Tactics Ogre: Reborn features one of the most memorable casts in the strategy RPG genre. The game itself is considered a timeless classic, and it's grand to see newcomers embrace it as such. The cast is equally up to the challenge.
While it's true that there isn't much chemistry between most characters, as they tend to go mostly mute upon formally joining up (see also Final Fantasy Tactics), individually they are well worth celebrating. The game's sharp dialogue only further accentuates the cast's presence. With dozens of characters to choose from in Tactics Ogre, who among them shines the most brightly, or memorably dims their scenes the darkest?
10/10 Vyce Bozeck
Vyce is a touch frustrating. Not in the traditional narrative sense — no, he's completely frustrating story-wise, but it's intentional, and it works so well. What we lament is that we don't get to see much, if any, of the deep bonds of friendship the beginning of Tactics Ogre infers exists between Vyce and the siblings Denam and Catiua.
From his first scene, Vyce is already chiding Catiua. He antagonizes everyone who isn't Denam, until he antagonizes Denam, too. It feels like there's a puzzle piece missing, a prelude or prologue or at least five-minute preamble to establish that he wasn't always "like this." And yet, here he is.
It's testament to Vyce's excellent dynamism, ranging from implacable revolutionary to downright demonically villainous depending on the choices you make throughout the story, that we can look past this quibble and hail him as fantastic.
As a bad guy, Vyce is memorably vicious with the cowardly backdrop that makes you want to get up and punch him. As a good guy, his cowardice doesn't emerge so much, though his viciousness does not entirely yield. More than any other character, Vyce is shaped by the player's decisions, and all three of his potential fates are worth experiencing firsthand.
9/10 Deneb Rove
If there are any critiques to be made concerning Tactics Ogre's generally immaculate tale, one might take umbrage with just how relentlessly serious it is. Different strokes for different folks and all. It's easy to envision some players wishing for a bit of levity, if even just a sprinkle.
Deneb Rove is the sprinkle of levity the first three chapters are missing. Her fourth-chapter arrival as a roaming, recruitable merchant livens things up; every ounce of this woman's personality is designed to evoke laughter, shock, awe, or a firm shake of the head. In other RPGs, she might blur into the proceedings a tad. In Tactics Ogre, Deneb paints her picture in the boldest, most appreciated strokes.
8/10 Lanselot Hamilton
As a primary anchor between the original Ogre Battle game, March of the Black Queen, and its sequel Tactics Ogre, Lanselot strikes us as an archetypal hero. Even more so for those among us who are amply familiar with his earlier appearance, where he plays a larger role. That's not to say this person of lordly caliber is irrelevant to Tactics Ogre by any stretch.
Whilst others might (rightly) lavish praise upon Lanselot for his powerful presence and deeply honorable resolve, we love him most for the substantial setbacks he suffers over the course of the story. Without going into spoiler territory, it's fair to say Xenobia's finest knight is put to the test.
Seeing a character of such mental fortitude and righteous decency have to prove he talks the talk, and reacting realistically all the while, is a refreshing experience in a medium that's often brimming with more emotionally 'immortal' sorts.
7/10 Ravness Loxaerion
From the moment we meet her, Ravness has one of those auras. She feels every bit the Valkyrie her job class reflects; a warrior, steadfast in her virtue, belief in the common good unabridged by even the darkest fate. And a dark fate Ravness shall indeed face, no matter which story route you follow. Take one particular route, and she's yours, a capable party member who makes an even better White Knight.
For her unshakable resolve and unquenched thirst for justice, Ravness stands in bold contrast to her initial employers. Duke Ronwey schemes, Sir Leonar is a walking Machiavelli fanatic, but Ravness… no, Ravness is whole. She's frankly an inspiration.
6/10 Canopus Wolph
There's a reason we chose an image of Deneb arguing with Canopus up there. If Tactics Ogre has anyone else who exudes humor and wit more than grimness and either virtue or villainy, it's him.
Though there is more to Canopus than first meets the eye — if you should happen upon his sister, you'll know it to be so — there is something to be said for a guy who dutifully travels alongside the rest of his mercenary unit of former knights only to decide the protagonist of Tactics Ogre 'looked lonely' and subsequently join up for an epic adventure. That's peak devil-may-care right there.
