There’s not a lot I enjoy more than spending a day kicking back on the sofa with a good tactics game. Shove some characters on a grid and give them some special abilities and I’m a happy man, but even I have to admit that a lot of games in the genre feel pretty similar. Atlus decided that Persona 5 Tactica was not going to fall into that standard tactics game camp, and created a tactics game which captures that Persona “one more” combat perfectly.
After the events of Persona 5, the Phantom Thieves are trying to enjoy a relaxing summer when they’re pulled into another world. They can’t be sure if this bizarre European castle environment is a Metaverse or something entirely new, but when they meet the evil dictator Marie running things they know they’re in trouble. With the aid of new character Erina and her resistance, the gang set about overthrowing this powerful foe and saving the day. The story is as off the wall as you’d expect from a Persona game, and engaging from start to finish.
The cast is just wonderful as well, packed with those familiar characters that Persona fans know and love. If anything I think that the personalities of the cast in Persona 5 Tactica shine through better in this game than the others they appear in. Everyone turns it up to eleven since you get to spend a little less time hanging with them in a world full of enemies, and it made me appreciate them all the more.
Because there’s much more fighting than hanging out, it’s fortunate that the Phantom Thieves are pretty experienced scrappers at this point. Battles take place on grids, and involve teams of three party members taking on a whole load of bad guys. The odds are very rarely in your favour, which means you’ll need to take advantage of cover and bonus attacks as much as possible.
When not hiding behind a wall or crate, characters will be exposed and knocked down if they take damage. This works both ways though, and that means you’ll spend your turn trying to manipulate the enemies in a way that means you just keep getting to attack over and over again to turn the tide of battle. Once you mix in the ability to melee enemies to shove them out of cover and spells to stun or launch them around, combat becomes one big beautiful puzzle.
Perhaps even more devastating than getting extra turns to shoot monsters are your special All Out attacks. Any time you knock down an enemy you’ll be granted the opportunity to unleash one of these on your next turn, and activating this powerful attack will deal massive damage to any enemy that’s in the triangle your units create between them. You can move your characters before letting an All Out attack rip too, and with a bit of practice whole stages of enemies can be wiped out by these mega moves.
By using basic attacks and the environment to your advantage you can often beat some of the earlier stages of Persona 5 Tactica, but as the game progresses you’ll need to use your Persona to your advantage. Each character (except Erina) can equip a Persona, and they grant bonus stats and powerful abilities to the person equipping them. I always tried to keep a mass healing ability available for those tougher fights, but devastating status effects and powerful damaging flames are just as useful too.
Between fights you’ll be invited into the series staple Velvet Room to fuse Persona and create even more powerful demon allies. This works similarly to previous entries in the series, with inherited skills and a level cap to keep in mind when creating new ghoulish allies. It wouldn’t feel like a Persona game without making monsters, so I’m glad this feature found its way into Persona 5 Tactica.
There’s a whole lot else to keep you busy back at the resistance hideout too. You can have conversations with your buds, purchase weapons and even power up the party using the skill tree. With the SP you earn on your adventure you can boost the stats and abilities of the team to make them unstoppable in battle, with everything from new powerful spells to extra movement all available to unlock. Every node you put points into makes you feel significantly more competent in combat, and if you’re not happy with your choices you can reset them, no questions asked.
All of these different systems really come together when you’re thrown into a battle, and I’ve not even scratched the surface when it comes to all the different elements that make up Persona 5 Tactica. There are different sub missions to accomplish in each stage, environmental hazards like explosive barrels and raised platforms, and even huge puzzle based boss fights. There wasn’t a single moment in my playthrough of Tactica where I felt the game was getting stale, and I can’t think of many tactics games that achieve that feat.
As well as being a sensational tactics game, Persona 5 Tactica has all the bells and whistles of a top tier Persona game. Those stylish menus and vibrant (if a little different stylistically) visuals are such a breath of fresh air, and the soundtrack is suitably banging too.
It’s hard to think of many problems with Persona 5 Tactica really. There’s one very specific annoyance I had with the weapons, which you have to buy from one store but sell somewhere else, which is really bizarre. It’s also a game that’s hard to easily recommend if you haven’t played Persona 5, and as much as I think everyone should play Persona 5 it’s not easy to find a hundred hours of free time just to catch up in order to play this new game.
But Persona 5 Tactica is unlike any other tactics game I’ve ever played, and is constantly throwing new things at you from start to finish. It has all the charm and style of a mainline Persona game, while providing a different kind of gameplay that I just couldn’t get enough of. There are very few casts of characters that I’d be happy to spend as much time with as I have Joker and the gang, and I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
Isn't “just another tactics game”
Has that Persona style
Is the perfect adaptation of Persona combat
The Persona 5 cast are better than ever
Have to go to different places to buy and sell weapons
Is better if you've played through Persona 5 first