Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
  • Genre:
    • Strategy
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo 64
  • Developer:
    • Quest
  • Publisher:
    • Atlus
  • Released:
    • JP 07/14/1999
    • US 10/07/2000
Score: 65%

This review was published on 03/12/2014.

Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber is a strategy RPG developed by Quest and originally released for the Nintendo 64. It was first released in Japan on July 14, 1999, and then later localized in North America on October 7, 2000. This game is the sequel to Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Ogre Battle 64 was heavily advertised in Nintendo Power back when it was first released and well received by critics, but it wasn't a commercial success. The game has been mostly forgotten today, even more so than its Super Nintendo predecessor. Ogre Battle was never an overwhelmingly popular series, but fans of the first game weren't terribly fond of Ogre Battle 64 due to some changes in the game's mechanics. That probably explains why Ogre Battle 64 doesn't have much of a cult following today, because even dedicated Ogre Battle fans didn't like it. It's understandable, as Ogre Battle 64 further worsens many of the worst aspects of the original game. However, it does improve some things and is overall friendlier to newcomers of the series.

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Magnus Gallant, the protagonist of Ogre Battle 64, is a gallant young lad who joined the Ischka Military Academy to get away from his father. Talk about daddy issues. Six years later, Magnus graduates the academy and becomes a captain of a small brigade in the Palatinean Army's Southern Division. A civil war soon erupts within the region and Magnus finds himself caught up in the whole thing. While fighting the rebels, Magnus starts to feel sympathy for them and eventually joins their cause. This puts him in a difficult position as he's now fighting against the same army he was once a part of. Having been declared a wanted man by the entire kingdom, Magnus faces danger from every direction. His new objective is to fight against the tyranny of the Holy Lodis Empire and put an end to the class system. Destiny takes him on a winding path of conspiracies and plot twists as he attempts to shape his future and the future of the land. The premise to Ogre Battle 64 might sound familiar if you've played games like Final Fantasy IV, as both start off with the hero turning against his own kingdom. Unlike the original Ogre Battle, there are actual cutscenes this time around, and they're all presented in the game's stellar pre-rendered art style. Graphically, the cutscenes look great. The dialogue is also a far cry better than the first Ogre Battle game. All this culminates in an engrossing plot that will keep motivation high throughout.

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Ogre Battle 64 plays a lot like its younger brother on the Super Nintendo. It's still a mixture of real-time strategy and turn-based combat, something that not many games do. Battle maps are now rendered in full 3-D, though that's not necessarily a good thing, given the ugliness of the polygonal graphics and drab textures. Before anything can begin, units must be dispatched to the battlefield, which thankfully no longer costs money. Units are issued commands by the player and move around the map in real-time, but the battle scenes are akin to a turn-based RPG. The objective of each map is to beat the boss garrisoned at the enemy's headquarters, but there are many towns to liberate and enemies to defeat along the way. The controls during these segments of the game, which are technically the most crucial, have been improved with many modern conveniences. One such convenience is the ability to make your units automatically chase after a fleeing enemy unit, something that wasn't possible in the first game. Ogre Battle 64 adds a few annoying things to the proceedings, like the fatigue system. Every unit will slowly become fatigued as they move across the map, eventually necessitating them to rest at a town or set up camp. Fatigued units perform poorly in combat and camped units that get attacked fall asleep during battle. This acts as a penalty for using the same unit too long, preventing players from eradicating enemy forces with a single unit. You can use items to restore stamina, but this is still awfully annoying. This is the kind of irksome mechanic that you'll try to ignore, but it always rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times. The worst thing about it is that your units automatically set up camp when fully fatigued, even if you don't want them to. It does add a bit of realism, but it's the kind of realism that games don't need.

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When two opposing units on the battlefield come into contact with each other, a short battle sequence is initiated. This is where the turn-based part of the game starts to kick in. The direction a unit is facing on the map now matters in battle, as being attacked from behind gives the attacker an advantage. Sadly, you still have no control over the cool looking turn-based battle scenes. Battle scenes end after all characters execute their attacks, and the victor is determined by which side did the most damage. There's something called an "Interrupt Gauge" that slowly fills over time, and you can issue indirect battle commands when it's full, but even then, the commands don't let you control individual characters. If the Interrupt Gauge fills up three times in a single battle, the option to use "Elemental Pedras" becomes available. These are kind of like the tarot cards from the first Ogre Battle, in that they do magical damage against the enemy party. That's the closest you'll get to control the battle scenes. Multiple casters in a unit can now combine their spells in battle to inflict more damage, a la Chrono Trigger, which is super neat. Also, sometimes your characters will become zombies if they die in battle. Zombies are kind of cool, but permanently losing a good character isn't. Another neat feature is training mode. Training mode typically appears in the Tactics Ogre games, but this one of the first times it appeared in an Ogre Battle game. Training mode lets you fight mock battles outside of the battlefield to earn experience, but it does cost money. There are no real issues with the miniature battle sequences in Ogre Battle 64; visually, they look fantastic in the game's pre-rendered art style, and they're animated decently. The only issue is the lack of control, but that's an issue with the whole Ogre Battle series.

