Review: Record of Agarest War 2 (Sony Playstation 3)

Record of Agarest War 2
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Idea Factory/Compile Heart
Genre: Strategy RPG
Release Date: 06/26/2012

Another one of those games that crosses genres, Record of Agarest War 2 combines an RPG with elements from Strategy RPGs, visual novels, and a multi-generational dating sim. For the most part this somewhat odd mix works as we’ve seen bits and pieces used most recently in other RPGs, but there are some issues the game has that can make what should be a fun experience drag a bit.

The game starts off with our first protagonist, and I say first because the game does move on to 2 other generations, doing his best King Arthur impression by pulling a powerful sword from some stone walls and then slaying a god with it. The resulting catastrophe dumps him back into the world without any real memories of who he is or what happened to him other than his name. He meets a girl who nurses him back t health and then insists on accompanying him when he goes to leave to help keep him healthy. He meets a few other people who join his group along the way and he finds out from one of them that he is destined to become the Vessel for the fallen god since he extinguished its corporeal form. To do this he has to go out and slay demons to regain that power that was spread out across the land. What she neglects to tell you, at first, is that all of your children are going to have to be hosts for the fallen god as well, so you’re going to end up picking a woman to be your wife and then you play through as your child and then that child’s child.

The story line isn’t as in-depth as I hoped it would be. There’s a little bit of character interaction, go out and kill demons, find town, character interaction, rinse repeat. Some of the characters are a little more developed than others but if you’re looking for some deep story-telling it isn’t here. There’s enough to support the over-arcing story but to me it just felt generic.

The game uses a combination of 2D and 3D to bring the game world to life. The world map is in 3D and looks incredibly dated as well as some of the monsters you fight which look a little more advanced. All of the fights are done with your characters as pseudo-chibi sprites as well as moving around the world although not all of the maps you’ll be on are 3D modeled. Character dialogue scenes are all done with well drawn sprites that are animated in the visual novel style so that they have some movement to them that mostly looks natural along with their mouths moving to the dialogue. There is some unnatural movement, usually from the female character’s breasts that’s just distracting more than anything as it never looks quite right. I’ve seen them move in real life and that just ain’t right. This just doesn’t feel like a PS3 game at all. It feels like a late entry PS2 game.

There’s a decent mix of music out there, but you’ll be spending lots of time at the inns or in combat, so you’ll hear those themes a lot. I’ve grown to hate the inn theme and I tune out the combat music anymore. The dialogue was never dubbed over so all you’re getting is the Japanese voice actors who seem to do a decent enough job conveying the emotions of the characters. None of them really felt flat to me which is a good thing.

The game is Move capable as well as with a regular controller. The controller does a fine enough job for everything in the game you’ll need to do. I never had a problem with timing or anything like that. This is important that things work the way they should as it can come up in the min-games where you’re oiling and massaging the women in your party as well as in the bathhouse, but more importantly, combat. Rewind that. Yes this rated T game has an oil and massage session in it as well as a bathhouse segment and while fully clothed you are in fact, rubbing things on the women in your party and if you have the Move, you’re getting far more intimate with them than just the regular controller. Parents, be warned. Combat involves a bit of button mashing when you have hit combos going so that the game registers everything is also important.

Combat consists of a formation system and is completely turn based. Whoever has their turn up in the party determines what formation you can use. Some characters can reorganize the other characters out so they are in a usable formation as all four attacking at once is usually the most useful attack pattern you can use. Some attacks won’t put your character back in formation and you’ll have to use that. You can also heal first and then attack as well, but your attack will end that part of your character’s turn. Once you start attacking it’s a matter of mashing buttons and swapping characters so they don’t run out of actions and you can break through your opponent’s defenses and take it into overkill for a better score and to trigger off the final attack which pushes your bonuses up even further. The board in combat basically consists of your side and the enemy side so it’s not like a traditional strategy RPG in that sense, but more like a classic RPG with some strategy elements. Ultimately combat is about dishing it out as fast as you can and with as many people as you can so really you can toss strategy out the window and go all in and come out with a great combat score. Over thinking combat just led to me dropping from an S or an A to a C score. Sure you might want to plan a little bit in boss fights, but for the most part going all out just worked for me.