It's that wanderer's spirit that drives us to adore Canopus, not to mention his penchant for pointing out when reckless outbursts are either uncalled-for or flatly annoying. But we can't go on without mentioning just how fierce Canopus is in battle as well; he excels at either his default Vartan class or the much-later Buccaneer, bringing the fight from afar and sniping bosses without mercy.
5/10 Lanselot Tartaros
Lanselot Tartaros is Hamilton's shadow. The Xenobian Lanselot is practically sparkling with charisma; the Lodissian is wreathed in comparable enigma. Half of him seems mad, the other half somber. Half is cruel, half philosophical.
In some ways, Lanselot Tartaros summarizes the mysteries behind such historic figures as Julius Caesar — some say he was this thing, some say he was another; in Tactics Ogre, we see it all play out in real-time, and yet it remains unnervingly chaotic. Perhaps we're being overly theatrical, but then, so is he. Lanselot is the actor who walks on stage and the crowd takes notice, even as he whispers more than speaks, let alone ever shouts a line.
4/10 Hobyrim Vahms
Hobirym is your classic blind samurai archetype, and Tactics Ogre does little to distill the cliche. It's an excellent cliche in the right literary hands, however, and Yasumi Matsuno was clearly up to the task. Seemingly a wanderer, but a man who harbors open contempt toward the Dark Knights, he joins Denam due to the young man's drive to rid that scheming force wayward of Valeria.
For some, that's where things end for Hobirym's characterization, and were that the case, he'd have no place on this list. He'd be memorable, sure, but so are another two dozen people that didn't make the cut. It's only in missable content that Hobirym's star rises. He's a tour de force at this point, with some eye-opening revelations that we shouldn't get into here, but we promise they deliver.
3/10 Catiua Pavel
For the bulk of Tactics Ogre's first half, it's hard to see what makes Catiua so special. Her 'bickering' with her brother, as Canopus puts it, often feels one-sidedly in his favor, or at least, it does to us. We do appreciate her desire to step away from it all; it's a human response to being thrust into the midst of events so wide in scope and fraught with lethal outcomes.
But she still isn't anything to write home about; not until later on. Catiua's re-emergence into the story more than makes up for a somewhat lackluster representation beforehand. She has gravitas now, and cunning high and low. This is Catiua unchained — a woman with a purpose, led by a belief. Not only is this rad in its own right, but the amount of change she'll exhibit per player choice further on is, without giving anything away, immense.
2/10 Leonar Rimon
Pray forgive us for what is obviously a screenshot from the PSP version of Tactics Ogre, but we didn't snap a pic of Reborn's rendition, and the quote just sums things up way too much to pass up. Leonar's the ultimate ends-justify-means character in Matsuno's line of work, and possibly the best example in the entire RPG genre.
Once again, we're bumping into severe spoiler territory if we go into too much detail. Those who know… know. There's a fascinating arc to Leonar no matter your path through the story, and an honor in him that, though it does not stay his hand if he perceives a situation as diplomatically untenable, it is nonetheless vividly on display every time he speaks.
Even if you come into direct conflict with him, you will eventually discover at least something worthy of heroism about Leonar, and it's a lasting contribution to Denam's cause. In truth, Leonar ranks so high because of his ability to affect the protagonist so crucially, and so thoroughly, without feeling like someone expressly designed to do so.
1/10 Denam Pavel
Some might find it trite that our number one Tactics Ogre character is its leading lad, but don't blame us — blame him. Denam is an incredible lead. It's not immediately noticeable; indeed, Tactics Ogre rather tosses players straight into the action without much to establish Denam other than passing exposition.
It's only when the first chapter is past you, and you begin to see how your choice, canonically his choice, has come to define him. The thing about Denam Pavel is, whether you take the Lawful path, the Neutral route, the Chaotic route, it doesn't matter; the script perfectly depicts the man you created the moment a fateful decision was made in a small town called Balmamusa.
It's hard to choose a favorite version, but for our money, Chaotic Denam narrowly emerges victorious over his law-abiding and straightforward rival selves. Denam's a veritable machine's worth of quotes on the importance of resilience and the pure power of coming together and curbing hatred, but his most 'unhinged' variation laces it all with irresistible spice.
It kind of makes you want to clap every time he tells off another cultural extremist or coldly scolds a political opportunist. Dang it, Denam, won't you please come to the real world? We've got some unresolved issues.
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