Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
  • Genre:
    • Strategy
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Advance
  • Developer:
    • Quest
  • Publisher:
    • Atlus
  • Released:
    • JP 06/21/2001
    • US 05/07/2002
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/18/2014.

Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis is a 2-D, isometric tactical role-playing game developed by Quest and originally released for the Game Boy Advance. It's the sequel to Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together and the second game in the Tactics Ogre series. The Tactics Ogre series in itself is a spinoff of the Ogre Battle series. There are many similarities between Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics, but it should be noted that Tactics Ogre came first. The first game didn't get a North American release until after Final Fantasy Tactics came out, though, so it was greatly overshadowed. It wasn't until The Knight of Lodis that the series got any kind of recognition in the West. The game came out before Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, meaning that there was very little competition at the time for this sort of game on the Game Boy Advance. As such, the game had a decent reception and did far better than its predecessor. Even so, many still regarded The Knight of Lodis as a poor man's Final Fantasy Tactics. That's not entirely inaccurate, to be honest. The Knight of Lodis makes a few fundamental changes to the core formula, but the changes aren't drastic enough to put it ahead Final Fantasy Tactics.

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Alphonse is the protagonist of the game, and he is, as the title implies, a knight of Lodis. He and his friend Rictor are sent on a mission by way of ship. Like most RPG voyages, however, the ship is assaulted by a terrible storm, forcing them to stop off at an island. It's here where they are ambushed by a bunch of hired swords for unknown reasons. Alphonse and Rictor successfully fend off the ruffians, but during their brief respite after the fight, Alphonse takes a surprise arrow for Rictor and falls into the ocean. The downed protagonist then washes ashore somewhere else, where he is nursed back to health by a cute girl. Man, these RPG protagonists are so lucky. The girl introduces herself as Eleanor and she tells him that he's at a church in Solea. Alphonse then embarks on a journey to reunite with his troops, but because this is a Tactics Ogre game, there are a lot of plot twists and betrayals along the way, not to mention a couple of shadowy conspiracies. Just like in the previous Tactics Ogre, making different decisions will change what paths and endings you get in the story. If you want to see everything, you'll have to play the game two or three times, though that probably isn't worth it. The game has fairly solid writing and it explores various religious and political themes that make it intriguing. Without question, this game has a far better plot than Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. Don't let the cute sprites fool you, because The Knight of Lodis has a sophisticated story. The story is also loosely connected to other games in the Ogre Battle saga, including the first Tactics Ogre, but it's not necessary to play any of those games to enjoy this one.

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Tactical RPGs are all about the battle system, and The Knight of Lodis is no different. The game is nothing but one battle after another broken up by cutscenes and unit management, so hopefully that's your thing. For those who played the previous Tactics Ogre, a lot of the battle mechanics of this game will seem very familiar. There are, however, some significant changes to the way things work. The basics are still the same; battle maps are displayed in an isometric perspective, and you select units to move across the map in a turn based manner. Each unit has a movement radius and attack range, requiring you to move most units near enemy targets before initiating an attack. The way a unit faces upon being attacked is still important, because they have a high chance of blocking attacks from the front, but a low chance from blocking attacks from behind or the sides. All units also still automatically counterattack any melee attacks, except for some special circumstances. And permanent character deaths are still around, whether you love them or hate them. The major difference is in how turns are handled. Turn order used to be based on a unit's speed, allowing faster units to go first, but that system has been totally revamped. Now, each player can move all their units at once before switching off turns. Imagine a game of chess, but instead of each player taking turns to move one piece at a time, each player actually moves all their pieces on their turn. It's the same system that Fire Emblem uses, and it works incredibly well. You'll no longer have to wait an age and a half for a slow unit's turn to come up, plus it's far easier to plan strategies that have your whole team working together. Being able to decide the order in which your units go is super handy. It's not hard to see why this system became the standard for almost all tactical RPGs going forward. The only drawback is that it's boring to wait for the enemy's turn to end, but it's a worthy price to pay for the convenience that this system grants.

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Classes are the main form of character customization in The Knight of Lodis. All the basics are here; knights are great tanks, archers excel at picking things off from afar, wizards control devastating magic, clerics are all about healing, and so on. Characters start out in the laughably pathetic soldier class, which is a class you want to change out of as soon as possible, because it sucks. Changing classes is possible after gaining a few levels, as each class has specific stat requirements. Some classes also require certain emblems, but more on that later. The class system in this game isn't that different from the older Tactics Ogre, but there are a few modifications. First of all, the majority of basic classes can now be used by both male and female characters, so this game isn't quite as sexist as the first one. There are still a few gender specific classes, but there aren't too many of them. I actually don't think that gender specific classes is a bad thing, because it's a good way of making male and female units feel distinct. That's one problem the Tactics Ogre series has in general, is that the different classes don't feel very distinct. Because there are little to no abilities and equipment is shared, the only real thing that separates one class from another is the stat growth when gaining levels and visual appearance. Examples include knights gaining more strength, ninjas gain added agility, and wizards gain extra intelligence. This is easily the weakest aspect of the Tactics Ogre series, and The Knight of Lodis doesn't do much to alleviate that problem.

