The newest Persona 5 spinoff from Atlus Games will feature XCOM-inspired tactical gameplay
As fans eagerly anticipate the next installment in the Persona series, Sega and Atlus have been busy churning out new updates and spin-off titles to satisfy us. From rhythm-based Dancing in Starlight to last year’s Persona 5 Royal and 2021’s Persona 5 Strikers, this year’s addition to the list promises to take the beloved characters in a new direction: turn-based strategy.
At the recent Sega Summer Showcase in NYC, we were treated to thirty minutes of gameplay from Persona 5 Tactica, which offered a tantalizing glimpse into the game’s story and exciting new tactical combat system. While the combat encounters we saw were primarily tutorials, it was enough to give us a taste of what was to come. We can’t wait to see what other surprises Persona 5 Tactica has for us!
The Plot and Characters
Persona 5 Tactica takes players on an exciting new journey alongside familiar faces such as Joker, Morgana, Ryuji, and Ann (although Kasumi from Royal and Sophia and Zenkichi from Strikers are absent). The game begins with a conversation between two enigmatic individuals discussing a recent news story that has garnered widespread attention in Japan: the disappearance of the potential next prime minister.
Soon after that, we find our protagonists at their headquarters in Leblanc. Overhearing their discussion of parting ways once Makoto graduates and experiencing the all-too-familiar conversations of pledging to stay in touch and visit each other, even though rarely happens, is quite disheartening and moving.
The tension in the air gets palpable as the news on television reports on the political crisis gripping the nation. Suddenly, the coffee shop begins to shake violently, the power flickers, and a blinding light illuminates the front door. Stepping outside, the team is stunned to find themselves dressed in their Phantom Thieves outfits and transported to a strange new world that resembles Medieval Europe. As they take in their surroundings, they realize they are not alone – a group of old-time soldiers stands before them for confrontation.
The Tone and Settings of the Game
As the protagonists prepare for their big graduation ceremony, players are suddenly thrust into an immersive new world called The Kingdoms. It’s like stepping into a French Revolution-inspired Metaverse, complete with a wicked queen who commands her loyal Legionnaires to attack anyone who crosses her path. The setting strongly resembles Alice in Wonderland feels but with a unique flair all its own.
Combat and Gameplay Mechanics
During the combat tutorial, we fought against a couple of highly trained legionnaires while also obtaining a fundamental understanding of the game mechanics. If you have prior experience with tactical RPGs, the elements are similar: movement, utilizing cover, attacking, and activating abilities (referred to as Personas in this game).
Although the combat is not vastly different from the turn-based battles of traditional Persona games, the focus is more on mobility and fewer options, at least in the initial stages of the game.
Utilizing these elements was uncomplicated, and although the boss tutorial was more enjoyable, the fighting mechanics conveyed the notion that they are relatively straightforward overall. The complexity could increase as players progress through the game, but we can’t say for sure based on our limited experience. Overall, the most notable point of comparison for these initial encounters is likely Mario + Rabbids: pleasurable, uncomplicated, and accessible to all.
As we played through Persona 5 Tactica, we learned new combat maneuvers, including the Triple Threat attack. This tactic involves strategically positioning units around an enemy to create a triangle and launching a coordinated assault. Each unit unleashes a barrage of attacks, devastating damage to the enemy. However, if executed correctly, players can be protected by their opponents.
Additionally, a specific game mechanic called “One More” permits players to perform an extra attack upon the successful defeat of an opponent. Alternatively, a unit can utilize the “Charge” ability to acquire a unique Charged status on their next turn if they opt not to take any actions during their current turn.
The effect of the Charged status varies depending on the unit, as Erina’s Charged status offers more flexibility regarding the requirements needed to bring down an enemy. Furthermore, every character in the game possesses three skill trees closely linked to their abilities. Upon analyzing these skill trees, one can observe that they are relatively straightforward and uncomplicated.
One Big Concern
Our primary concern after going through this preview is regarding the environments. For a tactics game to be effective, it is crucial that players can use the surroundings to their advantage. This includes environmental hazards, interactive objects, and varying terrain levels.
However, in our initial combat scenario, we were in a minimal space with minimal room to maneuver. Small pillars provided the only available cover. This has us worried about how the environments will play a role in the game and whether they will provide enough opportunities for strategic gameplay.
While the later areas were more spacious, they still limited our interactions. Since we only played the early version of Persona 5 Tactica, I’m apprehensive that these areas will significantly impact the turn-based combat system down the line. One of the developers suggested that the environments would become more compulsory later on, but we’re still determining to what degree. If the settings do end up playing a significant part, it could establish the game as a top-tier tactical RPG.
Despite the Persona 5 spin-offs deviating from the familiar RPG formula that fans know and love, we are still excited about the possibility of embarking on another thrilling adventure with this incredible cast of characters that we fell head over heels for back in 2017. While Persona 5 Tactica may not appeal to all Persona 5 fans, those who appreciate tactics-based gameplay and the original RPG’s dynamic cast may have finally found the perfect match.