Impressions – Record of Agarest War Zero ( PS3)

This is my first Impressions post, so I’d like to start with an explanation of what I mean by that. Some games don’t lend themselves well to being reviewed. A good example of this are MMORPGs. For games that aren’t properly reviewable that I play, I’ll be doing impressions posts. These posts will be a more informal touch on the game. The reason Agarest Zero is getting an impressions post, is that for a strategy rpg like this – a full review would take pages and pages – and would benefit nearly nobody. So I’ll touch briefly on a few things to be aware of for people who are either just starting this game or who are on the fence and just need to know a bit more. Any and all Impressions posts will be more likely to have spoilers in them than a normal review, as well.

So now let’s get on to the meat of this, shall we?

Record of Agarest War is a Strategy RPG – think Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre or Vandal Hearts. The Strategy RPG genre has been pretty quiet lately, save remakes on handheld platforms, so I am quite glad to see a new Strategy RPG. I’m going to go out and say, however, that this game is NOT going to appeal to most people. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but the game is deep and intricate in it’s game systems in a way I haven’t seen since Last Remnant for the 360. You can spend hours working through menus trying to min-max your characters to get the ideal combos setup, to get the ideal equipment and bonuses, and to get just the right party. And then you go into combat and have to strategize all over again because you have to figure out just the right abilities to use to do the most damage to the most enemies – and it may sound easy, but there’re a lot of really intricate elements that play into that. If that sounds fun to you, then Agarest War Zero will be the perfect game for you. If that sounds boring – then it will be. Because you have to do that. If you are playing the game normally(ie. without buying the dlc) or using a ‘hard mode’ imported save from Agarest War, you will need to spend a lot of time grinding and a lot of time min-maxing your abilities and equipment or else the boss fights can and will decimate you.

A few warnings.

  1. If you play the game, make certain to level multiple sets of characters. Characters only level if you use them in combat, and the game will rather suddenly deprive you of characters – at one point 4 characters will be lost to you. And immediately afterwards you get plunged into a rather high level fight – so if you’ve only leveled a party involving those 4 characters, good luck to you.
  2. If you plan to play the game on EX Mode(the hard difficulty that you can only access after completing the game or by importing a save from the original) – do NOT buy ANY DLC until you have finished the game and started your EX mode playthrough. You will lose about 90% of the dlc stuff you buy when you start your new playthrough – but if you buy it AFTER starting the ex save you’ll get it.
  3. Pick your attributes carefully at the start – it will impact the entire game. Also, pick your affections carefully and make sure to watch the fortune teller during the first half – because it will tell you what the second main character will be – and you want to make sure you get what you want.
  4. When you get vacation days – which are moments in the game where you have the chance to build affection with various characters or get bonuses – make sure to save before doing them and explore. You won’t want to miss any of the shopkeep vacation segments because the benefits of them are huge.

The story has a lot going on, and will definitely throw you some twists. The voice acting is all Japanese, there is no dub – it is all subtitled. Which could bother some people, but elate others.

I really enjoy the relationship building aspect as well as the very strategic combat gameplay. But, I’ll reiterate – it isn’t for everyone. Not at all.

Just to take it from here though, I am having a fantastic time with this game and foresee myself playing it for a long time to come, so if you have the stomach for a game that is this long and has this much thinking and strategizing involved(you can sometimes spend 10 minutes on a single turn planning everything out), I think you’ll get a lot of good value out of this.

Oh, and getting a 1 million damage 300+ hit combo is immensely satisfying – and that isn’t even high enough to get a trophy ;)

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