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Persona 5 Tactica review: strong personality, shallow tactics

Persona 5 Tactica is another fun adventure with the Phantom Thieves that falls short of expectations
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If you were to pitch a game that was perfectly attuned to my taste, a squad-based tactics game set in the Persona 5 universe is about as good as you can get. I’ve whiled away more hours than I can count playing the likes of XCOM, and I utterly adore Persona 5 in all its forms, so this seemed like an absolute home run – yet I’ve come away from Persona 5 Tactica feeling underwhelmed.

Persona 5 spin-offs up until this point have been fantastic. P5 Strikers is easily one of the best spin-off games of all time, and Persona Q2 is a joyous experience. There’s something about the Phantom Thieves that I can’t help but love – simply hanging out with them as they banter back and forth brings a smile to my face.

Persona 5 Tactica Phantom Thieves

P5T does a bit of this, offering plenty of opportunities for all of our favorite characters to interact, but something feels a little off — like you ordered them on Wish. Their personalities are still intact, but there is a spark missing. They’re the most by-the-numbers versions of themselves, with none of the extra sizzle that keeps me listening to them chatter for hours on end.

Morgana fawns over Ann, Ann calls Ryuji an idiot, and Ryuji antagonizes Morgana. It’s all still fun, but we’re not covering any new ground here, which is surely what spin-offs should actually be for – to put these characters in new situations so we get new perspectives. P5S did just that and I loved it – heck, even Dancing in Starlight gave us great social scenes – but P5T just replays the hits.

It’s still the Phantom Thieves going on a new adventure, so there’s still a base level to which I enjoy it. It helps that the P5 vibes are still fully intact, even down to the UI design – the pop and motion of switching between menus is still some of the best in gaming – plus Lyn returns for another banger of a soundtrack, but I was expecting more from the writing.

Persona 5 Tactica Joker pointing a gun

I had hoped for more in-depth gameplay too, as the squad-based tactics side of the game is pretty simple. You have three party members on the field at once and you have to move around the level, staying behind cover as much as you can and trying to weed enemies out of their cover so you can kill them.

Rather than messing around with hit chances, P5T’s rules are simple: Units in full cover take no damage; units in partial cover take half damage; and units in no cover take full damage. Additionally, a unit with no cover will be downed if they are attacked but don’t die, providing an opening for P5’s signature All-Out Attacks.

Persona 5 Tactica

Setting up All-Out Attacks is the main thing to focus on in battle, as you have to down an enemy, and then surround it with your units, at which point you will deal massive damage to all enemies in the triangle between your units – not just the downed enemy. Doing this properly allows you to eviscerate huge chunks of the field in one go, and it’s incredibly satisfying to pull it off.

You have a variety of tactics to set everything up too. Using guns is the default attacking mode, and the established premise of each character using different types of guns allows for variety in this aspect. Joker’s pistol does big damage to one target, while things like Ann’s SMG have a wide spray. You also have melee attacks that knock enemies back some squares, which can easily move them out of cover but leaves you vulnerable.

Then, of course, there are the Personas, which have been dramatically simplified in P5T. Each Persona only has two abilities. It doesn’t matter if these are attacks, buffs, heals, or passive effects, two is all you get. To make up for this, every character can have two Personas – their story Persona, and anyone you can fuse in the Velvet Room.

Persona 5 Tactica Joker and Morgana confronting Marie

While it is more limited than a full RPG, it works in this context, as it allows you to specially craft different roles for each character and feeds into that satisfying loop of exposing enemies and performing All-Out Attacks.

However, this is somewhat dragged down by the fact that the game is far too easy. Each map is small, with typically only a maximum of 8-10 enemies to take out, and it doesn’t scale up very well as the game progresses outside of slowly introducing stronger enemies. I don’t mind that the cover system is so simple, but it means that any experienced strategy gamer can avoid taking damage easily.

The game often strings multiple maps and encounters together, but it fully heals your party in between each one, so no difficulty is gained there, and even if you do lose a party member, there aren’t many consequences. When someone is KOed you can simply switch them out with another Phantom Thief being held in reserve – up to three times on normal difficulty. Upping the difficulty reduces the number of times you can do this, but even playing on the harder modes I rarely struggled.

A screenshot from Persona 5 Tactica showing the Joker character aiming his gun at an enemy

So yes, the main loop of manipulating enemy positions to create openings for All-Out Attack is fun and satisfying, but when you’re breezing through the game, it loses its effect eventually. Much like with the character writing, I’m left wanting more out of this system, but the game never gives it to me.

Despite all this, I do like Persona 5 Tactica – just not as much as I had hoped. It’s another fun adventure through the Metaverse with characters that I love and a style of gameplay that – while not as deep or challenging as I wanted – I do enjoy. However, as much as it breaks my heart to say it, I think it’s time to let the Phantom Thieves ride off into the sunset because this spin-off proves they don’t have infinite longevity, and we’re all sick of waiting for Persona 6 at this point.

Not to mention we’re running out of gaps in the P5 timeline to slot these spin-offs into – can’t wait for the abstract puzzle game set in that one week where Morgana left the party.

Score: 7/10

Version tested: PC (Steam)

  • Visuals: 7/10
  • Sound: 9/10
  • Story: 6/10
  • Gameplay: 7/10
  • Performance: 9/10

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You can pre-order Persona 5 Tactica on Amazon and get it in time for launch on November 16.

Persona 5 Tactica technical performance

Persona 5 Tactica runs very well on PC, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise as it’s not a particularly intensive game graphically. The only minor issue is that some of the loading times take a little longer than you’d expect. It’s a bit of a nitpick, but the constantly looping screen transition animations make it a lot more obvious than it would have otherwise been.