Persona 5 Tactica is a turn-based strategy RPG developed by Atlus. The Persona series is known to have many spin-offs and clearly Persona 5 is no exception. Seeing as it has a re-release in the form of Persona 5 Royal, a continuation of Persona 5 Strikers, as well as Persona 5: Dancing in the Starlight. But the abundance of spin-offs can become tiring for most who just crave a new entry. So, when Persona 5 Tactica was announced, it was met with a mixed reception.
Developer & Publisher // P-Studio, Sega
Platforms // Switch, PlayStation 4|5, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
MSRP & Release Date //$59.99, Nov 17, 2023
Reviewed On // Xbox Series X
But when it comes to me, who thoroughly enjoyed my time with Persona 5 Strikers, I was excited to get more adventures with the Phantom Thieves and I got just that and more. Including some amazing strategy gameplay that felt so fluid and fun, while also not overstaying its welcome in the slightest. Which is a great thing if this is the last adventure these characters get to go on.
Once More unto The Fray
Persona 5 Tactica takes place between the final fight in Persona 5 Royal and the ending of that game. Where the Phantom Thieves are sucked into another mysterious kingdom in the metaverse and find themselves in the middle of a rebellion against a tyrant called Marie. But in the first encounter with her, most of the Phantom Thieves are put under a mind control spell and it’s up to the leader, Joker, the cat Morgana, and a new ally named Erina to free them and take Marie down.
Persona 5 Tactica on the surface seemed like it would have been very shallow outside of its shift in the strategy-focused gameplay. But as the story unfolded with Erina helping the Phantom Thieves, another mysterious character named Toshiro was introduced into the story. To my surprise, the game became less focused on just the initial setup. Instead, the game moved its attention more to Toshiro, his backstory, and why the Phantom Thieves have gotten involved.
This game is more about uncovering everything Toshiro has been through and it led to many horrific scenarios. Toshiro is an excellently written character. The same also goes for Erina and her connection to Toshiro. There was one scene where the game showed who Erina is and why she is in the kingdom. The scene implied something very gruesome and was followed up by some very emotional segments. I wish I could say more without spoilers, however.
As a result, the story of Persona 5 Tactica was really strong and engaging through its 25-hour run time. But the story was not the only thing that kept me engaged, as the gameplay was immensely satisfying and deep.
Strongly Positioned Strategy Gameplay in Persona 5 Tactica
I have only played a handful of strategy titles, but Persona 5 Tactica is my favorite among the ones I’ve played. It has the standard closed-in maps, with places to hide and shoot from. But the game mixes in many elements of Persona 5’s combat. Such as the one more, which gives anyone an extra action per turn upon scoring a critical hit. Critical hits are earned when you hit enemies who are not in cover. This leads to every turn being focused on the idea of how much you can do. Such as running up to an enemy behind cover and hitting him with a melee strike. Taking his spot and using another character to hit him with their gun to give them extra time to move around. You can also do the same for another character to deliver devastating blows to enemies along the way.
Critical hits put enemies into a downed state that makes them susceptible to “Triple Threat”. Which allows your group to deal massive damage to enemies caught positionally between every team member.
Scoring consistent one mores and triple threats allows you to take down a lot of foes in a single turn. This is elevated even further by the follow-up attacks you can do when one of you launch an enemy off a ledge above another character. I had so much fun with this combat system. My favorite part of every encounter was seeing what I could do in a single turn. Whether that was pulling off multiple triple threats or taking advantage of one mores to turn high-health enemies into jokes.
But this is just scratching the surface of what you can do. Each character has unique personas that allow for so much fun in each encounter.
Varied Characters, Stages and Customization
Every member of the Phantom Thieves has their own personas with unique abilities. For example, Joker’s persona can do normal damage to enemies behind cover. While Morgana can use his persona to sweep enemies out of cover. As well as someone like Ryuji is able to shock enemies with his persona, keeping them rooted in place. These abilities help to either keep devastating foes at bay or pull off triple threats and it always feels earned.
The stages also have a level of variety that gets progressively complex over time. The opening stages are very simple with explosive barrels and plenty of cover. Some of the later stages have elevators that add a greater level of verticality that is used for interesting objectives. As well as making triple threats more complicated to pull off, leading to more satisfying payoffs.