One of the more interesting things in this is you can pick a class type and what kind of weapons your character can use at the start as well as what stats you level up in as you go. This kind of customization I’m used to in western RPGs but not in eastern ones and it’s actually really well done. It’s a little annoying though when you have this giant god killing sword though to jump into combat as a caster even though you have a sword proficiency to find yourself holding a broom as a weapon to start with and then when you’re back to story scenes they not only mention your all powerful weapons but show you carrying it. Would have been nice to have that carry over, but like Mass Effect always messing up which actual pistol you’re carrying in cut-scenes, it wasn’t meant to be.

They’ve built in a few endings with this, one of which is apparently impossible to get unless you have a guide to help you get it and even then it’s insanely easy to screw up. Dialogue choices though will end up with the same events happening in the game, it’s just that your rating with the people in your party will simply go up and down. There are some trophies to get with this as well. Overall though, unless you’re a stickler for every ending and trophy, there’s not much to bring you back. The gameplay is interesting enough, but with such little to change during the rest of the game otherwise I can’t see people coming back to this over and over again.

Price wise the standard version of the game is actually $10 cheaper than any other brand new PS3 release. There is a limited edition that’s the normal price for a PS3 game, but I didn’t get that version for review so I’m not touching it. Content for value is pretty good. The game is also pretty good at not making itself ridiculously hard at the start and letting you get used to the mechanics as you level up. As far as originality goes, we’ve seen most of what’s here in some way, shape or form before. There just isn’t much here that drives that end of things and even the story isn’t enough to do much for it either as most fantasy readers will have seen something like it.

I’d love to say I was addicted as hell to this as I do love the look of the sprites and the combat can be fun, but the pacing in the dialogue section is off. It takes too long to load up the conversations and there are pauses between almost every line of dialogue and definite visual pauses when it loads up a different character portrait for that character’s part of the conversation. That really kills it for me, especially when the conversations can go on for ten to fifteen minutes depending. There’s no option to install this to the PS3 hard drive to get around that loading issue and I can’t help but think every time I play this that it’s just loading up a bit of audio, maybe 30 seconds worth, and a flat 2D image and it’s taking seconds for it to wait and find it on the disc before it shows up. Why wasn’t that just queued up at the beginning of the conversation? Because of this I had to take long breaks in between fits and spurts of playing as the pauses were literally driving me insane. That and it’s all non-auto dialogue so you have to hit your X button to advance for every line of dialogue. I ended up hitting it before hand because of the pauses I could usually read the dialogue long before it either loaded or the character even started speaking.

The dating sim nature of this game and the fact that these type of RPGs have made this a niche title is going to hurt its audience. It’s particular fanservice is designed with a specific audience in mind and that might turn the other audience out there off to the title a bit. I’ve been surprised before but usually there’s a decent story involved and this one is just so so. The food and oil rubbing massage min-game is probably going to clinch it for most, but hey, you never know. Overall I’ve enjoyed it for what it is, but I’m wishing it had been tweaked just a little bit to push it over into being great.

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Good
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
Record of Agarest War 2 is an interesting mix of RPG, dating sim, Strategy RPG and visual novel. While it works, there are parts of it that could have been so much more like the lackluster story or elements that could have had far more variety through your actual dialogue choices other than making party members upset with you and otherwise changing nothing. The combat mechanics are pretty solid if not repetitive and running through three generations of characters in one game is an interesting experience with a decent amount of time given to each one. Overall I enjoyed it but I think if you don’t like or aren’t sure you’ll like this type of RPG, grab something else as this is not the title to try it out on.

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