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Units contain up to five characters and can be arranged in a number of formations. Formations previously only consisted of two rows, but Ogre Battle 64 ups the ante by making them three rows. Like before, unit formations play a vital role during combat, as each character will act differently depending on where they're standing. For example, valkyries will use a melee attack when placed in the front row, but cast a spell when in the back row. Most characters are best suited for a particular row, but the newly added middle row is the odd one out here. There aren't many characters particularly suited for the middle row, and despite the additional row, you can't have more characters than before. As a result of that, the middle row feels superfluous. A unit's movement type is affected by the characters within the unit, like a unit comprised of flying characters will be able to move across the battlefield with no movement penalties. Unfortunately, you can no longer pair flying and ground characters together and get the same benefit. The original Ogre Battle allowed flying characters to carry the whole unit in the sky, so this is a bit disappointing. Lastly, units can carry a certain amount of expendable items that can then be used on the battlefield. Again, this is a step down from the first game, because it used to be possible to use any items without having to worry who's carrying them. On the bright side, it's now possible to carry unlimited items in your inventory, and that's a nice improvement over the original game. Ogre Battle 64 imposes a lot of seemingly unnecessary restrictions with few improvements to show for it.

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Classes have had a bit of an overhaul in Ogre Battle 64, and not in a good way. First off, all newly created characters start off as the insanely weak soldier class. Soldiers come in groups of three and they're these little guys with tiny spears. They count as a single character and slowly die off one by one as the total health goes down, reducing the amount of damage they inflict, sort of like Advance Wars. Once soldiers accumulate enough experience, they can promote into a better class. There are various things that determine what classes a character has access to, such as stats, alignment, gender, etc. The biggest factor, however, and the one new to Ogre Battle 64, is equipment. It is now required to have certain sets of equipment in order for a character to promote into a particular class. For instance, you need a shield, helmet, some plate armor, and a sword before you can change any character into a knight. Improved versions of the base gear can work, too, but you at least need the base gear to change into that particular class. If you want to create another knight, then you need a second set of that base gear. Every class has its own base gear requirement, and this is usually the thing that will bar you from getting the desired classes. Changing classes quickly becomes an expensive endeavor, as you'll have to buy extra sets of gear for every class you want. To top it all off, some classes require equipment that can't be bought at stores, making these classes really difficult to acquire. I'm going to be blunt here and say this whole system stinks. Getting the classes you wanted was already a bother in the original Ogre Battle due to the alignment requirements, but this makes it substantially worse.

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Alignment is back whether you like it or not. Ogre Battle 64 makes a few changes to the way alignment works when compared to its predecessor, but it still works much in the same way. A character's alignment can either be chaotic, neutral, or lawful, and this affects a lot of things, such as class availability and town liberation. Alignment can be changed by a variety of things, one of which is killing other characters. Killing characters with a proportionally lower level to yours will bring your alignment closer to chaotic, whereas killing higher level characters will tip the scale towards lawfulness. Additionally, killing lawful characters like knights and valkyries will lower your alignment, while killing chaotic characters like berserkers and wizards raises it. All of that is basically the same as the first game, but here's where things change; having characters of different alignments in the same group will slowly bring everyone's alignment into equilibrium. To put it simply, a group of characters with high and low alignments will eventually make everyone neutral. This is good if you want to get more neutral characters, but bad if you're going for anything else. Because of this system, it's no longer possible to mix characters of differing alignments and have them stay that way. If you want a character to remain lawful or chaotic, they must be placed in a group with similarly lawful or chaotic characters. This greatly limits your freedom in creating teams and is just an all around bummer. Ogre Battle 64 makes the dreaded alignment system even more of a nightmare than it originally was.

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Liberating towns works a little differently in Ogre Battle 64. In this game, towns can either be liberated or captured when you move one of your units to them. Taking a town is generally beneficial to you because it increases the amount of money you make, heals injured units, provides shops, etc. Whether a town is captured or liberated depends on the unit's alignment and the town's morale. If a town's morale matches the alignment of the unit attempting the liberation, then the liberation will be successful. However, if there is a mismatch, the liberation will fail and the town will instead be captured. Units with lawful alignments are good at liberating towns with a high morale, while chaotic units are better at liberating towns that have a low morale. Neutral units are best at liberating towns that have a morale rating that's somewhere in the middle. What's the difference between a liberated town and a captured one, you ask? Well, liberating towns raises something called a "Chaos Frame," which is kind of like the reputation of your army and will ultimately influence the game's ending. Capturing towns lowers your Chaos Frame and therefore results in a worse ending. This makes liberation way more annoying than it was in the previous Ogre Battle, because you now need two or three separate units with differing alignments to liberate towns without ruining your ending. To make matters worse, there's no way to check your Chaos Frame in the game, so you have no idea how well you're doing. Town liberation was already a frustrating affair in the original Ogre Battle, and now it's even worse.

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Ogre Battle 64 is an odd one. On one hand, it streamlines a lot of things and makes the Ogre Battle formula more palatable to the masses, with a decent plot, good graphics, solid music, and improved controls. On the other hand, it adds a lot of bad mechanics, like fatigue, and further worsens the ones that already sucked from before, such as town liberation. It's tough to say whether this is an overall step up or step down from the first Ogre Battle, as for almost every improvement Ogre Battle 64 makes, there is an equal or greater blemish to soil it. The one thing that's for certain is that Ogre Battle 64 is a lot more playable than its predecessor, even if it does make some things worse.

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