Persona 5 Tactica

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Developer: Atlus
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2023


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PS5 Review - 'Persona 5 Tactica'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 14, 2023 @ 9:00 a.m. PST

In Persona 5 Tactica, the Phantom Thieves wander into a realm where citizens are living under tyrannical oppression. Overthrow enemies with powerful Personas, an assortment of weapons, and wipe them out with style.

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Persona 5 Tactica opens not long after the events of the main game. The cast is hanging out in LeBlanc coffee shop when there is a disturbance. Time seems to freeze, and the door to the shop is replaced by a portal into the Metaverse — despite that part of the world having been theoretically destroyed at the end of Persona 5. Naturally, the Phantom Thieves hop in and find themselves in a tyrannical dictatorship of bizarre hat people. The only humans are Erina, the leader of the rebellion against the cruel leadership, and Toshiro Kasukabe, a high-ranking government official who is slated to be the new prime minister. The Thieves, Erina and Toshiro, team up to find a way to escape from the Metaverse and free themselves from the endless battles once and for all. (We know that Persona 5 Strikers is in their future, but don't tell them that!)

The plot in Tactica is fun, but it's not overly ambitious. It's akin to a slightly fleshed-out version of a palace in the main game, only with a greater emphasis on the characters. Erina is a fun character with some good interactions with the cast, while Toshiro starts off pretty one-note and takes a while to develop into someone interesting. I enjoyed the plot and characters, but they weren't exceptional. The ending managed to hit the right notes to leave me satisfied.

I would say that thebiggest problem in Tactica is that the Phantom Thieves have hit the point of diminishing returns. Between Persona 5 Strikers, Persona Q2,and Persona 5 Royal's extended ending, this is the fourth time that we've had another Phantom Thieves adventure where, due to the nature of the game, the characters are static. I still like the characters, but I think they've been wrung dry. There are funny jokes, it's nice to see the characters, but Tactica would've been a better game with an original cast.

Of course, the big change for the franchise is that Tactica is a strategy-RPG instead of a standard RPG. You can bring three playable characters (you can bring in four later, but the fourth has limitations) into battle with you, choosing from any of the Phantom Thieves. The Sub-Persona system from Persona Q makes a return, so you can now equip any character with a persona that grants up to two passive or active abilities.

Combat is very similar to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle in that it is an XCOM-style game with a much greater emphasis on mobility. Your primary method of attacking is your guns, and each character has a different specialty. Haru has a powerful grenade launcher, while Yusuke has a sniper rifle that is accurate at long distances. You can perform melee attacks and go up to enemies and attack, which serves the purpose of doing damage and knocking an enemy out of cover.

Cover is a bit different. Like XCOM, there are full cover and half cover, but attacks always hit. Any attack that is aimed at someone who's behind half cover will deal resisted damage. Attacks against full cover will be blocked in the direction of the cover, while still giving resistance to damage from other direction. Get caught in the open, and you'll take critical damage. Height also matters, so a height advantage also offers damage resistance. Your characters eventually gain the ability to do a follow-up attack on an enemy who's been knocked out of cover at a high vantage point, allowing you to turn an enemy's bonus against them.

Persona skills are also part of the game. Every character has a specific element they cover, with the elemental spells doing damage and inflicting powerful status effects. Blowback knocks enemies backward, Burn inflicts bonus damage, Forget can prevent an enemy from attacking, Freeze prevents them from acting or moving, Hypnosis forces enemies to move toward you, and Shock locks them into place. You can equip persona to unlock a more diverse selection of skills on a character, including context-sensitive skills like Ambush (functionally Overwatch from XCOM), or increase passive bonuses for greater power.

The most important mechanic is Downing. If an enemy behind cover is attacked by a melee attack or a persona skill, or if they're not behind cover in the first place, they'll be vulnerable. Any attack that hits them while they are vulnerable will down them, and a downed enemy is extra vulnerable to damage. Whoever downed them gets an extra turn that lets them act again and resets their movement radius so they can move further. You can even chain the extra turns, as long as there are enough vulnerable enemies to get further movement and more attacks.

