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Monday, July 4, 2011

Review: Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions (PSP)

Final Fantasy Tactics is a legend of the genre. Originally released on the PlayStation, it was an epic in every sense of the word, with charming visuals, Final Fantasy traditional tropes such as chocobos, and a lengthy, entertaining plot.

It's a bold statement, but the cut scenes in this game are Square Enix's most artistic to date


The PSP remake, The War of the Lions, now available for download on the European PSN, kicks off in spectacular style, with handdrawn-style video setting the scene and introducing players to the world of Ivalice. Ivalice deserves some kind of award for being the one Final Fantasy fantasy that has somehow survived to see multiple sequels and additional games set in the one centralized world; unusual for a franchise that prides itself on renewal with each new title.

It’s a good thing, though. Ivalice’s pseudo-traditional fantasy setting is a gorgeous one, rife with political intrigue and, surprisingly for a Final Fantasy game, relatively complex relations between races and individuals. This is the advantage of having a single world span multiple games – there is a greater sense of backstory and personality in the world itself to engage with.




The game then gets started, somewhat traditionally for the Final Fantasy series, with armies mysteriously clashing and women that need protecting. Like of the tactics games, the game plays out on a square grid. You’ll move units around, perform actions, and try to use the terrain to your advantage. Like other tactics games, there’s a good range of units on offer, and a lengthy quest to play through. It's worth noting that Final Fantasy Tactics doesn't do anything to break the mould of a standard Tactics RPG - it's a standard mix of light strategy and more in depth RPG-style character development with plenty of stats to immerse yourself within.

Rather than try and be different to the original, or the tactics genre as a whole, The War of the Lions remake focuses on getting the core right, and the game is supremely balanced as a result. Depending on your skill as a player, there’s a couple of moments where a difficulty spike will require some grinding, but it’s not nearly as bad as something like, say, Tactics Ogre.

Where the game starts to show its age is in the camera. Because the battlefield can have some pretty dramatic shifts in elevation, there are points where none of the four camera angles really cut it. You’ll be constantly cycling the camera around trying to get a proper understanding of the battlefield. You can tilt the camera up slightly to get a slightly better view, but coming to this game after the incredible effort Tactics Ogre undertook to provide an intuitive camera feels decidedly archaic.

If it wasn't for that pesky camera...
 To make matters slightly more unpleasant, when turns shift, the camera is occasionally left off-centre to the character whose turn it is. It’s quickly remedied as soon as that character takes an action, so it doesn’t detract from the experience in any way, other than to remind you that you are still playing an upgraded version of an old game.

Still, aside from those niggles, you’re still playing one of the greatest strategy RPG games of all time. It’s still a deep, rewarding game that’s been made available at an easy price on the PlayStation Network. The PSP has already been gifted with some awesome strategy RPG games, but this one is right up there with the best of them.


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Review: Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions (PSP)
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