The War of the Lions is a turn-based tactical roleplaying game. It can be compared with board games such as chess, with each piece corresponding to a party member in Ramza's current roster of fighters. Each fighter may move about the grid-like board in accordance with their move allotment as well as attack enemy fighters or activate more complex abilities. The terrain of each map dictates the range and mobility of the warriors. Ramza's soldiers can each equip a job in the Final Fantasy tradition, from standard swordsmen and archers to magic specialists to even more exotic positions, like the dragoon and dancer. Fulfilling actions during a battle grants experience and job points to each character, the latter of which can be used to purchase new abilities. There are 22 jobs available in The War of the Lions. Once a character has learned a skill from a job, they have permanent access to it, although only one primary group of skills is available at a time and is job-dependent. Many abilities, such as those related to movement or being struck by an enemy, can still be equipped if the character later changes jobs. The game also features permadeath — if a character is incapacitated from excessive damage and is not healed within several turns, they are permanently dead and cannot be used again in battle.
Outside of battles, players can move around on an overworld map. This is not free movement like other Final Fantasy games; instead Ramza can only go from point to point on the map. Crossing a wilderness location may lead to a random battle. In cities and towns, the players can buy new equipment, recruit fresh soldiers, and send party members out on automated missions to earn cash and other rewards. Later in the game, the player can earn additional rewards by poaching creatures during battles.
Another addition to the game is a wireless multiplayer mode, both for co-operative and competitive play. In competitive play, opposing teams may place traps onto the battlefield, and these traps are hidden from the opponent. To ease identification, teams are assigned colors. The battle ends after a set number of rounds, and the team with the most remaining HP is declared the winner. The winner may then receive an item randomly generated from treasure chests. Multiplayer is not included in the iOS version, however.
The War of the Lions retains the setting of the PlayStation version, in which the fictional kingdom of Ivalice has just ended a lengthy conflict (dubbed the Fifty Years' War) with its neighbor, Ordalia. In the PSP version, a complete retranslation changed various location and character names in addition to the overall tone of the dialogue and plot. The game revolves around the War of the Lions, a conflict occurring due to the death of the Ivalician monarch, King Ondoria. The heir to the throne, Prince Orinus, is but an infant - a regent must therefore be selected to rule in the prince's stead. Loyalists of the crown choose Duke Larg as their candidate to serve in conjunction with the power-hungry Queen Louveria, while the nobles' council backs Duke Goltanna and the ascension of Princess Ovelia. Each of these men served as distinguished generals in the Fifty Years' War under the banner of the White Lion and Black Lion respectively.
As with the PlayStation version, The War of the Lions possesses the same large cast supporting a deep, complex story. With the unfolding political drama between Larg and Goltanna serving as the backdrop, the game follows the story of two friends: Ramza, the youngest scion of the noble house Beoulve; and Delita Heiral, the son of a common farmer. Though they have been companions since childhood, the eventual treachery of Delita's sister's death creates a lasting rift between the two that leads them along different paths through the myriad of conspiracies surrounding the nobles' conflict. Among the names afforded a new translation are Delita's sister Teta becoming Tietra, Olan becoming Orran, Zalbag becoming Zalbaag, Orlandu changing to Orlandeau, and also Algus to Argath. In addition, The War of the Lions contains new characters, including Balthier from Final Fantasy XII. Balthier is said to have an "important role", branded as a heretic in search of the "Cache of Glabados". He joins Ramza, the protagonist while he searches for his sister. Another new character, a monster hunter named Luso from Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, also joins Ramza.
War of the Lions has retained much of the original storyline from Final Fantasy Tactics. The game is told through the framing device of a historian, Arazlam Durai, who is seeking to shed light on an era of Ivalice's history: specifically, the War of the Lions, and King Delita Heiral's rise to power. It is his contention that another man, Ramza Beoulve, is the true hero of the era. To prove it, the game flashes back to Ramza's day, finding him a mercenary employed as a bodyguard to Princess Ovelia as she prepares to leave Orbonne Monastery. Though Ramza and his companions defend the monastery against an apparent attack by Goltanna's knights, a rogue kidnapper sneaks in the back and makes off with the princess: none other than Delita Heiral, future king and Ramza's former best friend. The game's first chapter depicts the past friendship between the noble-born Ramza and Delita, a commoner. Both are squire-cadets enrolled in the Order of the Northern Sky's Akademy, burdened by moral conflict as the Order (under the command of Ramza's brothers Dycedarg and Zalbaag, as well as Duke Larg) seeks to eradicate a brigade of disenfranchised peasant-soldiers, the Corpse Brigade. Successive battles against the cabal's leadership, Millueda and Wiegraf Folles, further erode Ramza and Delita's faith in their purpose as aspiring cadets. The harsh reality of their world's social stratification is finally made obvious when Delita's sister, Tietra, is sacrificed by Zalbaag to quell the remaining element of the peasant uprising. Ramza and Delita both turn against their Order and their former comrade Argath, with Delita swearing to direct his wrath at Ramza and all the nobles of Ivalice once immediate vengeance is satisfied. For turning against his family and birthright, a disillusioned Ramza is stripped of the Beoulve name, while Delita is seemingly killed in the fiery aftermath of the Order's purge.
