Game Reviews

Record of Agarest War Zero

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Record of Agarest War Zero

We need to talk about Record of Agarest War Zero's hero, Sieghart. No really, a stern conversation is in order.

Sure we can overlook his cocky quips, tireless pursuit of the ladies, and that time he abandoned his troops to go off on a self-serving baddie-bashing mission.

But now he's inexplicably made off with all the magical powers of a young girl with pink bunchies, and on top of that fire bolts keep erupting from his extremities.

Sieghart is just the first in a line of heroes that parade through Record of Agarest's mammoth 100 hour campaign. The first half follows our aforementioned anime Casanova as he fights monsters and decides which of his many female companions he'd like to romance.

The second half of the game lets you play as his and his chosen lady's offspring, with their abilities and stats determined by the parental choices you made earlier. Sort of like the Sims, if Bella Goth were to wield a two-handed broadsword.

Pick a skill, any skill

Throw in over 50 different battle skills and magic spells, a dash of turn-based combat, and a selection of 400 enemies, and you're left with a hefty wodge of tactical RPG content.

The fact that the original 6GB console release from 2011 has been shrunk down to 1.9GB without any major gameplay differences is an achievement in itself.

Sure, you'll need to be clutching a device with at least 512MB of RAM in your palm to play, and yes 1.9GB is still a hefty slice of the smartphone storage pie, but this is no Candy Crush Saga.

For starters, the graphics are gorgeous. While the story's backgrounds stretch across the screen in colourful 3D glory, the characters that inhabit them are pulled from that bygone era of pixelated sprites.

Throw on top beautifully drawn anime portraits whose chests heave and eyes blink when you're in dialogue, and you have an art style that, while disjointed, is also improbably charming.

But while the graphics may be gloriously unpredictable, the plot just isn't. The game's many, many dialogue scenes drag like Dame Edna Everage walking a recalcitrant beagle.

The beautiful portraits spout all manner of peripheral nonsense like, "I mean… Have you seen her? She's incredibly pretty," (an observation, coincidentally, that could be applied to one of at least eight ladies).

There's also a disturbingly overpowering air of chauvinistic possessiveness and meek subservience that colours all your "relationship" choices, making them more than a little icky.

Unnatural selection

At best, this means it takes you a long time to care about any of the characters you meet. At worst you'll be emotionally booted so far out of Agarest's tale of ancient evil and heroic prophecy that you'll spend the majority of time fast forwarding these interchanges. So that's about 40 per cent of the game.

Then there are the battles. While the combat is actually pretty sound in principle, each encounter is frustratingly scripted.

Your eye-twitchingly slow journey through the game inches along a set path that forces you to stop at set red dots, each of which kickstarts a battle that usually has absolutely no bearing on the plot.

The gameplay's saving grace is that combat actually does present some rather nifty ideas. Careful manoeuvring means you can perform powerful team attacks, for example.

But the lather, rinse, repeat nature of these battles makes the whole process a chore after five hours of repeatedly tapping A.

Still, it's a set up that should please hardcore fans of the genre. Agarest is a world constructed from nostalgia rather than creative innovation, a tactical RPG that embodies every cliché because there's no reason to try anything else.

If after all that you still plan on playing through every hour of Record of Agarest War Zero's sizeable campaign, heed my advice: wear some DVT socks. You're going to be sitting down for a while.

Record of Agarest War Zero

A hefty price tag requires compelling gameplay to match, but stunning graphics aren't enough to rescue this lengthy RPG
Alysia Judge
Alysia Judge
After spending months persuading her parents that it's a valuable career path, Alysia is still not bored with writing about games. That's a good thing really, since skills like spaceship navigation and zombie slaying are pretty much non-transferable.