Lost in Translation?
If Kim Jong-il and Garry Glitter got together one night, drank several bottles of questionable vintage and made a video game, I’m pretty sure parts of it would be similar to Agarest: Generations of War.
Nations marching to war, as despot leaders pass their hatred and rhetoric on to future generations? Check!
Shagging anything that looks of remotely questionable age-wise to extend that family line? Check!
Music so bad that even if it was made in the heady days of glam rock it wouldn’t even feature on Chorley FM’s playlist? Check!
A story so absolutely mind numbingly boring and told in such a way that you would rather read the bible upside down, in Klingon? Check!
Created in an atmosphere where no expression of individuality, creativity or excitement are allowed? I’m guessing so.
By any stretch of the imagination, a word incidentally, that I don’t think the developers have heard of, Agarest: Generations of War is not a great game.
Throne of Blood
So to the basics; Agarest is a JRPG. The game has a pretty standard storyline that sees several gods having a bit of a falling out – this has led the world into a time of darkness. Powerful human nations are battling against each other and also taking a strong disliking to anyone not from the same gene pool, its with these elves and such other enchanted folk that our first hero; Leonhardt casts his lot after becoming disillusioned with his own nation. Trust me, If you have played any sort of RPG over the last 20 years, you’ve been here and done that already.
Whilst the story could have been written by a room full of monkeys with typewriters, its main problem is the way the story is told. Conversations in the world take place with some very questionable hand drawn talking head characters that just stand there, against extremely unappealing backdrops that wouldn’t look out of place in the Take Hart/Kindergarten gallery. Whilst you stare at the wondrous vistas and characters, line, after line, after line of conversation will pop up, and with no real way to speed these up, it really is a chore to get through them. On the flipside, these character dialogue bits stick around for so long that if hentai is your thing, I’d cling film the screen before you press play.
So the story isnt going to win any prizes, but how about the gameplay? Well things do improve here, but not by much. Like other JRPG’s of its ilk, Agarest uses a turned based combat mechanic. Battles take place on an isometric grid and start with the movement phase. Your team of upto 6 combatants spawns onto the grid in a formation which you set up via one of the many convoluted menu screens, each team member then has limited range of movement.
By careful placement, your characters can influence each other in various ways, chaining attacks and buffing stats. It’s a nice mechanic which generally works pretty well. However once your team has got into position, your opponents then make their move, this really limits how tactical you can be as it ends up a guessing game of what moves your enemies will make. A better idea might have been to assign a move order based on agility or some other stat that could have been factored into planning your moves.
Combat swiftly follows the movement phase and for the first 10 or so battles I quite enjoyed it, like other parts of the game, this also soon started to grate on me. It’s the little things that really that started to disappoint me. There is no way of knowing which attacks are best to choose, you would think that the attacks costing the most action points would be the best, however this is not the case. You soon figure out who’s attacks are the best and just continue using them, spamming the enemy until you win.
Into the Sun
A grand campaign map leads you to the battle spaces and also the dialogue events, from time to time your decisions will lead to different routes, but it’s not exactly interesting stuff. A few select areas do allow you to explore in a traditional sense, with you taking direct control of your main hero.
In 12 hours of gameplay I came across 2 of these sections that lasted no more than 20 minutes combined. Their short length is somewhat a blessing as they are truly awful. Move your mouse, your character follows, that’s it. I spent ages in one location thinking that the game had crashed as there was no where to go and nothing was happening, who would have thought that pressing the right mouse button would make Leonhardt jump and open up the path that seemed impassable. It would have been better if they had not included these sections at all.
Add to this the ability to catch monsters ala pokemon and also the whole dating sim which lets you use your “soul breed” ability on the apparently “nubile” yet rather young looking female characters to create your offspring, and you start to understand that this game is trying to be all things to all people, even those who don’t visit Thailand for just the tropical location and fantastic cuisine. It just doesn’t work.
If you’re a hardcore fan of JRPG’s you will probably find something worth your while here. However, if like me you only dabble in the scene and have fond memories of the old Final Fantasy or Secret of Mana games, you’d be better of revisiting the other classics that can be picked up far cheaper than this, considering that Agarest was originally released on the PS3 back in 2007, the other games have aged far better in comparison too.
Undoubtedly the game must have a following, its available on just about every platform you can still buy at retail, spawned a prequel, which is also heading to steam, and by all accounts has sold bucket loads. I can’t help but think that if the developers had concentrated on individual elements rather than that trying to cram as much mediocre content in as possible, it might have turned out a rather different and perhaps, a better game. Agarest isn’t broken, it works just fine, but unfortunately that is the only real praise I can give it.
Anyway I’m off to read the WPK handbook and listen to Doing Alright With The Boys
Developer: Idea Factory
Publisher: Ghostlight LTD
PC Version Reviewed. Also available on PS3/Xbox 360/Android OS