Skip to main content

Persona 5 Tactica is a simplified, cute extension of Atlus' best

One game more.

Characters celebrate a Triple Threat attack in Persona 5 Tactica
Image credit: Sega

It's testament to Persona 5's critical success and popularity that, rather than give us the sixth entry in the series, Atlus seems intent on giving us another spin-off. Persona 5 Strikers already extended the narrative of the Phantom Thieves; now Tactica is giving us even more. But does this all leave the Persona 5 story now stretched too thin?

At the very least, Atlus is mixing up the series' traditional gameplay with each release. Strikers turned the classic turn-based combat into Warriors-style Musou battles. With Tactica - as the name implies - it's a grid-based tactics title.

This tactics combat was the focus of the demo I recently played at Gamescom. Indeed, even after playing it's still unclear to me what social sim aspects Tactica will include in addition to its battles. After all, relationships and time management - balancing efforts in the real and demon worlds - are what make Persona, Persona.

Persona 5 Tactica — Announcement TrailerWatch on YouTube

What I can say is the plot appears to have a revolutionary theme, as epitomised by new character Erina who joins the Phantom Thieves. She's described as a revolutionary and fights with a lance and twin pistols, with the team battling through the Paris-like kingdom ruled by tyrant Marie and her Legionnaires. Along with Erina's flag waving, it all feels very Les Mis.

The short story bits I did see were all presented in basic conversation form with mostly static backdrops. That simplicity is emblematic of the game as a whole and I'm not quite convinced it will have the kind of depth fans expect from a Persona game. It runs smoothly, but feels a little cheap. Then again, this is a spin-off after all - keep your high expectations for Persona 6.

Futaba, Morgana and Ryuji in Persona 5 Tactica conversation
Storytelling is cute but basic. | Image credit: Sega

Regardless, combat is simple but a lot of fun. This isn't the first tactics game in the wider series, following the Japanese only Majin Tensei series and DS Devil Survivor games, so there's already precedent set. Tactica, though, is more Mario and Rabbids than Fire Emblem.

In part that's down to the visuals. Tactica features cutesy, chibi-style characters and rainbow bright visuals that give the game a playful, toylike feel. The Persona series is known for its dark, adult themes beneath the bright anime aesthetic, but it's hard to take Tactica too seriously. There are some tongue-in-cheek nods to gaming culture too: at one point Futaba claimed eating had restored her HP.

What I did enjoy is how Persona 5's combat translates into a tactics game. Characters can attack with both guns or melee weapons, or use Persona skills to summon magical abilities. Ryuji, for instance, can summon Captain Kidd to spark lightning on foes behind cover, while Morgana can use Zorro and his Garu wind ability to sweep enemies into the open. Players can utilise enemy weaknesses to down them for a round, while skipping a turn will grant each character a different ability - Erina, for instance, can shoot enemies cowering behind cover.

It's all about positioning: manoeuvring behind conveniently placed blocks and barrels to pop off some gunshots before charging in for a close-quarters sword hit. Once an enemy is downed - by weakness or a critical hit - they can be surrounded by all three characters in a triangle formation to perform a Triple Threat attack, this game's equivalent of an All Out Attack. It's a super move for huge damage and will hit any other enemies caught in the crossfire.

Triple Threat setup in Persona 5 Tactica
Erina mid-combat in Persona 5 Tactica
Combat satisfies, despite its simplicity. | Image credit: Sega

It's simple but approachable stuff and at no point was I close to failure. I played through a couple of early missions that taught me the basics and I don't think I healed even once (I played on normal but higher difficulties do exist). Trailers have also shown the Persona-fusing the series is known for, though I didn't get a chance to see that, or skill tree customisation. Tactica seems pitched at newcomers to tactical games, but anyone familiar with Persona 5's strategic turn-based combat will likely be craving more complexity. And as a continuation of the original game's story, I'm not sure I'd recommend this as a starting point either.

That's not to say I didn't have a lot of fun, though. Gradually wiping out groups of enemies is satisfying and there's room for further combat developments deeper into the game. As a more relaxed experience, I could sit back and just soak in the Persona vibes: it oozes style with typically flashy menus and a banging soundtrack. The demo began back in the LeBlanc cafe, but this time with a remixed, chilled version of its iconic soundtrack. It's been a few years since I've played Persona 5, but Tactica - and its music especially - still brought back warm memories.

This is absolutely a Persona game, then - just not quite as you know it.

Read this next