"That makes this something akin to flying to Japan and ordering at the first restaurant off the plane; the odds of getting something comfortable and familiar are low."
This is my first review for The Game Scouts and I must admit that I’m enormously stepping out of my area of expertise on this one. Speaking frankly, I’m most likely more than a bit ethno-centrist in my adamant resistance to anime and the JRPG genre; I am a big fan of Western storytelling and will always choose Batman over Dragonball Z. The only Final Fantasy game I actually played much was the lucky number seven, and even that wasn’t really my cup of tea. That makes this something akin to flying to Japan and ordering at the first restaurant off the plane; the odds of getting something comfortable and familiar are low, but it’s still best to keep an open mind and enjoy the new experience. As luck would have it, Agarest did nothing to turn my stomach. Serving as a prequel, Agarest puts ye mighty player in the shoes of Sieghart, a character so powerful that he immediately dies in the second fight he finds himself in; have no fears, for a mysterious woman will bring him back to life, imbuing him with extraordinarily more acceptable powers.
As can often be the case in such games, Agarest: Generations of War Zero is a veritable time sink. The first thing a player might notice is the strange pacing that the game decides to take. Story is generally just as vital as action in a role-playing game, and this one throws quite a bit at you. However, some of the dialogue becomes redundant, boring, and trite; you may find yourself wondering why you bother reading page after page of conversation that doesn’t propel the story forward.
"Combat in the game is repetitive, but enjoyable enough for those who enjoy turn-based RPG-style fisticuffs."
Funny enough, the introductory exposition flies by at an absurd pace, not allowing the player enough time to read it in full. When the character interaction begins, the pace comes to a screeching halt. Luckily the game-makers had the foresight to put in a fast-forwarding “skip” option, through which you will get to see the dialogue flash by at a lightning pace. You can toggle this time-saver on and off as you choose, because some of the story is absolutely intriguing. Enough time in, it’s possible that the characters may develop beyond their relatively simple starting points.
Combat in the game is repetitive, but enjoyable enough for those who enjoy turn-based RPG-style fisticuffs. Fighting orcs, wolves, and wasps may be the unavoidable “task de jour” for the opening chapters, but the tutorial instruction on fighting mechanics is pretty good, and the difficulty level starts out forgivingly for those who learn slowly. The fights involve a good amount of strategy, but nothing unfamiliar; I yearned ever so slightly for something like South Park: The Stick of Truth, which I think had similar action but greater amusement value. The graphics are cute, although technically immature and a bit cherubic in the character design. Better are the dialogue-based character close-ups, which better translate the nature of the characters on screen. A nice modern touch, these close-ups are not stills, but speak with limited animation, making them less reminiscent of old 90’s games in the arcade (although they still may bring to mind good old days playing TMNT)
"Unfortunately, this fellowship is less compelling, and the female characters in particular are written to have a kind of angelic, maidenly helplessness."
One complaint that can be easily levied is the absolute linearity of the game map. In the first two hours of gameplay, there were no options, forks, or decisions outside of “on to the next one”. This is a map that didn’t even bother try to match the geographical complexity of a Super Nintendo Mario game, let alone the free-ranging whimsy of a Final Fantasy game. In a world of sandbox video games, an absolute absence of risk and choice is disappointing. The banality of the early map is a shame too, because there seems to be a fair amount of imagination loaded into this fantasyland. There are some hints that the long-course story will be building towards an ultimate battle of “light vs dark” in true Tolkien style. Unfortunately, this fellowship is less compelling, and the female characters in particular are written to have a kind of angelic, maidenly helplessness. Playing long enough, there are definitely some hints of betrayal and character choices that may shape whom your ending party will be; that said, the time spent getting to that point may not be time worth spending.
The music is simple, but enjoyable; as with the graphics, the one word that I would use to describe the atmosphere, gameplay, and overall experience is a forgiving one: “quaint”. Without a doubt, that was the impression; this is a game that will suck you in for hours at a time, but in a quixotic quest that doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get you there. And there you have it: this game is a purgatory for those that do not zealously love the genre. Given no middle-option between rapid scene-skipping and egregiously-slow gabbing, those that are not fans of the JRPG may want to skip it altogether. For those who enjoy this sort of thing, you could do much worse.
Review by: Robert Roodhouse | Reviewed on: PC