When it comes to real-time strategy games a number of titles come to mind. The Command & Conquer, Warcraft, StarCraft, and Age of Empires series from the 90s are definitely influential in the genre. However, amongst these titans of tactical-role playing games stands an ogre that’s not to be forgotten: the Ogre Battle series.
Starting with the 1993 release of the first game in the series, Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, the Ogre Battle Saga predates Warcraft: Ogres and Humans’ 1994 debut by a whole year. As such, Ogre Battle remains one of the O.G. medieval fantasy real-time strategy games and more than deserves to be remembered as such.
Origins of the Ogre Battle Saga
Directed by Yasumi Matsuno—who would eventually work on various Final Fantasy titles—for Nintendo, Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen was released in Japan in 1993.
In developing the plot and storyline, Matsuno was inspired by the dark realities of war as he witnessed in the Yugoslav Wars of the early 90s as well as his appreciation of the band Queen. As it turns out, the fact that Matsuno is a Queen fan proved to be such an influence, the game actually got its title from two songs from the band’s second album, 1974’s Queen II: “Ogre Battle” and “The March of the Black Queen.”
The second game in the series would be 1995’s Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Differing from the first game in the series, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together utilized the gameplay and individual character control of more typical turn-based role-playing games. As with its predecessor, the game’s title was again inspired by a Queen song. This time the song was ‘Teo Torriatte (Let Us Cling Together)’ from the 1976 album, A Day at the Races.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together would be Matsuno’s final contribution to the series. The next game to be released, 1999’s Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber, was developed for the Nintendo 64. Following Matsuno’s exit from the project to develop Final Fantasy Tactics, the Queen inspired titles came to an end; Person of Lordly Caliber is an original title.
Ogre Battle 64: Person of a Lordly Caliber would also return to the game play style of the first Ogre Battle game, eschewing the more standard RPG leaning style of Let Us Cling Together.
Legend of Ogre Battle Gaiden: Prince of Zenobia would be the next game in the series, released in 2000. However, Prince of Zenobia would never receive an English language release.
Serving as a side story to Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, Prince of Zenobia. As such, the game takes place at the same time as The March of the Black Queen, but follows a character from that game—Prince Tristan—on his own journey. Prince of Zenobia shares the gameplay style and design of the first game while introducing more areas and character classes.
The last game in the series was 2001’s Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis. Released for the Game Boy Advance, The Knight of Lodis follows the gameplay style of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, featuring party-based tactical combat.
Plotlines of the Ogre Battle Saga
Set at the edges of the fantastical Zeteginan Empire, Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, starts 24 years after the empire’s founding. As the empire grew through conquest, they turned to evil magics, under the influence of the mage Rashidi. The game places itself chronologically as the 5th chapter of the sage.
With the initial guidance of the seer, Warren, the main character(whose name and details are determined by the player) is leading a revolution against the empire’s ruler, the evil Empress Endora.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together situates its story as the 7th chapter in the saga’s chronology. In the land of Valeria, three different ethnic groups struggle for peace, while King Rodrick oppresses the people by utilizing evil powers from the “Palace of the Dead.”
When King Dorgalua overthrows Rodrick, there is a temporary peace in the land until mysterious accidents wipe out the new royal family. With King Dorgalua not having any heirs, the land is once more thrown into political turmoil, including ethnic cleansing and the influences of foreign forces called the Dark Knights Loslorien of the Holy Lodis Empire.
The main characters are Denam Pavel, his sister Catiua, and their friend Vyce, as they oppose the Dark Knights and lead the “Liberation Army” in order to restore peace.
The next game, Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber, is technically the 6th chapter of the saga. This means that, despite being the third game in the series, it chronologically falls between the first and second games.
Person of Lordly Caliber follows Magnus Gallant. Magnus had recently graduated from the Ischka Military Academy and was subsequently named Captain of Palatinus’ Southern region, Alba. With unrest and civil war spreading throughout the region, Magnus decides to join the revolution, engaging in the various militaristic conflicts with enemies domestic and foreign, as the region erupts in war.
As mentioned previously, the next game, Legend of Ogre Battle Gaiden: Prince of Zenobia was a side story to Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen, following Prince Tristan of Zenobia as he maneuvers through the same conflict covered in The March of the Black Queen, but to his own ends.
The last installment in the series, Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis, is a side story that chronologically falls before all of the other games in the series.
In the game, the Knights of Lodis are oppressing the people of Ovis. One of these knights is Alphonse Loeher who, after getting separated from his fellow soldier, connects with two locals named Eleanor Olato and Ivanna Batraal. They inform him of the evil happenings in Ovis at the hands of the Knights of Lodis.
Alphonse goes on to uncover the secrets behind the political unrest in Ovis. It turns out Ivanna’s uncle is the evil regent of the land, Naris Batraal, is serving a trapped, Fallen Angel named Shaher, who can only be freed by a magical sword made from his horn, called Longicolnis.
Alphonse’s commander, Rictor Lasanti, is also searching for Longicolnis, hoping to claim it for the Lodis empire. All of the unfolding secrets, political machinations, and military conflict put Alphonse(and the player controlling him) in the position to make numerous tactical choices with various outcomes.
Ogre Battle’s Legacy
While the series only consisted of five games, with the last new installment being released almost two decades ago, it’s worth noting that Ogre Battle remains relevant.
Most people consider Final Fantasy Tactics to be the spiritual successor of the Ogre Battle Saga, primarily due to their shared creator: Yasumi Matsuno. Beyond that however, Banri Oda—writer of Final Fantasy XIV—has stated that Tactics Ogre’s narrative reflecting real-world issues influenced his writing of Final Fantasy XIV.
Furthermore, due to the series popularity, the Ogre Battle Saga has gone on to be re-released over the years for the different consoles and gaming systems that have emerged over the years.