Sunday, May 2, 2010

Record of Agarest War review (PS3)

Agarest War is developed by Compile Heart, which is a subsidiary of Idea Factory. Idea Factory specializes in low budget fanservice games. Agarest War has a taste for the perverse, with PG rated cutscenes and assembling a dating sim style harem of heroines to produce successive generations of angst ridden protagonists. Idea Factory does nothing to improve its reputation with this latest game.

The entire game is prolonged with hundreds of forced filler battles, which feels very much like forced grinding. The random encounter dots line the world map seemingly endlessly, impeding your progress with 2-4 random encounters in between each short story progression. If they got rid of most of the forced encounters/grinding, the games length would be cut significantly. Agarest War goes out of its way to be tedious and brain numbing.

All battles are laid out on a small flat grid with little maneuverability, reducing the strategic depth. With the extend system, each character has spots surrounding them that another character can stand in and link their attacks up to perform special arts. It's cumbersome to use because the game doesn't display extend spots unless the cursor is on top of the character. It's meaningless and highly repetitive busywork. Often the best strategy is to move as little as possible to conserve action points and wait for the enemy to approach you.

The real grind sets in when you realize you have to realign your party to get everyone into extend system position almost every single turn, which is about as fun as doing a thousand sheets of basic arithmetic. You know what you have to do to rearrange everyone, but it's  just tedious and pointless. All this while the game throws hundreds of repetitive filler trash fights at you for hours and hours on end. The main challenge will be to stop yourself from falling asleep while plowing through another group of the same enemies.

Instead of clever boss strategies to figure out per boss, the developers give bosses one-shot AOE abilities that you can only pray they are dumb enough to either not use or attack in a spot where only one person gets hit. With that said, every boss dies the same way - spread out, hope nobody gets owned by cheap one shots, then pile on the high hit count attacks to 'break' the enemy and finish with special attacks. Random encounters always carry the risk of squishy casters being one shot if the AI randomly targets them.

You can capture monsters, but it adds little strategic depth to the game, since the main hero+3 heroines are always a better choice. Capturing monsters is mainly used for crafting, not deploying them in battle. The crafting system is as plain as you'll find in any modern RPG, there's nothing special about it. The crafting/monster system eventually devolves into a grind filled mess to coincide with the post-game content which is more of the same.

The scoring system is mainly used for end of battle stat bonuses and is useless for determining skill. There are the usual slate of collect-em-up non-achievements, and the trophies/achievements are the usual grind/time wasting RPG fare. Amusingly there are online leaderboards for who can waste the most time grinding out the games skill-less collect-em-all achievements.

The alignment system, dating sim system, endings and quests all have obscured requirements that make figuring any of it out a huge pain without a comprehensive guide. Some of the choices that raise or lower your heroines opinion of you make no sense at all. There are multiple routes and making choices early in the game can unintentionally cause undesired changes later, with no explanation or indication why.

The UI is slow and clunky. It's missing unit lists, you can't check abilities from the status window, You can't check a characters extend squares outside of battle, etc. There's no way to skip cutscenes, only fast forward them. There's unnecessary lag at almost every point in battle, such as the badly disguised 2-3 sec load times after 'attack phase' shows on the screen. Some battle areas add a depth of field effect that lags the entire fight and UI terribly. Even the party formation menu gets choppy and laggy.

The free exploration sections are easily the worst part of the game. It looks like something out of an original Playstation game, with horribly muddy and blocky textures and terrain, the main character blipping in and out of existence between screen changes, terrible collision detection, random encounters, and bad framerate drag. Even worse, the game reuses the same areas later on.

The music is a mix of unbearable midi rock and cheesy classical tunes, the sprites and special effects are ugly and pixelated, sound effects are low budget, etc.

The plot is about as generic and exploitative as you'd expect out of a game where you run around breeding generations of women and assembling a virtual fanservice harem. There's nothing redeeming about the convoluted/cliched plot and characters, and blatant fanservice. This game and the Aksys marketing team (boob mousepad, perv pillow) are not ashamed about pandering. It's a low budget porn game by any measure, the only thing missing is the porn.


professor ganson said...

Sobering review. Now I regret having sprung for the LE version for the 360, which came with some really silly items. While I think I have more of a taste for grindfest games than you do-- especially Disgaea-- this game just sounds awful. As a professor with two kids, I simply don't have time for crap games. I'm lucky if I can manage an hour of gaming a day, so I'm definitely not going to be wasting that precious time on this game.

Matthew Emirzian (mjemirzian) said...

Yes I wouldn't be so harsh on the game if it didn't force 50 hours of brainless, boring random encounters on you. It's really not a game for people who value their time.

bayonettafanx10 said...

Its odd how you can do a full review of this game on Gamefaqs when you admitted that you didn't buy the game and watched youtube videos to decide the if the game was good or bad.

Matthew Emirzian (mjemirzian) said...

Wow, are the idea factory fanboys saddles still sore over this one? I did buy the game (although I regret it) and played about 15 hours for this review. You are either misinformed or a liar. Have a nice day.

bayonettafanx10 said...

In a post you said "I don't need to play the game to give a solid preview of it based on what I've watched and read and my experience with the genre."

But regardless if you bought the game, Thank you and have a nice day.

Matthew Emirzian (mjemirzian) said...

Apparently you're unable to tell the difference between "preview" and "review". When I made that post, the game was not even released yet. I suggest you stop posting and further embarrassing yourself.

bayonettafanx10 said...

Actually the game was released the same day as your post, But you judged it anyways.

And just now you said: Wow, are the idea factory fanboys saddles still sore over this one? I did buy the game (although I regret it) and played about 15 hours for this review. You are either misinformed or a liar. Have a nice day.

So you played 15 hours out of a 80 hour game and then post a full review.

Matthew Emirzian (mjemirzian) said...

Gamefaqs arbitrarily separates reviews by word count. The term 'full review' is meaningless, much like anything you've had to say here.