The second chapter opens outside Orbonne immediately after Ovelia's kidnapping. Ramza, together with his mercenary captain Gaffgarion and Ovelia's personal bodyguard Agrias, catch up to Delita as he is beset by the Order of the Northern Sky, helping save the princess. Gaffgarion betrays Ramza and Agrias, revealing he was ultimately hired by Dycedarg and Larg to facilitate her assassination, removing the only obstacle to Larg's declaration as regent. Ramza and Agrias agree to escort Ovelia to Cardinal Delacroix of Lionel, a province of Ivalice controlled by the powerful Church of Glabados - the one authority neither the White nor Black Lions will dare offend. En route they encounter Mustadio Bunansa, who is on the run from the Baert Trading Company; Mustadio is in possession of a mystical artifact known as auracite. Eventually reaching the Cardinal in Lionel's capital, Delacroix explains that this auracite is one of the Zodiac Stones, relics from an ancient Ivalician tale: that of the Zodiac Braves, heroes who once defeated a demon summoned to Ivalice by a king with more ambition than sense. Though Delacroix promises to put an end to Baert, it transpires that he is actually part of a faction within the Glabados Church that is trying to collect the Zodiac Stones for their own purposes. This faction is also manipulating and motivating the entire war, secretly provoking Dukes Larg and Goltanna in an effort to destroy both men and cripple their knightly orders. Misled by Delacroix after witnessing Baert still active in the Clockwork City of Goug, Ramza and Mustadio encounter Agrias under pursuit from the Cardinal's forces. She informs the pair that Ovelia is due to be executed; rushing to intervene, Ramza is instead led into a trap laid by Gaffgarion. Though his former captain escapes, Ramza finally puts an end to him at Delacroix's stronghold before confronting the Cardinal himself. Delacroix then invokes the auracite's true power, merging with the demonic Lucavi known as Cúchulainn. Though Ramza defeats the abomination, Glabados brands him a heretic.
Various cut scenes depict the worsening war and Delita's rise to power by means of manipulation. In chapter three, Ramza seeks answers and help first from his estranged family in the Ivalician capital of Lesalia; there he is rebuked by Zalbaag, though his sister, Alma, believes his tales of deeper corruption and accompanies him. At Orbonne, the pair are surprised to discover the Knights Templar, the military wing of Glabados, sacking and plundering its own monastery. Within, Ramza first confronts Isilud as he makes off with yet another piece of auracite recovered from the bowels of Orbonne's labyrinthine library. During the debacle another Templar, Wiegraf, converts into a Lucavi and escapes. A dying monk gives Ramza the one thing that can thwart the church's ambitions to manipulate The War of the Lions: the ancient Scriptures of Germonique, a truthful biography of the life of St. Ajora Glabados. Within the text Ramza discovers the legend of the Zodiac Braves is a falsehood, and Ajora's supposedly divine nature nothing less than a fabrication. Ramza is shortly thereafter confronted by an agent of Grand Duke Barrington, claiming possession of Alma, whom Isilud had kidnapped upon fleeing Orbonne. Pursuing his sister, Ramza is first beset by Marach and Rapha, mage assassins in the Duke's employ - Rapha defects to Ramza, and as they travel, Barrington meets with Folmarv, commander of the Templars, presenting his captured son, Isilud, and relaying Glabados' entire plan, threatening to expose the church and elevate himself to the throne, to which Folmarv merely transforms into a Lucavi and sets about slaughtering the castle's inhabitants. Ramza arrives after this devastation and defeats the demonic Wiegraf. It is on the castle's roof that Ramza protects Rapha from the demonically possessed Marquis Elmdore, after Elmdore's assassins have dispatched Barrington. Afterwards, Rapha appeals to the auracite much as Wiegraf had, though this succeeds in resurrecting her fallen brother rather than manifesting another demon. The three question whether auracite is a gateway to an infernal realm, or merely a window into the human heart.
