It says a lot about Persona 5 that we’re here now with a second spin-off title. And just like Persona 5 Strikers before it, Persona 5 Tactica offers a fresh adventure for the Phantom Thieves that’s best enjoyed with knowledge of the original game, but entirely playable without, too.
Persona 5 Tactica finds the Phantom Thieves of Hearts once again dragged into the Metaverse, although this time things are different. The new realm they’ve found themselves in is an oppressive place ruled over by a tyrannical leader, and their forces, known as Legionnaires, are everywhere. Taken by surprise, the Phantom Thieves’ first encounter with this new threat is pretty disastrous, but then the mysterious Erina appears. The leader of the Rebel Corps, she leads what’s left of the Phantom Thieves to safety. And with their goals relatively aligned, both decide to work together and fight for freedom.
While the story here perhaps isn’t as engaging as those found in Persona 5 or Persona 5 Strikers, it’s still entertaining to unravel. As ever, it’s one filled with mystery. Just who exactly is Erina? And how do you escape this place? These are questions you’ll be faced with initially, with more cropping up as you progress the story and encounter yet more new characters.
Aside from the story, the draw here for many Persona 5 fans will be the new strategy-focused gameplay. This is Persona by the way of XCOM, and the results are pretty fun. There’s no exploration here, just story scenes and turn-based battles. The latter find you in control of a party of three characters, and during each turn you get to move each of them and perform an action. But there are a number of mechanics here that make the combat of Persona 5 Tactica ultimately rather unique.
Like most turn-based strategy games, there’s a large emphasis on making use of cover. As effective as it is getting behind an obstacle and popping out to attack with a firearm, however, if you want to hit enemies hard you need to get up close and personal. Melee attacks here send enemies reeling, knocking them out of cover and opening them up for more devastating attacks. Much like in other Persona games, making use of this quirk is mandatory if you wish to fight effectively, with a further attack on an unprotected enemy knocking them down while giving the attacker yet another turn.
Play your cards right, then, and one or more of your units can perform multiple actions per turn. Knocking enemies down potentially opens up another benefit, too: the chance to perform a triple threat attack where all enemies in the triangular space between your three characters are battered with a deluge of attacks. You just need to make sure the enemy you downed is within that area.
Of course, being a Persona game, your combat options are further bolstered by the skills made available to your characters via the Personas they have equipped. What might disappoint some is that each character here has their own Persona that forms the basis of their special skills. Another sub-Persona can be equipped, though, that not only provides additional skills, but also bolsters a user’s stats. If you want to boosts a character’s melee attack capabilities and give them the ability to heal, for example, you can do that.
You’ll acquire a huge range of Personas as you play, and as usual you can visit the Velvet Room to manage them. Needless to say, it pays to visit the Velvet Room frequently, fusing together your Personas to create new ones that are more powerful and that have the skills you’ll find useful in battle. You can develop your characters in others ways, too. New weapons can be purchased to boost your attack power, for example, while CP earned by each character during play can be spent in their skill tree to unlock new skills, bolster their capabilities, and more.
Despite only having three characters under your control at one one time, then, you always feel like you have a range of options available to you. A mechanic that boosts the HP and SP of characters not involved in the previous battle promotes frequently making changes to your active party, too. You’ll be forced to play with certain characters sometimes too, such as in Quests, which essentially play out like puzzles. One quest, for example, requires you to reach the end of a map within just one turn with a character. To do that, you’ll need to create opportunities for them to land critical hits with your other two characters.
In terms of presentation, Persona 5 Tactica adopts a more chunky, comical art style than Persona 5 and Strikers. It’s a strange choice, but it remains attractive nonetheless, at least during story scenes. When it comes to gameplay, there’s little to impress here, especially when playing on PS5. Character models are nice, and enemy design is unique, but environments can be quite bland. At least it means there are no performance issues to worry about, and loading times are pleasingly brief.
Persona 5 Tactica is yet another brilliant outing for the Phantom Thieves. We haven’t enjoyed it quite as much as the original Persona 5 or Persona 5 Strikers, but its combat, which is relatively fast-paced and exciting for the genre, has won us over. This is a must-have for anyone that wants to spend more time with Joker and co. And while it’s undoubtedly better to be familiar with the exploits of the Phantom Thieves, it remains welcoming to tactical role-playing fans on the whole.