By Justin Guillou / February 2nd, 2021
|Release Date||August 20, 2020 (PC)
TBA (PS4, XB1, Switch)
|Genre||Action, Beat ’em up|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
From the people that brought us Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds, MAGES.inc have given us a new beat ’em up to take a look at called Ogre Tale. Admittedly, my initial impressions of the game were not very positive, and I heard some patches were coming. So, I held off on reviewing it to give the game a more fair chance when it came time to actually write the review. Thankfully, the patches addressed some bugs and improved compatibility across other operating systems. Initially, this game only supported Windows 10, but has since been updated to work on Windows 7 or 8.
Ogre Tale tells the story of Momotaro, the hero who wiped out a tribe of ogres terrorizing Japan. Centuries later, one of Momotaro’s descendants becomes bored of his normal life and decides to gather up a bunch of Yokai and start causing havoc across the country. Now it’s up to three ogre girls, descendants of the very ogres that Momotaro had defeated in the past, to stop this “Pink Menace.” I have to say, Ogre Tale has kind of an interesting premise with how it’s essentially flipping the script on an old Japanese fairy tale. And really, Ogre Tale is all about being tongue in cheek. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, and there are plenty of jokes and references to other video games and pop culture to be found. The characters always have some wisecrack to make or break the fourth wall and comment about the game’s localization. If you like video games with really quirky dialogue, you’ll probably get a kick out of the cutscenes.
You can play as three characters, and it’s up to you to fight off hoards of enemies throughout each of the levels. Ogre Tale is a single plane beat ’em up similar to The Ninja Warriors but with mechanics that are closer to Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds. You have one main attack button, an “ultimate attack” button, a block button and a long range attack button. You can, of course, counter attacks, juggle enemies in the air, recover from falling down, and also roll out of the way of an attack. The stages love to overwhelm you with a large number of enemies and the action can get quite frantic at times, especially considering you are restricted to one plane. To alleviate this, enemies can be knocked into each other, making throws a valuable asset in your character’s move-list. There are about 20 main missions for you to complete and, while they aren’t too long, they will have you revisiting areas more than once. In addition to this, are side missions with more varied mission objectives, such as defeating a certain amount of enemies without taking damage, or finding an item in the level. Your move-set starts off rather limited, but after you’ve completed a particular mission, you gain access to a whole new set of moves that can not only be leveled up, but are incredibly powerful and really open up the potential for some nasty combos. While it’s nice that the game gives you so many options, they aren’t available to you until almost 10 missions into the game, meaning those early levels can feel like a real slog at times. Despite it being only a single plane, some levels will have you pressing up to go inside rooms or other sections of the level. Later in the game there is a maze where you must enter each section in the correct order. It’s a bit annoying to get through, but the characters will offer lots of hints to help you along the way.
The game will start off rather challenging since your characters are weak but, thankfully, you will earn experience and money by completing a mission. You will want to complete as many as you can, because certain bosses can be particularly deadly if you aren’t prepared for them. Of course, having the right weapon equipped on your character can also help you significantly, however, that comes with its own share of frustrations. You can obtain new weapons by finding them in the stages or purchasing them in the shop. The only problem is that the weapon’s stats are completely random, and you will have no idea what a weapon’s stats are in the store until after you purchase and view it in your inventory. This is a very annoying system as it turns buying weapons into a game of luck, and you can potentially waste quite a bit of money buying weapons that are useless. On the other hand, you can also find a weapon that is so laughably overpowered in a level and steamroll the game with it. I’m not kidding when I say that some boss fights have gone from being ridiculously difficult to pathetically easy simply because I got lucky and stumbled upon a particularly strong weapon that took them down in no time. Along the way you can also find gems which can be equipped on a weapon to buff your stats or grant your character a new ability, like double jumping or air dashing, among others. The problem is that weapons have a limited number of slots (which is random like the stats), and once you put a gem in, the upgrade is permanently tied to that weapon. If you equip a new weapon, you will lose those extra abilities. I really wish those abilities could be learned by your characters as they level up, like you could in Battle Grounds. I understand they wanted to be a bit different and implement a weapon-looting system, but I really don’t think Ogre Tale benefits from it much, and it makes the game’s difficulty incredibly unbalanced.
Visually, the game looks about on par with its predecessor. It has a very similar anime aesthetic and some nicely animated 2D sprites. The Yokai are big and expressive, and your characters look distinct and stand out nicely among the crowd. The music isn’t anything too memorable but fits the setting and environments well. The bosses look impressive and take up a big chunk of the screen, however, due to the balancing issues I mentioned before, they don’t really feel satisfying to fight. You’re either ridiculously overpowered or frustratingly underpowered. Thankfully, if you lose, you can restart at the boss fight as many times as you want without penalty. Your first playthrough should take you about 2-3 hours but, of course, there are two harder difficulty modes, extra side missions, and other characters for you to play as. The game apparently features an online matchmaking system, however, I have never been able to successfully find a match to test it.
At $19.99, Ogre Tale is a hard one to recommend, especially over Phantom Breaker: Battle Grounds, a game that is not only cheaper, but features more gameplay modes, playable characters, better difficulty balance, a more satisfying upgrade system, and tighter boss battles. On its own, it’s not a bad game, but a really underwhelming follow up to what was a really solid beat ’em up.
Review copy provided by the publisher
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