The final chapter of the game involves Ramza's fight against the Knights Templar's leadership, revealed as the orchestrators of every conspiracy behind The War of the Lions, having even deluded the priesthood of Glabados. This faction is controlled by the Lucavi and is attempting to resurrect Ajora Glabados, the chosen host Lucavi's leader, the High Seraph Ultima. Ramza traverses across all of Ivalice in pursuit of Folmarv and his lieutenants Cleitienne and Woffrey. As the Templar's agenda becomes more overt, they cause increasing chaos, as Ultima's resurrection requires the sacrifice of an incomprehensible magnitude of bloodshed. Among the slain are Dukes Larg and Goltanna after the battle of Fort Besselat, as well as Dycedarg and Zalbaag Beoulve. Ramza's sister Alma is retained by Folmarv in anticipation of a more insidious fate: it will be her body that substitutes for Ajora's as a container for Ultima. After the death of the Glabados Church's high priest, Marcel Funebris, Ramza and his party travel to the long-sunken Necrohol of Mullonde, where they rescue Alma and defeat Ultima, saving Ivalice from destruction.
The epilogue reveals that neither Ramza nor his compatriots were ever confirmed to have survived the battle. In this same epilogue, Orran Durai sees both Ramza and Alma riding off on Chocobos, though it is never confirmed that they were truly there. He later compiles records of the Church's deceit, preparing to publish the tale. However, he is captured and burned at the stake as a heretic, and his records, the "Durai Papers," lay unheeded for more than four centuries until their release from the Church and dissemination by Orran's descendant: the game's narrator, Arazlam Durai. In the final scene, Ovelia accuses Delita of having manipulated her as he does everyone and stabs him in anger. Delita kills her, and then staggers backwards, questioning whether his pursuits yielded the end he truly desired.
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions was revealed on December 13, 2006, in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine as a PlayStation Portable port of Final Fantasy Tactics. The magazine stated additions of cel-shaded full motion videos, and extra job classes among other new features. The title was originally made for the PlayStation console in 1997. Takamasa Shiba, the remakes game's producer, said that Square Enix decided to "re-envision the game a decade later". Because of the extensive gameplay and deep storyline, the PlayStation version would "compel players to spend hours playing it". Shiba cited this, as well as the system's portability, as the main reasons why Square chose to develop for the PlayStation Portable. The subtitle of The War of the Lions was chosen as it describes "the backdrop for the story of the two main characters Ramza and Delita", as well as illustrating the multiplayer gameplay.
Following the trend of Final Fantasy video games on PlayStation systems, The War of the Lions features full motion video during certain scenes. These videos are rendered using cel-shading, a technique giving the illusion of hand drawn animation. Because of the PlayStation Portable's screen size, the game features a 16:9 aspect ratio, as opposed to the previous 4:3. The developers added sequences with visual arts illustrated by Akihiko Yoshida, and the game is complete with new episodes and cutscenes that were not in the original title. Developers wanted the game to suit both new players and players that have experienced the original title. The cut scenes were also added to help players become immersed in the culture and history of Ivalice and "War of the Lions". The Zodiac battle system was used in an international release of Final Fantasy XII due to both games taking place in the world of Ivalice and that the "War of the Lions" battle director also Final Fantasy XII's international release and liked the combat system. Luso from Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift was added to connect the game to the Ivalice Alliance game series.
New character classes were chosen at the beginning of development, with a staff member who loved the original Tactics title assigned to balance the new jobs within the game. The new classes are the Onion Knight, taken from Final Fantasy III, and the Dark Knight, which was previously only available to one character, Gaffgarion. The Dark Knight in the remake has additional abilities and thus the original Dark Knight class was renamed to "Fell Knight". The Fell Knight class is still unique to Gaffgarion.
The North American localization of The War of the Lions has full audio voice acting for the video sequences in the game. The slowdown and sound downgrade, though acknowledged by the localizers, was not a priority for them to fix, being stated as "out of their hands." Various reviewers have differing opinions about how the slowdown issue has been addressed; one of the previews of the North American version claims that the slowdown has been reduced, stating that "now the technical issues are about on par with the minor slowdown exhibited in the PS1 release and are no longer distracting", while others stated that the slowdowns still "occur when performing attacks or spells in battle".
