We've accepted the Phantom Thieves aren't disappearing anytime soon and Persona 5 Tactica reaffirms why that isn't a bad thing. Much like Persona 4, Atlus' phenomenal RPG took on a life of its own and since 2016, we've seen our favourite Phantom Thieves investigating jails, crawling through dungeons and even going dancing. Perhaps a tactical strategy spin-off was inevitable and though it's not a particularly complex game, Tactica looks like another winner.
Similar to its Persona 3 Reload preview build, SEGA split this 30-minute hands-on demo at Gamescom 2023 into two sections. Tactica finds the gang thrown into a Medieval European-themed world gripped by the Legionnaires' authoritarian rule. The first segment showcased the game's intro, revealing how the Thieves found this strange land before encountering one of its leaders, a huge pink woman called Marie.
We won't spoil any key story details but the suitably over-the-top stakes set the scene well, and we became quickly invested. Only viewing a handful of cutscenes means judging Tactica's story would be difficult, but seeing how these moments retain Persona 5's lighthearted humour is encouraging.
Combat soon followed and Tactica uses a different turn-based system to Persona 5 that's easy to learn. Controlling three party members with tile-based movement, each demo environment feels well designed and contains numerous hiding spots. Taking cover blocks front-facing attacks and resists damage from other angles, making it an essential strategy. Enemies can do the same but party members can push them into the open through a satisfying tackle. Just mind your own unit placements when attacking from range; you can't hit anyone if Joker's in the way.
Ranged attacks come in two options, using your character's gun or Personas to get creative. For example, using Morgana's Zorro for the Garu wind attack also pushes enemies several spaces back, forcing them into the open. Damage resistances and vulnerabilities return and like before, Tactica helpfully reminds you what's (in)effective if you've previously hit the opponent with that attack type. We also enjoyed pressing the advantage with the 'One More' mechanic, which adds another attack if you Down someone after exploiting those weaknesses.
The second segment takes place several chapters later and introduces Erina, the Rebel Corps leader who allies with the Phantom Thieves. We can't judge how well she'll fit with the wider cast yet, though she's certainly likable. This is also where Tactica revealed two further combat options: downing enemies and keeping your allies close together lets them perform a Triple Threat, which is basically Tactica's All-Out Attacks — defeating groups in one hit is always fun — while not attacking will 'Charge' your next move, letting you shoot enemies even if they have cover. It's good addition and a necessary reminder that the best defence isn't always a good offence.
Combat feels undeniably basic so far yet we're enjoying the changes Tactica's making, ensuring battles remains familiar for returning fans and they fit this universe well. Our major concern is whether this premise holds enough depth to stay interesting. What's here is really fun but somewhat simplistic, even when compared to other strategy spin-offs like Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Combat could evolve as the game progresses and though we couldn't explore this, further abilities unlock through individual skill trees. Regardless, this straightforward approach makes Tactica easy to jump into and we'd currently argue the trade-off is worth it.
We're also appreciating the new chibi-esque art style. More akin to Persona Q than Persona 5 or Strikers, this change might prove divisive with some fans but the colorful cartoonish aesthetic looks wonderful in action. Character designs look great, the returning voice cast complements the cutscenes nicely, and Tactica holds its own stylish charms.
There will eventually come a day when Atlus finally says goodbye to Persona 5. Seven years is a long time to keep these adventures going and rumours suggest Persona 6 isn't that far away. Yet for what it's worth, Tactica proves the Phantom Thieves still have plenty to give. What's here feels like an entertaining but admittedly simplistic take on a familiar genre, led by an intriguing plot with enjoyable combat. We're keen to see where this spin-off goes next.
Persona 5 Tactica is set to release on the 17th November, 2023. But are you interested in the Phantom Thieves' latest escapade? Always hit those weaknesses in the comments section below.