Probably the most powerful skill in the arsenal is the Triple Threat attack, which is this game's version of the All-Out Attack. Once you down an enemy in any fashion, the character who downed that enemy can start a Triple Threat Attack. This creates a triangle between the position of your three characters. As long as the downed enemy is within that triangle, any enemies in the triangle will be hit with a powerful and unavoidable attack. This ends the character's turn, but the consequence is worth it considering that you're likely to severely damage, if not kill, a large number of enemies. You can even upgrade the attack to heal your party members at the same time.

This is the primary way Tactica rewards you for splitting up instead of keeping your party together. The further apart your party members are, the greater the area of attack. Since each character can trigger a Triple Threat Attack on their turn if they've downed a foe, this also offers the possibility for dealing massive area-of-attack damage multiple times during a turn, and few enemies can stand up to that. Keeping allies close together can have advantages, but Triple Threat is too good to risk. Several battles all but demand it.

In essence, standard combat is less about defeating individual foes and more about setting up downed foes for as many Triple Threats as you can. Sometimes it's easier to just drop an Agidyne onto a crowd of foes while remaining safe behind cover, or perhaps downing an enemy isn't possible during that turn. It isn't the case that you should always act. If you end the turn with an available action, your character gets a charge boost. On their next turn, they might deal additional damage, get bonus movement, gain the ability to down enemies who are behind cover, and other bonuses. Many times, it is more valuable to not act so your next turn can be more useful.

If I had one complaint about Tactica, the persona aspect feels bare-bones. Each persona represents two skills, which make it difficult to give them any real personality. There's not a ton of excitement in getting a new persona because you'll probably never use most of them outside of fodder for weapon fusion. It's a nice customization feature, but it doesn't capture the fun elements of persona fusing in other games. You can use persona to customize your guns with status effects, but even that feels weak, with the game asking for two persona of the correct element and with a minimal level.

It isn't a particularly tough game unless you bump up the difficulty. At the lowest level, you can generally tank a ton of damage and spam powerful spells until the cows come home. The harder difficulties add some extra spice, and unless you're a complete novice to the genre, it's probably better to start on Hard if you want to be encouraged to use everything.

The game is divided into four kingdoms, each of which has a self-contained set of levels. You can replay levels at any time to gain experience or get new persona, but I never felt the need. The pacing of experience and personas is good enough that you can play through the story and never need to grind. In addition, there are optional quests that require certain characters and are usually puzzle-based, such as figuring out how to defeat every enemy on the stage in a single turn.

Overall, the combat is quite a lot of fun. It's deeply satisfying to get four or five extra turns in one round, and then use those bonus turns to enfold the entire map in a deadly Triple Threat attack. There's a good amount of content present, but it is less packed than the other Persona 5 spin-offs. You can probably do everything in the game in about 20 hours, but that is more of a benefit than a problem. It's a well-paced game and manages to not overstay its welcome. (By the final kingdom, it starts recycling bosses and enemies, so it's probably for the best that it doesn't pad itself.)

Visually, Tactica uses the super-deformed cartoony style from the Persona Q games, but I feel this is to better effect. There's a lot of genuinely adorable or funny touches in the still images, and the fully animated cut scenes feel just as good as the mainline Persona 5 ones. Everything is easy to read in the battles, and there are some fun animation touches. It looks more basic and bare-bones than Persona 5 or even Persona 3 Remake, but it makes good use of what it has.

The music is excellent, containing a blend of new and old music that sets the atmosphere well and rarely gets old. The voice acting is also quite good. The actors have all grown quite used to their characters at this point, and it shows, with some excellent interplay and genuinely funny line deliveries. It's a treat for the ears, and I enjoy how far the cast has come.

Persona 5 Tactica is a fun attempt to bring the ideas and concepts behind Persona 5 into the tactical setting, but at times it can feel more like a proof of concept. The core gameplay is a lot of fun, the story is enjoyable, and it's a good game for Persona 5 fans. It suffers from the cast being so overexposed that it's difficult to get super excited to see them again, and the actual persona element feels a tad lackluster.

Score: 8.0/10

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