Because of vocal criticism of the original English language translation, a whole new translation was commissioned for the remake. The PlayStation Portable producer Akitoshi Kawazu described the game as having "an incredible amount of text" versus an ordinary RPG. Translating the game's script was assigned to Joe Reeder, who pulled in fellow translator Tom Slattery after becoming impressed with some of his internal work at Square Enix. Both worked on the game, alternating between each other translating scenes until Reeder had to leave the project to work on Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings and Slattery became head translator. The translation work took six to seven days a week at twelve to thirteen hour stretches. To incorporate the game deeper into the world of Ivalice, the new English translation changed words to standard Final Fantasy terms and spellings such as "magick", "Dragoon", and "Mystic". To help address any controversy that the game's plot was a criticism of Christianity, Slattery retained the game's opening prayer that is directed toward the "gods", separating the church of Galbados from the monotheistic Christian faith.
A PlayStation Network version was released on March 9, 2011, in Japan, and in North America on July 18, 2011. In response to players requests that Square Enix release more of their catalogue on mobile phones, a project to port "War of the Lions" commenced. Rebuilding the game for a touch interface and not having the PlayStation Portables shoulder buttons took much time and "trial and error", relying on the work done to adapt previous Final Fantasy titles. Certain iOS features were not supported including Game Center since the game is not "inherently competitive".
The War of the Lions for iOS was announced at E3 2010 and released for in 2011, with the iPhone version released on August 4, 2011. An iPad version was released on February 23, 2012. An Android port was released through the Square Enix Market on February 14, 2013, in Japan, featuring enhanced graphics, a higher draw speed, and controls optimized for a touchscreen. An iOS update was promised, and when released also included multiple iCloud save slot support. The Android version was globally launched on Google Play on June 4, 2015 without cloud saving.
The War of the Lions reached the top of Japanese gaming charts, and sold 100,000 copies in the first month of release in the United States. The game was the 53rd best-selling game of 2007 in Japan at 301,796 copies according to Famitsu. The Ultimate Hits edition sold an additional 19,488 copies in Japan.
As of December 18, 2007, The War of the Lions on the PSP has a score of 88/100 at the aggregate review site Metacritic based on 39 reviews, 88.3% at GameRankings based on 47 reviews. In comparison, the original Final Fantasy Tactics scored 83 from 12 reviews at Metacritic. Critics in general were pleased that the game had been remade, as it was considered a cult hit in its original incarnation but copies had become difficult to find. The War of the Lion's tactical gameplay was widely praised as deep and engaging, as battles could proceed along any number of lines depending on party composition and player strategy. Reviewers liked the focus on player choice on the battlefield, such as approaching an engagement with defense in mind, or alternatively hitting enemies hard and fast in a kind of blitzkrieg. The Job system, especially its complexity, customization, and ability to influence battles, was commended. GameTrailers wrote: "Even up to now, Final Fantasy Tactics’ job classing structure is still one of the best the genre has seen; a feature-rich and flexible system matched only by its equally complex battle engine." The new jobs were also appreciated.
The War of the Lions' new translation was frequently commented upon. Reviewers felt that while its narrative was florid, even Shakespearean, it was an improvement over the original, which was described as confusing and convoluted. The story itself was also lauded for its depth and maturity, although commentators did note that its large cast of characters was occasionally difficult to follow. The new cel-shaded cutscenes were very popular and described as "magical", "beautiful", and "outstanding". There were some comments that the sprites, textures, and environmental visuals in general had not been improved, with the exception of new spell animations. The sound was both praised and criticized, with observations about beautiful music but grating camera sound effects.
The negative comments about The War of the Lions focused on the game's slowdown during battles and its difficulty. Some party actions slow down the game's framerate and decrease the audio quality, becoming most apparent when casting spells or using special abilities that require different lighting effects. Despite the move from disc-only to the option of playing via PlayStation Network download, the slowdown remains, as confirmed by PlayStation LifeStyle's review. The difficulty was widely considered punishing and perhaps discouraging to new players. Eurogamer's Rob Fahey said: "[The game's] difficulty curve is somewhat peculiar - to put it charitably...We certainly encountered some battles that were ludicrously easy, and a couple (especially early on) so hard that we had to re-equip and fight a few random battles before trying again."
The iOS version was less well received than the PSP edition. While reviewers echoed positive comments about the storyline and gameplay, they were displeased with the removal of multiplayer, graphical issues that still had not been fixed, and most importantly, the price point at initial release. At the time, it was the most expensive game ever released on the operating system. US Gamer on the other hand listed the remake as one of the best ever made.