While the last two generations of consoles were showered with a number of illustrious strategy role-playing games, ranging from Final Fantasy Tactics to the Disgaea series, our contemporary systems have had a meager amount of middling tactical diversions. So far, multi-core CPUs and a high-definition output have given owners of contemporary systems an unimpressive selection of titles. Certainly, titles like Spectral Force 3, Zoids Assault, Band of Bugs or Operation Darkness won’t attract the fanboy fanaticism that has followed venerated favorites like Front Mission 3 or La Pucelle: Tactics.
Sadly, players can add the recently released Record of Agarest War to the growing list of unexceptional tactical battlers. While the game doesn’t have the faults that have tarnished other SRPGs of the current generation, it joins Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice in offering competent skirmishes along with an antiquated visual aesthetic. Those expecting a now-gen game with increased intricacy or graphical sumptuousness may be slightly disappointed.
Record of Agarest’s main contribution to the genre is the title’s generational system. At the commencement of the game, players take control of Leonhardt, a soldier growing increasingly distrustful at the jingoist determinations of his countrymen. Although Agarest’s account of a just insurrection isn’t novel, the title’s execution is elevated by allowing players to control Leonhardt’s lineage – each of the game’s five chapters is led by the hero’s successive offspring. Dialog with potential suitors raises or lowers an affection quotient, culminating with an heir conceived with the most compatible woman. One interesting element is that your successor’s starting stats are based on the congruency of the parents. Unfortunately, selection in mates feels restrained, as it’s hard to determine a suitor’s reaction to your responses.
Less innovative, but still proficient is the Agarest’s battle system. Although the title makes a distinction between movement and action turns, every activity uses a common commodity- Action Points. Therefore each character repositioning, attack, magic spell or even item use has a cost associated with it. This system encourages players to plan ahead as points can be banked for future turns. Like the Disgaea series, the title offers devastating linked attacks; characters don’t even have to be adjacent to one another before releasing a barrage of assaults. Whereas most SRPGs allows for terrain of varying altitudes, all of Agarest’s battlefields are uninterestingly flat.
Players expecting the developers to flex the graphical muscle of the Playstation 3 will be disappointed by Agarest. Although the game’s character portraits are displayed with high resolution fidelity, the game’s sprite-based characters display a lack of detail, and are stiffly animated, recalling the look of classic PS2-era SRPGs. Although the game forgoes an English dub (Japanese voice with English subtitles are the only option), I wouldn’t expect Agarest’s target audience to resent the omission.
Record of Agarest’s salivation may be found in its sheer depth; the title will offer SRPG enthusiasts at least eighty hours of playtime. Those that aren’t smitten by the genre will likely become fatigued long before the midway mark, by the title’s straightforward strategies and plodding narrative. Until a developer makes a now-gen strategy role playing game which captivates our minds and eyes, Agarest is a respectable, if not dazzling alternative.