’s more “realistic” entries, rather than the more chibi-looking entries like Tactica or Q2. I also think that the cover system could have been pulled off a bit better. Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter that much, as it doesn’t take away from the overall experience. So it isn’t that big of a deal at the end of the day.
What did you think of our review of Persona 5 Tactica? Share what you think about it in the comments below.
This review is based on the PC version of Persona 5 Tactica. The key was provided by Indigo Pearl and SEGA.