Agarest: Generations of War

"Sadly, Generations of War doesn't even have a great soundtrack to make its repetitive, uninformed gameplay more enjoyable."

I'm not going to beat around the bush — I hated Agarest: Generations of War. The best that can be said for it is that it functions as designed. It never crashed or even showed signs of bugs. Other than that, I can't find anything to praise about this game. I can, however, be more specific about my complaints.

As you may guess from the title, you play through six generations of a family, and each has a part to play in a war to save the world from the forces of darkness. In the first generation, you're Leonhardt, a surprisingly youthful general of the country of Gridamas who leaves his country's service after deciding that he can no longer follow both his conscience and his orders. This decision almost immediately leads to a battle that leaves him fatally wounded, and, rather than succumb to death, he pledges his service to a godlike being who conveniently appears in Leonhardt's hour of need and offers him power to help defeat both Gridamas and whoever is behind its ruler's turn to evil.

Leonhardt soon raises a party of helpers and sets out to fulfill his mission. Three of his female companions are available as potential romantic partners, which sets things up for the second generation at the end of Leonhardt's story. You can play a total of six generations if you wish to continue the larger mission to vanquish evil, by the end of which your characters will have far surpassed level 100. But you can also simply stop at the conclusion of Leonhardt's story and get something you can call an ending.

That's not a bad setup. Clichéd, certainly, but not bad. Unfortunately, any story potential during the course of the game is quickly crushed by terrible writing and boring characters who simply pile clichés on top of clichés. And their appearances are even worse than their dialogue. One of the girls is supposed to be a general, but she looks like a 16-year-old dressed in a corset, panties, a garter belt, stockings, and heels. Come on, developers — have a little self-respect. You know that no soldier would follow orders from General Jailbait Stripper, and she has no knowledge or personality that would have earned her that rank, even if she were older and dressed more appropriately. (And remember, this is coming from someone who gave a pretty decent review to loli-fest Mugen Souls.) And she's the rule, not the exception. Very disappointing.

I've said enough about poor story and character design. Let's move on to gameplay. Battles are turn-based strategy affairs in which you move your team, watch the enemies move, and finally engage in combat in an order based on the characters' speed stats. Each turn, your characters get an allotment of action points that are used both to move and to attack.

The problem is that this is a strategy game in which you're given very little of the information you need in order to form an actual strategy. In battle, there's no way to know how much damage a character's attacks do, even in relation to that character's other attacks. I assumed that attacks that cost more AP would do more damage, but that doesn't always turn out to be true. And given that your whole team moves before any enemies move, there's no way to position your team in relation to the people you want them to attack.

Outside battle, you're occasionally given dialogue choices that affect your romantic relationships and sometimes the path you take on the map toward your next objective. But your choices are usually so nebulous that you can't possibly know what effect they might have on your relationships, and even after the fact, you generally won't understand why they had the effect they had.

You're also forced to deal with far too many types of "currency." There's gold for some things, TP for others, EP for yet others, etc. It's almost fortunate that there are very few pieces of equipment worth purchasing. Of course, having all of these currencies leads inevitably to grinding. At one point fairly early on, I had to stop and play the same battle 25 times before I could proceed. But the game penalizes you for that required grind by removing the choices I just mentioned if you don't arrive at them early enough in the game's "calendar."

Sadly, Generations of War doesn't even have a great soundtrack to make its repetitive, uninformed gameplay more enjoyable. Instead, it features an overblown cacophony of electric guitar that gets unpleasant very quickly. In the options menu, you can turn off the music and leave the rest of the sound, but the sound effects are nothing special, and the voice acting is only available in Japanese, so I simply muted the entire game only an hour or two into the experience, only turning the sound back on periodically to see if anything had improved. (Spoiler alert: it never did.)

Often, even if a game is flawed, there will still be an audience who can appreciate what it has to offer and look past its flaws. I would be hard-pressed to identify any such audience for Agarest: Generations of War. And were I to find one, I would still suggest that they look elsewhere for their strategy gaming needs. The game's kernel of a story and a mission that spans generations is one that could have been truly epic, but it is instead only an epic failure.

© 2013 Ghostlight, Compile Heart, Idea Factory. All rights reserved.

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