Record of Agarest War (PS3) Review

Also known as Agarest: Generations of War, this is one tough cookie to write about. Should I give it a really low score because certain bits bugged me to no end, or a high score because some parts of its novelty shined, or drive a wedge in the middle for an odd sort of compromise? Regardless, if there’s one thing to learn, it’s to never take marketing campaigns at face value.

"You met him too eh?" ~ "Same old sadist, that alchemist."

The timeline of Agarest spans 5 generations, and at the end of each generation, you choose between one of three brides to wed, then that generation ends, and you continue on to play as the son of the previous protagonist, until the 5th generation. There’s a lot of characters.

From the perspective of someone who’s generally in tune with anime and visual novels, it’s not to difficult to notice certain character stereotypes and references to other artwork after a while, and there’s a number of that here. The good thing is, derivative as the cast might be, they still manage to remain unique across all generations – meaning you won’t see the same character reborn in a new body, so to speak.

The soundtrack’s typical RPG fare, and ranges from average to decent. The tune above is heard while saving/loading the game, and it’s one of the better ones out of the under 30 tracks the game has to offer. You would think they’d change around the battle themes every generation at least, seeing how many battles you need to go through. Except they don’t, so it’ll get annoying by the 3rd generation, if not earlier. XD

Turn-based combat on grid battlefields. (Source Linked)

Battles play out in a modestly-sized grid battlefield similar to that of Disgaea, FF Tactics and one of my personal favourites, Jeanne d’Arc. This is where one of the first negatives of the game strikes you – the graphics.

Though still character portraits used in the storyline are generally appealing with a good amount of detail, the battle sprites are PS2-era quality. The camera is also locked to  rotation from 4 angles in battle, which not only limits its usefulness, but there is also noticeable lag when you use it. Thankfully the default view is typically sufficient. Speaking of lag, it’s also apparent in many battlefields, particularly those of the icy-terrain. While not game-breaking, it does mar the overall experience.

The game features a robust combo system that allows you to combine different skills to achieve combos that dishes out satisfying digits of damage. However, you have to either remember those combo skills or keep referring to them in an unfriendly compendium. A ‘combo suggestions’ system upon selection of individual skills would have made it all the more enjoyable.

World Map (Source Linked)

You spend most of the time on a world map, moving from event to event, with battles littered in-between. They are mandatory, and once in a battle you cannot escape. You can however avoid a few here and there by taking detours if there are alternate routes. Your characters level up and gain stat points you can distribute into various attributes.

The turn system simply tracks how many battles and events you’ve been in, with each taking a turn. It doesn’t play a significant role unless you’re gunning for the game’s true ending, where one requirement is to reach the final mandatory boss of the 5th generation within 500 turns (5 generation cumulative). Certain scenes also have a turn limit before they disappear. Each generation takes roughly 80 odd turns if you’re the “avoid everything” sort. So considering each generation will put you through about 60 mandatory battles in identical maps, you can see why many are complaining of the tedium.

Dungeons in the game are static backgrounds allowing your character to run from area to area, with random encounters. You can, in fact, make it through every dungeon in the game without a single encounter if you progress from screen to screen fast enough (especially true if you ignore item collection). Since battles in dungeons also add to your turn count, this is almost the only viable method for ensuring you achieve the true end.

Fan service is just that - fan service.

I guess talking about the game will eventually lead you to the bit about fan service. The advertisers in particular want to home in on that, but in truth it’s incredibly tame, when compared with games like Ar Tonelico Qoga, not to mention it somewhat makes sense in the latter, whereas here it’s (as other reviewers have pointed out) just tacked on as an afterthought – it adds nothing to the story, and are typically out-of-place.

It’s also possible to miss all of these scenes if you were the wrong alignment at specified points of the game. Now for the alignment bit. As you make choices during the game, you not only affect the how the ladies feel, but those choices also swing you toward Dark, Neutral or Light alignment.

What the game doesn’t tell you explicitly, is for certain bonus scenes to appear, you are required to be of a certain alignment (such as Not Light). And no, you don’t get force powers if you weigh heavily on either side, and neither does your protagonist’s personality change. The true end also requires you to be neutral at the end of the 5th generation. So unless you’re following a guide word-for-word, it’s likely you’ll miss out a lot of the content.

Aw...aren't you the cutest little...

Plot-wise it’s pretty standard save-the-world fare, in which the protagonist of the 1st generation sacrifices his (and his descendents) futures in favour of rescuing an Elven girl by agreeing to vanquish darkness for as long as it takes, and becoming the new seal after they’ve seen their newborn to the world. The fighting ensues on 5 different continents, so apart from the  party members who stayed on after the previous ones left, you’re introduced to an entirely new group of people (including antagonists) each generation.

You’re essentially getting 5 mini-stories, each with their respective branches depending on the ladies you finally choose. The nice thing is the protagonists have wildly different personalities from one generation to the next. From 1st to 5th, based on identifying traits, Leonhardt the righteous, Ladius the stiff, Thoma the playboy, Duran the angsty and Rex who got the best traits of the previous 4. It also makes sense when you think about whom each was raised by. Small details like this is always appreciated.

The game offers a New Game+ option that carries over your stats to the next playthrough, useful if you’ve been grinding and realised you overshot the 500 turn limit for the true ending, so you don’t have to go through the agony all over again. Noting that your protagonists’ stats will vary differently based on the brides you’ve chosen, completionists will find quite a bit to replay for.

"I want to be forgiven." ~ "Me too."

Conclusion

Overall, the game does deliver on most counts. The plot remains interesting enough across generations, but the tedium of mandatory battles and the lack of polished graphics might be off-putting to some.

If you were turned off by how the game was advertised (like myself initially), fret not. As mentioned above, the content is generally non-objectionable and can be missed, unless you consider Rex’s 9 marriage partners (yes, he also inherited the blood of a harem king), 6 of whom were his foster mothers from previous generations (or that of a sibling role).

Fans of the jRPG genre will feel right at home with Record of Agarest War.

Rex: So awesome, everyone wants my babies.

Final verdict:

  • Story: 6.5/10
  • Audio: 7/10
  • Gameplay: 6.5/10
  • Replay Value: 7.5/10
  • Overall (not an average): 7/10
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