I am possibly going to offend many JRPG fans today.
It’s not because I don’t like role playing games from Japan. I have a collection of RPGs dating back to Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior on the Nintendo. RPGs from both sides of the pond have found their way into my game systems and on my television set for nearly three decades.
The reason many fans of JRPGs are likely to come after me in droves is because I am about to open fire on a game that has been applauded by fans of RPGs, strategy games and war stories alike.
Today, I’m Cracking the Case on Record of Agarest War by Aksys Games.
Not to be confused with the old anime/manga series Record of Lodoss War, Agarest has seen some success in North America. Enough success that the developers have ported both its prequel Record of Agarest War Zero and its sequel to North America.
Like I said, I grew up with RPGs, but fell in love with strategy RPGs. Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics have been revisited time and time again in my house. Its reached the point where I can avoid picking up any strategy games these days, in hopes that I will find a successor to the Ogre Battle series.
Will Agarest War be able to compete with many other successful franchises it share roots with? Let’s find out.
WHAT THIS GAME DOES RIGHT
This game has an addictive battle system.
The game’s battle system is its strongest point. Each battle allows you to take six members of your army into the fray, each capable of using their own moves. These moves, when synced up with other members of the party, creates devastating combos, capable of doing tens of thousands of points in damage. The first time you break the nine thousand point mark, they even reward you for it.
The game even keeps track of your highest combos and ranks you compared to other players online, providing more motivation to achieve bigger combos.
This game has loads of characters.
The game’s storyline takes place over five generations, each introducing more characters into the mix. By the end of the game, so many characters join up that it can be hard to keep them all straight.
That’s not including the monster capture and breeding system, which lets you create some unique and devastating characters for your team relatively early in the story. I was able to create a level 90 monster in generation 3, about halfway through the game. The top level you can get is level 99, effectively creating the equivalent of a nuclear bomb on the battlefield.
It’s like the game gives you the opportunity to create Thundergod Cid from Final Fantasy Tactics, just for the hell of it.
This game has a unique generations system
In most games, your main character is a product of your decisions. This game takes that statement literally.
Each generation’s main character is based on the decisions of the hero in the previous generation. One choice in particular, as the main character decides who he wants to… umm… sleep with.
The term for it in the game is ‘soul breeding.’ Basically, you have three women in each generation that you can marry to give birth to the next hero. Each time creates a unique character, with certain strengths and a different design that will be carried to later generations.
WHAT THIS GAME DOES WRONG
This game needs to fire its writers
I’m not sure what Agarest Zero or Two are like, but if they kept the same translators from the first game, things don’t bode well for the rest of the series.
Picture you are having a conservation with the most rigid and repetitive person on Earth.
Now imagine that this person has soul bred with every person in the game and you have Record of Agarest War. Conversations are repetitive, characters speak like an English major trying to speak French and dialogue in one scene will often have no flow or connection to any other scene.
I realize this series has a medieval setting with its own set of gods, but other games have done settings like this before and actually have good writing. Chrono Trigger pulled off 600 A.D. with no issues at all and both remakes of Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre also did so nicely.
My complaint with Agarest is not period writing; this is lazy, repetitive garbage trying to be masked as period writing by eye-candy characters.
This game has stiff and wooden characters
Writing plays a lot into this and while I’ve already fired a shot off the game’s bow for that. But if you have ever played this game, how many characters ca you actually remember without looking at a Wikipedia site? And I don’t mean what moves you use or what they look like. I mean their background story and what contribution they actually had to the story.
Granted, not all of the characters in this game are bad. Some are actually enjoyable, like Winfield. The problem is you can see what’s going to happen to most of the characters about a mile away. Character design doesn’t help here. One of the early party members, Vashtor, is a clear example of that.
The game loves wasting your time.
This game is a perfectionist’s Hell. If your goal is to collect every single item in the game, just stop now.
Agarest introduces us to the most convoluted system for getting new items and new abilities that I have ever seen.
There is item crafting, which revolves around its own point system to level up items. To get the points, you have to get into endless battles.
Once an item is fully leveled up, it can be broken down into its base parts, which can be used to build new items.
These new items require additional items to build them, which can only be found by beating certain monsters who have a random drop rate for items, or capturing monsters and turning them into items through their monster breeding system.
Once you build a new item, you can either use that item in battle or trade it in, with additional items, to get new abilities for your characters.
Those abilities can also be built up through constant repetitive use, which means more battles.
Sounds like a great system, right? Prepare to be disappointed.
The amount of points some items require to level up are just ridiculous, based on the amount of points you get per battle.
Also, the game includes Oops items. That’s not the actual term for them, that’s the only way I can describe this. Every now and then when you give the OK to build that weapon you’ve been working for hours to get all the materials for, the blacksmith screws up and builds an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT ITEM. Sometimes, that item is either worthless or an item you already have.
If you didn’t save, you’re out of luck and back to the drawing board.
And to add further frustration, you can’t buy that item you’ve been trying to build in the stores. The shopkeeper only stocks items you’ve ALREADY BUILT. As if you are the only person building weapons and armor in this freaking place.
You basically have two options. Either spend half of the time you will be playing this game building things, or spend your actual money on DLC items that make the game a cakewalk. Either option is fundamentally wrong on a level of game design. (I went with the DLC, by the way.)
I would suggest renting this game first to see if you like it or even download a trial version, but neither option is available. This game seems to be hard to find on disc and there are no trial versions through XBox Live. Your options are to pay whatever price the XBox store is asking for or not to bother at all. My choice would be the latter.
Avoid this game, classics like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics do what this game is trying to do much better. Heck, even Disgaea is a better choice.
If you’re only looking for eye-candy, check out Catherine or the Dead or Alive series. Less effort needed there.