Agarest: Generations of War Review: A little bit of history repeating
There is definitely something about generational, tactics, role-playing games that catches my attention. Agarest: Generations of War goes through a massively deep five generations of gameplay. Your main character, Leonhardt, will start the game by making a pact with a mysterious woman to give him the power to battle evil. In return, he and his future generations will have to sacrifice their souls to seal the evil away. This is the premise of Agarest: Generations of War.
If you’re thinking that this game sounds identical to Record of Agarest War, you’re absolutely right. The different title is simple due to this being the PC/Steam version and not the PS3 version you’re familiar with. Other than that and some slightly upgraded graphics, the two games are literally identical. Thus, if you liked the old one, you’re going to love the version that was released on October 3rd of this year.
In the first four generations, the game displays a system it calls the “soul breed” system. It all comes back to Leonhardt and his supernatural ability to draw women to himself. During the first generation, you’ll build relations with three specific women, and at the end you have to choose one to produce a child with. This child will be the main character in the next generation, and will have a choice between three new women. The child receives stats/appearance based upon his two parents and how strong of a bond the two had. This character’s weapon is also decided by the parents. Keep in mind, by the 5th generation your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and great-great grandparents all play a role in how your character will turn out stats and weapon wise; there are lots of different factors and possibilities towards the end of the game.
A beautiful aspect of this game is that no two playthroughs will be identical. I’m not even talking about character design, but how every choice you make and how many turns you take affect the game and that generation – sometimes the entire game. It is possible to miss out on certain characters, not have all three women fall for you, miss certain events, take different paths, fight different battles, and miss out on loot. While this does mean there are different endings, there aren’t as many as you might expect.
Decisions and relationship building all occur off the battlefield. If your light/darkness gauge is at a certain point after certain events, new events will appear that you can go to. Your choices will change this gauge as well as how the women view you. Showing too much favor to one can lower the interest in the other two. All of this factors into the path you’ll take in that generation and even possibly the outcome of the ending. Do you go all in for one gauge direction or keep it balanced? Do you give all your attention to one of the women, or do you try to balance them out? These are all decisions Leonhardt and his offspring must make.
The battlefield is where the true meat and potatoes of the experience is. As far as tactics games go, the Agarest series is rather complex. If this is your first game in the franchise, prepare to be somewhat confused at first. Thanks to the “Extended Area” feature, where you put your troops heavily matters. During the movement phase, you’ll see lines connect to characters that are in each other’s extended areas. When connected, these characters can all act at the same time, combo with each other’s moves, and make combinations that a single character isn’t capable of. Each enemy has a “Break” bar that once broken will cause them to take double damage from attacks. This bar resets after each volley, so it is imperative and often necessary on bosses to have every character attack at once to defeat the foe.
A turn in battle consists of you moving all your troops first on a grid. Then the enemy moves, then your AP determines when you act on that turn. Through the Extended Area system, even characters far down the turn order can act if they are connected to a high AP character – this is where the majority of the strategy lies. You can set the battles to “Auto”, but your characters aren’t often strong enough for you to trust the AI not to get them killed. In Agarest: Generations of War, you spend nearly no time grinding if you’re trying to get the “True Ending” (~less than 100 turns per generation).
During “Quests”, your characters won't heal and you have to truck through an environment where you randomly get attacked. There are treasure chests hidden here that give you powerful weapons, skills, and tomes. I abhorred these quests – especially the ones with bosses at the end. If you die, you have to do 0-3 fights without saving and do it all over again. That is nightmarish. Usually I’d get all the items, leave, save, and then just rush the boss. I had played Agarest War: Zero before this game and even though the quests were still long, you could heal and save in-between.
While I’m usually all for this level of complexity, this game becomes incredibly repetitive in battle. Going through five generations makes this an incredibly long game, and towards the 3rd-5th generation I got tired of the repetitive nature. Nearly every boss is fought by having one character tank the boss, either getting healed or revived after every turn, and just waiting for every party member to build up their most powerful attack. Sure, you’re getting a slew of new characters every generation with different weapons and skills… but the gameplay stays relatively the same.
This is probably a personal preference, but I’m not a fan of the Blacksmithing system. Besides starter weapons/armor and what you find in chests during quests, you have to make every piece of equipment you use in this game. These patterns are found through tomes, and there is no direction on where to get them or the monsters you need to overkill in order to obtain materials for them. In a game with 5 generations, there are a lot of monsters you can potentially miss. If you happen to miss one blacksmithing book during a quest, you could miss out on that generation's go-to weapons, and if parts of THOSE weapons are needed for the next generation, you are double boned. I’m not usually one to look where to find things on my first playthrough, but the wiki is a godsend for this game.
The fact that this remake is only $20 and is on Steam makes this game convenient and affordable. If you’re a fan of the Agarest franchise, looking to spend 50+ hours on a game, or just want to try a different tactics type game, I recommend Agarest Generations of War. I rarely say this, but the game is too long. For $20 you are definitely getting your money’s worth, and if you’re in love with the gameplay, that’s a whole lot of content. This game is definitely one part tactics/RPG and one part dating-sim. I love that there are so many options, different game routes, and different main character combinations; so while there is an endless amount of replayability, I could never see myself playing it a second time.