iPad Game Review: Final Fantasy Tactics: The War Of The Lions
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is an enormous tactical combat/role playing game. 80+ Hours of engaging gameplay awaits you if you can get used to the interface.
Final Fantasy Tactics (FFT) is first and foremost a turn-based, squad-level strategy game. It contains a dizzying array of tactical options, a deep story, and highly capable AI, and is widely considered to be one of the best strategy games ever made. It has been ported to a variety of platforms over the years since its introduction in 1998, the last of which (not including iOS) was the PSP version, from which the iOS ports sprang into existence.
As you progress through the game, you will mold and shape your team into a lethal fighting force, and this is where the game shows its pedigree. The sheer variety of ways to differentiate one character from another coupled with the meticulous game-balancing means that even with an obscene amount of content, you'll want to play again to try out new strategies and characters. While the story is well-written and somewhat interesting, it really only serves to drive you into encounters of ever increasing difficulty. This is not a game of exploration and puzzles; it's a game of turn-based tactical combat, and if that's not your cup of tea, it's best to learn that now. If, however, FFT is up your alley, rest assured you will not be disappointed. Well, mostly, anyway, because the game's PSP roots have saddled it with a "legacy" interface. The extra screen real estate of the iPad has alleviated the feeling of claustrophobia present in the iPhone version, however, the interface is still driven by a complex web of nested and branching menus that must be navigated using virtual on-screen buttons, which stands as a barrier to full enjoyment. It's not that it's unplayable or buggy. It's simply not elegant and intuitive, and you will need to spend some time with it before you feel like you know your way around. Once you get past this point, however, you will be rewarded with hours upon hours of engaging and lovingly crafted gameplay.
Final Fantasy Tactics also has a history of slowing to a crawl during combat, and I'm happy to say that this particular issue has been greatly improved in the iPad version. Additionally, a recent patch provided the means to skip past those mind-blisteringly ponderous cut-scenes. Lastly, Square Enix has also promised a graphical facelift in a future update, as well as some other convenience features to keep the game moving at an acceptable pace.
The graphics of FFT are a bit underwhelming on the iPad, although a high-rez update is planned. Still, the graphics have a pleasant retro charm, and I didn't find myself being distracted by them, except for the character's annoying habit of inexplicably and continually walking in place during combat. Seriously; I really hated it, and I can't think of a good reason for that particular design choice.
The music and sound are both direct ports of the PSP version, and what they lack in fidelity, they make for in charm. As with almost all games, I ended up turning off the music, but I found the effects to be adequate, especially considering their origins.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Final Fantasy Tactics does not offer or require any in-app purchases.
Final Fantasy Tactics for iPad is a long-awaited port of a classic. If you can get used to the interface (or better yet, if you are a veteran from another platform) you are in for an excellent turn-based tactical strategy game. If you are new to gaming and/or have never spent much time on other platforms, the interface may confound you, however, so plan carefully before you make the considerable $18.00 investment. Once you're sucked-in, however, you won't be able to stop playing.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 3 - Square Enix gets some extra latitude here due to the fact that it's a port, but don't expect much in the department. Sound: - 3 - Nothing spectacular in the sound/music department, but not lacking, either. Controls: - 1 - I really disliked the controls, and so will you, I imagine. Gameplay: - 5 - Some of the best turn-based gameplay you're ever going to find anywhere.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Use ranged attacks and magic whenever possible. Pay attention to the type of enemy you are fighting and the type of magic you are trying to use. Always attack from the back when possible. Never let anybody attack you from the back! Try killing every monster but one. Heal this monster to keep it alive and keep pummeling it to gain job points.