Published on December 3rd, 2023 | by Marc Rigg
Persona 5 Tactica PC Review
Summary: A surprisingly bare bones take on the tactical RPG genre, kept interesting largely by its great writing and presentation.
Joker and the rest of the Phantom Thieves return once more in Persona 5 Tactica, the first dive into the tactics RPG genre for the long-running Persona series.
This second spinoff to Persona 5 is a far more linear game than previous titles, taking place in two distinct areas. The first of these is Café Leblanc, returning from the previous games, which serves as the Phantom Thieves’ hideout once again. This is where the majority of the story takes place, weapons can be bought, sold, and equipped, Persona managed, and new missions undertaken. You will be spending a lot of time here.
Battle arenas make up the second of the game’s two play areas. For those unfamiliar with tactical RPGs, these are relatively small, grid-based maps where the combat occurs. Players and the AI take turns moving around the map, positioning their units, and executing attacks and special abilities. What sets Persona 5 Tactica aside from many RPGs of this style is the free movement players have during their turn. Typically, in any given game a unit is moved at the start, and they’re stuck there until their turn rolls around again.
However, in Persona 5 Tactica, characters can be moved around at will right up until the moment that they perform an attack. It’s quite a freeing take on the standard formula this genre tends to stick to, opening itself up to some interesting gameplay and strategic options based on character positioning, and later in the game it’s used to good effect in several missions that utilise the mechanic. That aside though, it’s a pretty standard take on tactical RPG gameplay.
Like in previous titles, Persona can be equipped, leveled up, and fused to create new, more powerful variants, each having its own elemental affinities and abilities. This along with a unique skill tree for each character makes for some solid customisation options, in theory anyway. For the most part, each of the different characters plays the same, regardless of how you equip them. Sure, they have their own unique traits and skills, but it seems to make little actual difference which you use, and aside from a few missions where you’re forced to party up with specific characters for story reasons, it doesn’t seem to matter who you take in your party. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it allows series fans to take into battle the characters they like rather than the ones they feel they need to, but it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity to inject a little more depth into things.
As stated earlier, a lot of time is spent in Café Leblanc, mostly engaging in conversations with the various members of the Phantom Thieves in service of the story. Persona 5 Tactica is a very dialogue-heavy game. It’s just as well then that it’s very well written, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s played the prior games, but it’s nice to see it continuing. The majority of it is voiced and the original cast reprise their roles and without exception, they all do a phenomenal job. Audio, in general, is a high point for the game, the score is fantastic and a pleasure to listen to, mixing relaxing jazz, catchy funk, and energetic rock tunes to great effect.
There’s a notable difference in the visual style between the previous games and Tactica, taking a noticeably more Chibi-esque style for character art this time around over the more traditional anime of Persona 5 and Strikers. It works though and doesn’t feel like a drastic departure from what came before. Everything from the UI to the characters is beautifully animated, and it’s all very stylised and cohesive.
There’s a lot to love here, especially for fans of the series, however, it’s far from perfect. The lack of any kind of world to explore feels like a misstep, the high volume of dialogue combined with a lot of very similar combat arenas across the game’s four kingdoms makes Persona 5 Tactica feel a little one note. There are 52 story missions in the game and by the halfway point I felt like it was already starting to run out of steam. The social aspect of the previous titles is also heavily cut down to the point of being non-existent, and while I was never a big fan of that side of things, its absence is noticeable.
Persona 5 Tactica is a solid take on the tactical RPG genre, only held back by a simplistic story mode and not making the most of the mechanics and setting it has available to it, which sometimes leaves it feeling a little shallow.