The Persona franchise, time and again, has proven itself extremely malleable when it comes to adaptation. From Persona 4 Arena to Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth to, (most recently), Persona 5 Strikers, the Shin Megami Tensei spinoff has lent itself well to genres outside of its typical RPG social-sim nature. This is in no small part thanks to the franchise’s stylish nature, vibrant visual style, and wide cast of charismatic and likable characters (and also Goro Akechi). Now, it’s doing the same with the upcoming strategy game Persona 5 Tactica, proving that Persona can expand into any genre it chooses to.
At Gamescom, Sega/Atlus afforded me the opportunity to check out the newest genre-bending take on this fantastical world of hipster kids, nightmare creatures, and baffling lyrics. Tactica will see much-beloved moral vigilante squad The Phantom Thieves ply their trade in a whole new way, as Joker, Ryuji, Lady Ann, Morgana, Futaba and co. find themselves whisked away for another heart-stealing adventure. Only this time, as the title suggests, their escapades will be in the form of more tactical, strategic, and turn-based action.
But wait, you interrupt, aren’t the Persona titles already turn-based strategy games? Well, yes, you’re correct. But while the combat in the Persona games follows a more traditional RPG style, Persona 5 Tactica takes the top-down, turn-based tactics approach of games such as XCOM or Valkyria Chronicles, albeit with the implementation of the melee, firearm, and Persona-based abilities that are the series’ trademark.
In events set concurrently with those of Persona 5, Tactica sees our heroes caught up in an alternate fantasy world, bedecked in the trappings of Medieval Europe around the 12th-15th Century. It is here that The Phantom Thieves become embroiled in a historical revolution, led by plucky freedom fighter Erina of the Rebel Corps. As they are wont to do, Joker and friends decide to take up arms against the greedy, immoral oppressors of Erina’s people, and thus join the rebellion in hopes of freeing the kingdom and getting back home in time for curry, coffee, and homework duties foisted by Makoto the cop.
In the demo, I play through several battles, guiding Joker, Morgana, and Erina as they forge a path through armies of enemy soldiers. Like most turn-based-tactics releases, the player is encouraged to plan ahead and use their moves wisely, securing effective positions on the battlefield while ensuring that the allies remain safely in cover from enemy fire. Each character can be placed freely on the battlefield within their respective movement limitations, and can take cover, retreat, or attack as the situation denotes. Cover plays a huge part in the action for both the player and the enemy, and securing the best line of sight while remaining away from the line of fire is a key part of success.
Of course, each character’s Persona has their own part to play in the fight, destroying enemy cover, boosting ally abilities, or knocking villains into open territory, lining them up for the perfect shot. Iconic battle elements such as ‘1 More,’ ‘Shift,’ and ‘All-Out Attack’ are also implemented, with the former rewarding players who do not attack during their turn, while the latter affords a singular, hugely damaging assault for a team that has successfully surrounded the opposition. It’s a cool way to ensure that, while the gameplay experience is new to the franchise, all of the recognizable tropes of Persona combat remain present and correct.
Much like the Persona Q titles, Persona 5 Tactica features a chibified, cartoonish art style, lending itself very well to the whole ‘tabletop’ feel of the game (you can see that above). In keeping with this cutesy visual aesthetic, the character’s personalities are dialed up somewhat, with goofy, comical reactions from the squad. The P5 voice cast makes a welcome return, and appears to be having a lot of fun with the jovial dialogue. In my time with the build, I was only given a sneak peek at one boss, the magnificent Lady Marie, who rocked up in a bizarre bridal roadster, fawned over by her troops and with ‘Noblewoman’s Laugh’ in full effect. Frankly, she sold the game to me, though I do not know how much she will actually feature in the final release. Ohhhhhh-ho-ho-ho!
Persona 5 Tactica is already shaping up to be another fine entry in the canon of spinoff releases. Much like Persona’s ventures into fighting games and rhythm-action adventures, the player’s interest in the genre itself may be an important element as to whether Tactica is worth sticking on your radar. But, with its fully-established cast, recognizably slick aesthetic, and the promise of new allies, villains, and locales, Persona 5 Tactica is certainly looking to offer P5 fans a fresh new chapter in the lives of The Phantom Thieves, viewed from an exciting new angle.
Persona 5 Tactica launches November 17 on PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Until then, it’s worth checking out our list of all the best anime games and upcoming games on PC.