Ok, so let’s take a little stroll down memory lane.
Ogre Battle: March of the Back Queen, released on the SNES in 1993 and then on the Playstation in 1997 (with enhanced graphics!), was a real time strategy game with RPG elements and a hell of a lot of complexity. In a good way.
The story was nothing stand-out; it used a formula that’s long become rote – a once-great Empire has become corrupt and oppressive; a rebellion is stirring; and hey – you’re the leader!
One of the most memorable parts, for me, is the opening character creation sequence. A wizard draws a bunch of random tarot cards and for each one asks you a question with several choices.
For example: After a long and difficult battle, your army has finally achieved victory. What do you credit your victory to? 1. Your personal luck; 2. Those who fought with you; 3. The gods’ blessings.
Your answers to the questions determine your character’s initial alignment, abilities, and the members of your starting unit. I always tried to respond as piously as possible, because having a healer in your initial group was awesome.
Ogre Battle’s battle system was fairly straight forward – you would deploy a number of units (a group of up to 5 soldiers), who you’d order around the map, liberating temples and cities and attacking enemy positions. You had little control over the actual battles themselves, as the units’ actions were automated, but you could control their tactics and cast spells using your tarot cards.
The real complexity came in managing your army. Each unit had its own alignment, which could change depending on their actions, like liberating towns and killing enemy units. This alignment was important because it would come into play when trying to promote them into stronger character classes (like hawkman to eagleman).
Your leader also had an alignment that could change based on your decisions and actions on the battlefield. This alignment affected what special characters you could recruit and what ending you’d get after beating the game (there are supposedly many different endings).
Probably one of my favorite elements was the amount of special characters there were to find and collection, and the fact that they had many hidden interactions with enemy bosses (some of whom were recruitable when engaged by the right hero in this way).
I’ve revisited Ogre Battle many times over the years, but it’s just such a time suck, with all the management it requires and the length of the campaign itself. Still, I highly recommend it if you’re into strategy games with depth.
Oh, one last cool thing about Ogre Battle – it was inspired by Queen, the rock band! The game’s creator, Yasumi Matsuno, was a big fan of Queen’s second album, which included the songs “Ogre Battle,” “March of the Black Queen,” and “Seven Seas of Rhye” (Ogre Battle includes a Rhyan Sea).