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Like the previous game, The Knight of Lodis allows pretty much any character of any class to equip anything in the game. Wizards can gear up with a full set of plate armor and the heaviest swords, knights can use bows, archers can wield maces, etc. Obviously certain classes perform better wielding certain weapons, but that doesn't prevent you from doing anything you want. There is, however, a consequence to watch out for, and that's the weight system. The older Tactics Ogre also had a weight system, but the weight system in that game would lower a character's speed. Since there is no speed stat in The Knight of Lodis, weight brings about a different consequence; lowering a character's movement radius. This is arguably a more severe consequence than the speed thing, as it has a greater impact on game play. Heavier equipment will weigh a character down and reduce their movement radius, while lighter equipment increases a character's movement radius. It's simple, yet effective. Sure, you can gear everyone up with the best equipment ever, but what good will that do if the character can't get anywhere in battle? You'll have to weigh in the pros and cons when dealing with the weight of equipment. In some ways this is the better system, but it can get quite bothersome. There's nothing more annoying than knowing all the fancy new armor you got will have to sit on the sidelines because it's all too heavy to be of use. It does add a lot of strategy to the mere act of equipping your dudes, but it does so at a cost.

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Magic is pretty much identical to the way it was in the first game. Each unit can equip different spells depending on their class, making classes particularly important when it comes to magic. Some classes can't use magic at all, but most can. Even knights can use magic this time around, though they aren't terribly good at it. Different classes also have a different amount of spell slots available to them, allowing the more magically inclined classes to equip more spells. A single unit generally won't have more than two or three spell slots, so magic must be selected wisely. Magic is divided into groups, like offensive spells, status alteration spells, restorative magic, summons, etc. Every character has an elemental affinity that comes into play when casting spells; using spells of the same element as the caster will strengthen them. Much like the previous Tactics Ogre, all characters start out with 0 MP in battle, but they slowly regenerate MP as the turns go by. As annoying as it is to start battles with 0 MP, the automatic MP regeneration is a nice compensation. Thanks to the way turns work in this game, the 0 MP thing isn't much of a problem anymore. A good strategy is to have one character use an item on your caster at the beginning of a battle, which allows you to start casting spells right away. Some spells will also have a wider area of effect depending on the user's level, which is a nice touch. Aside from the relatively minor issue of starting every battle with 0 MP, the magic system in this game is solid. MP regeneration is always a welcome feature.

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Emblems are one of the new features added to The Knight of Lodis. They're sort of like the precursor to achievements. An emblem is like a memento of an accomplishment in battle, kind of like a badge. Each character can earn a number of emblems by doing various things in battle. For example, killing five dragons earns a character the Dragon's Scale emblem, which is one of the prerequisites to the Dragoon class. Some emblems serve practical purposes beyond fulfilling class requirements, such as imparting statistical bonuses. There are, however, some negative emblems that will actually make your characters worse by reducing their stats. Additionally, there are a few emblems that are like double edged swords, in that they improve one stat while lowering another. The negative emblems are pretty annoying, because there's no way of knowing how to avoid them without reading a guide. You're meant to stumble onto these things over the course of the game. As a whole, the emblem system was innovative for its time, but it does have one big problem: all characters earn emblems individually. Because emblems are sometimes required to change into certain classes, you might find yourself attempting to earn the same emblems across many units, and that gets annoying fast. It's a neat little system, but it brings with it a lot of not-so-neat little annoyances.

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Training mode is back and it's the same as it ever was. At almost any time on the world map, training mode can be initiated as a means of leveling up your characters. You can pit two teams of your own characters against each other in training mode, earning experience points all the while. Any character that dies in training mode will come back afterwards, so you can kill without remorse. It's even possible to set both teams to be automatically controlled by the computer, allowing you to sit back and relax as the game levels up for you. There is, however, a nasty consequence from abusing training mode to overpower your characters; any character that gains twenty levels in training mode will gain the Bogus Hero emblem, which prevents that character from getting critical hits. It's actually not that big of a deal, although it's definitely something you'll want to avoid on your more important fighters. Even with the consequences, training mode is a fun feature that should be included in more games.

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Quest Mode and VS Mode are two more new features that were added to The Knight of Lodis. Quest Mode is all about testing your battle prowess to win fabulous prizes. The catch is that you get better prizes the faster you finish a Quest Mode battle, so you'll have to be quick if you want the really good stuff. New maps are added to Quest Mode as you progress in the story, and the prizes get progressively better. The first map is free, but the later Quest Mode maps require an exorbitant fee to play, making them a bit of a gamble. As for VS Mode, it's what you'd expect; grab a friend with an extra system and cart, plus a link cable, and you'll be able to go against each other in a versus match. The likelihood of being able to pull that off nowadays is next to impossible, but wasn't that much more likely back in the game's heyday, either. You can also trade characters with another player, kind of like in Pokemon. None of these modes are necessary, but they do add a bit of replay value to the game, provided you can actually make use of them.

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Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis isn't all that different from its predecessor. The small differences do make a big impact, though, as this game is much more streamlined than the original. Battles move at a much quicker pace and just about everything is more convenient. Out of the two Tactics Ogre games, The Knight of Lodis is the one with more mainstream appeal, though it still pales in comparison to Final Fantasy Tactics. If you couldn't stomach the original Tactics Ogre, then it's unlikely that The Knight of Lodis will sway your opinion, even with its improvements. However, if you enjoyed the first Tactics Ogre, then this one ought to tickle your fancy. Just about the only thing this game does worse than the original is the music, but that has more to do with the Game Boy Advance's horrible sound chip than anything else.

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