Adieu, Game Boy Advance: OGRE TACTICS: THE KNIGHT OF LODIS

Tactics Ogre: the Knight of Lodis
Developer: Quest
Publisher: Atlus
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: 05/07/02

God I miss Ogre Team. God I miss Ogre games. Now that Square-Enix has purchased the series rights, we’ll never see a game bearing the “Ogre” name at the level of quality they used to be renowned for. Much like how Sammy bought Sega and murdered the Shining Force series.

Tactics Ogre: the Knight of Lodis is the fifth and final game to be released in the Ogre series. It also came in 19th in my top 30 RPG countdown of all time. KoL is arguably the equal of Shining Force: RotDD, and is widely considered one of the best and rarest titles on this soon to be defunct system. Rare as all get-out, KoL can cost you about 30 bucks USED without the packaging and manual. With it? Even pricier.

To really do this game let’s cut and paste some bits from my February, 2004 commentary on the game. Anything else would belittle how amazing this title is and why if you own a GBA, you need to find this title, even if it means selling your little brother on the black market.

Name another tactics game where you can take your team of Angels and Liches and pit it against your best friends team of dragons and ninjas. The fact this battle of the century can take place in the back of a cab or during your lunch break is just added gravy on the bountiful harvest in which you are about to receive. After all, play enough of these games, the computer gets easy as pie. But playing against another person? THAT is a challenge.

There are 36 playable classes. How can you beat that? My personal favorites are the Lich, the Swordsmaster, the Priest and the Witch, but the latter only if you figured out how to get Deneb. Yes, there are hidden characters in the game!

There are 32 emblems to earn in this game. You gain emblems by performing specific triggers in the game. There is anything from the War God emblem, which you gain by doing 200 points of damage to an enemy in one hit, to the Don Quixote emblem, which you get if an enemy can knock off two-thirds or more of your HP from a counterattack. When an emblem is earned they permanently change the stats of your character. In the previous example earning a War God emblem raises your Strength by 30 points, but lowers your intelligence by 30 points as well. With Don Quixote you lose 10 points of intelligence and nothing else. Hey, you were the one stupid enough to get your ass kicked from a counter attack.

There’re also six different endings to KoL. Even on one played through save game, the most you can earn are 5 of the 6. You have to play the game twice through BOTH story routes to get all six endings. And yes, there are two very distinct stories that you can play through in the game. It all comes down to one simple question, and it passes by before you even know it. At first you might say to me, ” OMGWTF?” but this is par for the course with Ogre games. Sure a lot of games give you multiple endings nowadays, but diverging stories that you can play through? Ogre all the way!

Yes, there’s still more to worship about this game. How about training mode? In between each scheduled tactical battle that moves the plot along, you can do a training battle. As many as you want in fact. These battles give you XP and help you earn emblems just like any other battle. Got a new character that is much lower than yourself? Train him! Only a level or a few points away from hitting a new class? Train him! However, Quest was smart and knew some of you munckining powergamers would abuse the system so that you’d be level gazillion after the first battle in the game. There are negative emblems you earn for training too much! Gain more than twenty levels in training? Your character loses the ability to do critical damage or one hit kills thanks to the Bogus Hero Emblem. So use Training, but don’t go stir-crazy with it.

Finally, there are subquests you can earn. By spending hard earned GOTH, the currency of the Ogre Games you can enter quest mode where you will earn rare treasure by defeating enemies. What’s nice is the treasure you earn is based solely on what limits you set for yourself. Before each quest battle starts, you have to decide how many turns it will take for you to accomplish the goal of your mission. If you play it safe and choose a high number of turns, your reward is nowhere near as incredible as it will be when you really challenge yourself. These battles also change a bit after you beat the game…

Ah yes! THE STORY! One thing I love about the Ogre series is that all the games take place in the same world. And there is a defined chronology amongst the games. Characters reappear, grow old, die, and become legends as the games continue on. And if you are a long time Ogre fan, things will seem familiar to you as the game goes on.

A common theme in the Ogre games is man vs. religion. In every game this is a major aspect of play. In the first Tactics Ogre game, it became about a King trying to become a god. In this game, it is about a holy spear, a fallen angel, and the meaning of love. Like Grandia mentioned just before this game, in Ogre Tactics you get to see love transpire over time. Alphonse, the main character can fall in love with Eleanor. Or he can butcher her like a hog to get a certain ending. But you can watch that relationship grow in either way. You can see the relationship between a father and daughter change as Elrik and Euphaire go from enemies to trying to repair their family ties. Rictor and Ivanna can find love together depending on what story arc you pick. Even the fallen angel, Shaher can find true love. The meaning of God’s Love, and even if it is possible for another being to understand it, is the pivotal version of love that runs throughout the game. The Ogre games have always taken a multifaceted look at religion from a grumpy evil perverted priest who carries out his holier than thou whims in the name of God, to demons doing evil not for the sake of evil, but in a vain attempt to get God to notice them even in the slightest. In fact each of the six endings in Knight of Lodis focuses on a different aspect of God’s love for his creations.

The fact the game can look at religion from all angles such as ” God is Evil; Satan is Good” ala the Megaten game to the “God’s love saves everything from damnation as long as you believe in it,” Christian outlook. The fact quest has written into Knight of Lodis various ways to interpret the theological aspects of the game is nothing short of brilliance. And it’s a hell of a lot less pompous and asinine than the Xenogames.

If religious psychobabble isn’t for you, then you’re in luck. There is far more to the plot of the game. Political intrigue, betrayal, secret conspiracies, and watching Alphonse grow from a sycophant who does what is expected of him, into a hero fighting for what he believes is right and just, even when it appears the entire nation he was served is now against him. Great, great stuff.

That’s a lot to take in, but KoL is one of the best games I have ever played. Period. If I had reviewed it, it would have gotten at least an 8.5 from me with graphics being the only negative in the game. It’s been a long time since I got to really praise how amazing this game is, and I can’t explain enough how you need to experience this first hand. One of the best series you’ve never heard of, the Ogre games must be played to be understood just why their fans are so fanatical about them.