Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions Reader Review
I've decided to re-review this game in light of the further playtime i've invested into the game; giving me a more thorough experience of the game, and thereby allowing a more informed opinion to surface.
One thing I can't get over is this slowdown in the game. It's not crippling but now that I've actually seen the PS1 version of the game in action, the PSP version looks incredibly slow in comparison. I don't like going on about this and repeating myself but it's a totally bizarre thing that should have been remedied and there is no reason for it to be there. I've even heard some people in the comments section of the review talking about how the slowdown is intentional. The very idea of that being true is upsetting - that someone could be so idiotic as to think that it would make the game BETTER!
But let's leave aside this techinical issue for the moment. There are deeper concerns here to deal with. For one, the difficulty curve is broken. I've mentioned this before but the game seems reliant on the fact that your party has certain abilities for you to succeed in certain battles. If you have those abilities then you will cream the opposition, if not, you'll be creamed in return. There are no really 'challenging' battles here, only ones that you win by a landslide or fail miserable. Sometimes you can scrape by but if you do then it's mostly by the good grace of the stupid AI that you have.
And that's another thing, the friendly 'guest' AI. Absolutely. Terrible. This, there can be no question of. Everytime the friendly AI character starts to accidentally cast spells on your teammates; when he runs away and hides in the corner, never to be seen again for the rest of the battle; or, on the other extreme, when he goes head first into a group of enemies and attacks one with a counter ability and he has critical HP and dies; each and every one of these times you will be wishing that you could throttle the AI, step over its twitching corpse and take control yourself. It's that bad and there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to take over yourself except from the reason that THE GAME WON'T LET YOU!
One of the gameplay mechanics is that if one of you're characters die on the battlefield, they're gone for good. Let me just say that this is a ridiculous and frustrating design decision. All it encourages the player to do is save after every battle and level-up before every major encounter to such a point where they can defeat the enemy comfortably without losing any characters at all. Because the fact is, after a reasonably short amount of time, losing a character who you've spent literally hours upon hours of levelling up is an option no sane person would take. So in fact there is no 'risk' of losing characters, just the risk of throwing your PSP at the wall in frustration (the thought will occur, believe me). As a game mechanic all it does is just piss the player off and does nothing to enhance any sense of enjoyment of the game.
Hence, the game becomes tediously easy. In fact, the whole game is an exercise in tedium and OCD behavior and the little strategy that is overshrouded by bad design decisions. Some classes are just useless and are only stepladders to better classes and there are other classes which can almost be universally regarded as 'good'. For example, 'Monk' is an excellent class to have, as is 'Holy Knight'. The 'Knight' class on the other hand, has the worst skills out there. 'Mystic' isn't that useful either because none of its skills are effective on bosses and the ones that work on common foe take too long. Often you could kill an enemy quicker just be taking him on directly. It becomes a game of numbers ultimately, who's got the best attacks, the most HP, the best defense, the fastest speed etc... There's not much strategy here. It's not a case of outwitting the AI (which as I've mentioned beforehand, ain't the smartest), it's a case of who's got the biggest sword.
However, the most inexcusable quirk I've seen so far is when you save the game, often before a boss battle (y'know, just in case you die), and if your characters can't defeat the boss because they're under-levelled (you have no way of really know this before hand of course) the game won't allow you to go back, grind some levels and abilities out, and come back. So, with no fighting to see another day and no retreat, there's only one other solution left. You guessed it, restarting the game ALL OVER AGAIN. I don't think I need to explain why that is actually no option at all. Stupid and unforgivable.
So I've had enough of the game, i'm putting it down and moving on. The game could have actually been something great if Square-Enix had actually spent time trying to fix the inherent design faults of the original game instead of creating new ones (the notorious slow down). Yes yes, the cutscenes, the new translation, all nice additions but don't really come to much because a 'Tactics game works based on its gameplay, not its story (Anyway, the story itself is actually pretty simple when it boils down to it but is absurdly complex by the amount of characters participating in the story and the dialogue).
Also, the multiplayer mode? I have to ask, who plays turn-based games like 'Tactics in multiplayer? It holds absolutely zero interest for me personally and even if I were to play multiplayer, I'd have a hard time finding anyone to play with. They added in multiplayer but forgot the wi-fi, isn't that like buying a digital radio without an aerial? It's just plain dumb.
And what it all boils down to, the score. Am I being harsh? Maybe, but I don't think so. If I were reviewing the original game back in '97 a lot of these highly frustrating design decisions would have been swept aside, forgiven. But this is 2008, and gaming has evolved a bit since then. The cracks around the eyes have only become more noticable with the passage of time sadly and to just ignore them would be rose-tinted thinking. This is also when bearing in mind that some of these problems could have been just as easily fixed. To leave them in is, well, just lazy.
Oh well, onto Disgaea...
6 / 10