Agarest: Generations of War Zero is a strategy RPG published by Ghostlight Ltd. and developed by Compile Heart. The game follows a very interesting mechanic of the story progressing where the first generation of heroes which still follows the main character and his begotten sons. The sons are heavily influenced by the you make with your first generation hero and the woman you decide to marry with in your party.
The art direction in the game is pretty awesome, it features a hybridization of 3D models for environments and enemies to 2D character sprites and it does a pretty good job of meshing the two. There is still a little bit of an issue with some of the visual fidelity as the game tries to go in the darker, more realistic color palettes which makes it more difficult for the 2D Sprites to believably work.
The work done on the standard 2D art is beautiful, especially during dialog. It has become very common for 2D anime inspired art in gaming to now utilize breathing animations to provide more life into the characters. I would say from the recent games I have played so far, this one does it the best and the most naturally.
There is one hiccup, however, when the mouth doesn’t fit quite right with the softness in line quality, color, and lack of jaw accentuation when speaking. Besides that, it’s quite amazing.
The battle system is a big gameplay focus within this game, and oh boy is it a doozie. Battles are set in a grid-like pattern in which your characters are given a move turn and an action turn. When moving, this costs AP (Action Points), and these points are used in conjunction with attacking. A character’s AGI (Agility) and the remaining AP determines character turns when the action turn is ready for the user.
Attacks alone look quite simple but the complexity and uniqueness comes from intermixing attacks with partners. Shortly in the game you are introduced to a mechanic called “extend,” which is a pivotal mechanic in the battle system.
How the system works is that each character has a special area of effect covering certain panels based on position of the sprite. When a partner goes into this extension, those two players (plus more) can partner up and attack an enemy in one big combo. These chains can also be linked person by person with different extend areas that all connect.
With how complex a common SRPG tends to be, there needs to be a few levy’s to setting up a perfect combination. This becomes a double-edged sword with how easily the chain is broken during any given character’s turn.
This becomes a problem with how an attack may rearrange their position completely, easily ruining the flow you were going for. It’s pretty harsh, which is a welcoming challenge for some and an achilles heel to others.
My main gripe with combat, however, is when an attack finishes there is a lack of repositioning to maintain something of a strategy for keeping the flow going during a turn.
With how easy it is to ruin an extend chain, that little bit of player flexibility and control of the situation would better the battles to an already decently difficult title.
As we go further down the rabbit hole of the battle system, there are two other mechanics when dealing with an enemy. When performing big combos, it’s great to perform a “break,” which allows specialized combo attacks to damage more and perform more hits. It is pretty cool how the developers added that little animation touch to give that somewhat simple attack more life – and hurt for a hell of alot more.
The effects of a break can also occur on the party which is a great thing to ramp the difficulty of the title. To perform a break, certain attacks specialize in lowering the Break bar to perform it as other attacks will lower it slightly.
On top of break, with the heavy influence of alchemy in the game; it becomes a necessity to perform overkills on enemies to receive special items which is done by doubling the damage based off the enemies max hp at the start of the chain; normally for the purpose of synthesizing.
To generalize the battle system, I find it to be a great system within the game. I feel the tune-up on the extend mechanic is mostly necessary as the game demands the players to perform large attacks to gain. The potential it gives however when utilizing is quite large for a strategy RPG. Another gripe I had with the game is the length of the battles themselves.
They managed to add an auto mode to help speed the battles up, but I found the AI doesn’t go anywhere I’d rather them be. Battles generally take longer to get through, as you’ll end up wasting all attacks on one enemy when it could have been spread out to end things quicker. A simple skip button on attack animations would have been vastly appreciated for the length of the battles generally range and the times needed to level up.
When leveling up, the player has the ability to level up certain parameters based off the points they acquired from the level. The system is very similar to titles like Cross Edge, which lets you put points in wherever you’d like.
The only thing limitation is that each character has a certain grade per stat, meaning to raise certain stats may require more points then others. So although the leveling system is a bit guided by what the designers present to you, the game still gives full freedom as to what type you character you want to build for your party.
One of the more interesting facets of the game is the generational span. You get close to a girl the player chooses and based off their stats and yours, you conceive the next hero which takes a few of physical traits of the mother but mostly stats change dramatically.
The idea is very cool and seeing your progression to conceiving which child you want to continue the story is great and I felt more attached to the progress of that idea but there are still a few stipulations of this method.
A big thing to note for past Record of Agarest War players is that Zero has only two generations while the first title had more – 5 generations to be exact. The first game also had even more characters to utilize and get to know, alongside an even further extended story.
While it detracts somewhat from the series, the title by itself does do a good job presenting this mechanic. This would have been great if the prequel was legitimately the first one of its series.
The methods in which you woo a girl in the hopes of eventually soul breeding are a bit lacking as well. During the game there are two methods to improve the mood of a female, this happens when the story offers you two or three choices.
The first method will effect not the mood of one girl but normally multiple, raising or lowering their affection towards you. This will even affect the women that aren’t present during the story, which is a bit weird.
The second method is that there are vacation days specified on the map that you can spend a day and night at a town to talk to females. This could have been a lot better played out as normally you would jump in a scenario and they would say one line and automatically raise affection.
This was a golden opportunity to actually delve deeper into the characters’ personalities, but falls very short of ascertaining that bond unlike other similar titles like Conception or the Persona Series.
For raising the affection of your characters you are presented with a clothing swap that generally tends to be more risque clothing, which for some could be fun, but ultimately felt more disappointing with the lack of true bonding during vacation days.
Most of the big bonding moments are these events that are strewn throughout the story, which is nice but when presenting a mechanic that should cater to personal time; it was sorely misused.
Audio isn’t as pronounced as other titles, but it gets the job done nonetheless with simple rock riffs for battle scenarios and some really basic event music. It didn’t really feel as if it was intricately layered, which leaves something to be desired.
The Japanese voice acting on the game is pretty rock solid, although some of the enemies death speeches can be a bit annoying depending on the enemy but the voice talent for the main characters shine.
Overall, Agarest: Generations of War Zero is a very strong strategy RPG title emphasizing the strategic placements in battle, so that you can maintain a proper extend for connected powerful attacks. The game can get very grind-heavy, which can make or break it depending on your tolerance.
The game pours more salt on the wound with the longevity of battles, which need a bit of patience and a more thorough understanding of the mechanics. With dedication, you can get better with each battle, earning more experience and gold with the least amount of turns used.
I wished to see a little more variance to the design of the second generation character based on the mother, but it is still a great idea that should be sought out more in titles as possible story progression for any type of RPG. For those wanting to delve deep in a grind-heavy SRPG that has a fun battle system, you should definitely check this game out.
Agarest: Generations of War Zero was reviewed using a code provided by Ghostlight LTD. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.