There are also stages that have buttons to stand on to open doors, causing trade-offs to progress in stages. I always enjoyed getting a feel for the layout of each stage and felt very happy when I accomplished each challenge attached to every stage for more money, and XP.
At the end of each stage, you also earn personas you can use to equip for extra stats. Such as more melee, or gun damage, and basic stuff like more SP to cast persona skills and extra health. But they also come with only a few unique skills or passives to add to a character’s kit. I did enjoy having the extra stats to help me survive, but only having one or two added bonuses never felt impactful to me. Sure, having a fire skill on Ryuji to burn enemies he’s rooted in place can be fun, but I would have enjoyed more impactful changes outside of the stat bonuses.
Back to LeBlanc in Persona 5 Tactica
Cafe LeBlanc is the main player hub with many facilities to access. Such as the skills menu that unlocks an array of upgrades and perks for characters. These can range from increasing the power and effective range of persona skills to extra damage reduction from attacks while in cover. In addition to allowing multiple follow-up attacks in a single turn.
You can also access side quests that are more or less just challenges to your knowledge of the gameplay. One of the first side quests is a linear run to get Erina to a specific area in the stage in one turn. But to do so, you will have to initiate multiple one mores with careful coordination of the other members in the party to make it happen.
Most of the side quests follow similar philosophies and my favorites were ones that felt like normal missions. But the other very challenging side quests helped me master the gameplay system for lucrative rewards. Like more points to unlock upgrades in the skill trees.
Persona fusion is also accessed in Cafe LeBlanc. It functions very similarly to past games where you can take multiple personas and fuse them into different personas. But they only inherit one chosen passive or skill of your choosing. I still dislike the lack of options to add to everyone’s kit, leading me to only appreciate this system for the stat boosts. But I really like the all-in-one style of LeBlanc as the character hub. It feels convenient and helps get me back to progressing the story faster. The menus were always very concise and easy to navigate as well.
Flawless and Cute Presentation
One of the big changes in Persona 5 Tactica was the art style deviating from Persona 5’s original style. From a colorful and frosty, yet grounded style to one that can be defined as cartoony. This shift was initially pretty jarring for me. But the way it’s used in cutscenes, both in-engine and the usual anime style, fits very well. Without spoiling anything from the story, this art style does not change the tone of the game. There are honestly shocking and at times disturbing moments that took me aback. But these kinds of surprises are to be expected in any Persona title.
Persona 5 Tactica as a whole, however, runs perfectly. There were never any issues in my playthrough. The load times on the Xbox Series X were very minimal and never broke the flow from one part of the game to another.
My only complaint would be the audio mixing, as the voices get drowned out in the background music. I had to actually lower the background music to about half to get a nice mix of the music and voice acting. Speaking of which, the voice acting from the entire cast, including Erina and Toshiro, was all stellar.
Erina always maintained an authoritative, yet fun-loving, voice that always matched the scene she was in. Toshiro’s voice acting was a little bit low compared to the rest, but his line delivery was always on point.
The soundtrack was always good too. There were almost no reprisals of tracks from Persona 5 as well. However, the likes of “Rivers in the Desert” or “Last Surprise” did appear again. But the soundtrack held its own with rocking tracks and interesting deviations into a church choir-like track. I enjoyed the soundtrack overall though, especially “Abyss of Despair” as it felt like the right amount of melancholy for an important fight in the game, but one you could still rock out to while fighting.
Overall Thoughts on Persona 5 Tactica
Persona 5 Tactica is an excellent strategy game. The combat feels fast and fluid despite its turn-based nature in varied and interesting stages throughout. There’s also plenty of variety in the character roster and customization via the personas and skill trees. The story felt like its own thing while never overstaying its welcome with awesome new characters. As well as having condensed and easy-to-navigate menus to not bog down the game.
It is a very easy recommendation to those who have completed Persona 5 Royal and want a very streamlined introduction to the strategy genre. Considering the game even on normal or hard feels manageable, due to mastery of its amazing combat system that is just as enjoyable as the rest of the game.
Persona 5 Tactica is out now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, and PlayStation 4/5 for $59.99. The game is also available on Xbox Game Pass for Console, Cloud, and PC.