Record of Agarest War 2 Playtest: Smoother And Prettier Than Ever Before

By Jenni . July 22, 2012 . 3:00pm

When most people think of Agarest War, they think of fanservice. The fact that these are stories with deeper stories concerning political strife or justice over generations never seems to come up, which is why people are probably more preoccupied with the lol-tastic and bathhouse mini-games of Record of Agarest War 2 rather than the fact that it attempts to streamline the series with an entry that looks and plays better than both Record of the Agarest War and Record of Agarest War Zero.

 

Record of Agarest War 2 begins with Weiss and an archeologist named Fasti entering a rather large and extravagant temple. A terrible fate has befallen Weiss and those he holds dear, in particular a woman named Leina. We don’t get an opportunity to know what happened or why, just that Weiss holds the gods responsible for not stepping in with a miracle to help and immediately sets about killing a god named Chaos. As he does, a huge beam of light appears.

 

Weiss then wakes up on another continent, alone, with only a memory of his name. A young woman named Aina found him and healed him up again. She claims he appeared there on the Day of Light, when a whole continent was destroyed and monsters started getting more violent and aggressive. As the two head towards the nearest town, an agent of the divine named Eva appears before them. She tells Weiss that he is now the Vessel, who must seek out the Pillars to support him and the Key, all in an attempt to atone for killing a god. If he can’t set things right, then his offspring will also be forced to help in an effort to eventually set things right.

 

If you’ve played Record of Agarest War 2, you’re in for quite a shock when it comes to gameplay. While some mechanics, like crafting and the hunters guild, remain pretty much the same, the rest of the game has been altered to make it feel more like a traditional, turn-based JRPG than a strategic RPG. You can actually roam around the world map, though the segments where you proceed through a mapped out area taking part in one battle after another remain. You can explore everywhere. Most importantly, the battle system now feels like it was inspired by Square Enix’s Valkyrie Profile games.

 

Each character still learns multiple attacks and skills from books. Only now, before battles, you assign them to the action buttons. Once a battle begins, players are laid out on a grid. This grid formation assigns stat boosts depending on the leader and allows party members to team up for group attacks if everyone is in the right position. Group attacks can be stronger and, if an overkill occurs, can result in a super attack that allows all four characters to take turns whaling on an enemy. Attack efficiently and after an attack is over, you’ll get points that can be used to unleash a super attack on the next turn.

 

As for individual skills or spells, after a character is selected either automatically or by pressing his or her respective direction on the D-pad, pressing the O, X, square and triangle buttons can start attack chains. Special combo attacks can even be triggered if they’re set ahead of time in the menus and players have both characters using those attacks in the formation. While formations can be broken after an attack, players can shift party members back into formation immediately by selecting the Leader icon to make someone else the leader.

 

This is going to sound odd as a die-hard fan of Valkyrie Profile and its battle system, but I there were times when I preferred the strategic battle system used in previous Agarest games. Record of Agarest War 2‘s turn-based battles can drag. It feels like they carry on far longer than they should, unless you’re playing on the easiest difficulty level or have over-leveled characters. Perhaps I’m spoiled by games that let you off an enemy with one hit or eventually turn on an auto-battle. Maybe it was the constant battle-after-battle that came from the separate map segments, but there were times I needed to take a break and go do something else when I was faced with an onslaught of battles. At least, until I switched to the easy difficult level so I could relax and focus on the story.

 

One thing that’s beyond dispute is that Record of Agarest War 2 looks worlds better than the previous two games. The lead characters and most enemies are rendered in HD sprites. They’re detailed and look quite nice, especially if you have an HDTV. Larger monsters are rendered in 3D and while they look good, I wish Idea Factory and Compile Heart had gone the HD sprite route with them as well. It would have been more consistent and looked better. It’s a minor qualm though and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear I’m the only one complaining about it.

 


Then, there are the mini-games. If you’re wondering why Record of Agarest War 2 has a Teen rating,this is part of it. You can help the heroines bathe, provide a massage or do shiatsu. All three involve little clothing, the sound effects you’re probably expecting and optional PlayStation Move controls. These games aren’t forced on you, which I was glad to hear because they aren’t my kind of thing. The thing is, I did them anyway because the boosts each provides is really helpful. The massage especially, since it raises all of the stats of the character if done correctly. In case you’re curious, shiatsu raises battle stats and the bath just makes the character like the hero more. I’d say the massage and shiatsu are most helpful, overall. Save the tickets you get to use with the characters you use most in battles.

 

Some characters’ portraits are also another example of Compile Heart fan-service at its best/worst. Part of this is due to the optional costumes you can unlock and apply to female characters, but even the standard character portraits are proof of it.The best example is Eva. What I want to know is, why does everything have to jiggle when she slightly inclines her head. She doesn’t even vigorously nod or or move. She just tips her head, but the rest of her body moves like she just did a jumping jack or something. I did some tests on my own. (Read: Asked a friend to watch while I nodded in the same manner.) The only thing that moved when I did the same action was my head. Of course, I doubt realism is what people are really looking for with Record of Agarest War 2.

 

The only kind of fan-service you can’t skip over are the CG images that show up occasionally during certain events. While these are almost always very suggestive, the fact that they aren’t happening very often helps make Record of Agarest War 2 more palatable for people who don’t like fanservice and are more interested in the challenge and story the game presents. So you’re going to see some stuff that may or may not interest you, but it’s definitely overshadowed by the rest of the game, which is pretty challenging and interesting.

 

Overall, I enjoyed Record of Agarest War 2. It felt a lot tighter than previous entries and the flow of the game and story was really smooth. While the battles did seem to drag a bit for me, it wasn’t as bad after I switched to a lower difficulty setting. The fanservice is definitely still there, but the mini-games and optional costumes tend to make up the most of it. If you want, you can play and enjoy the game and story without being bombarded by innuendo. Even though it feels more like a traditional, turn-based JRPG than a strategic RPG, fans of the series can rest assured that it is still very much a “numbers” game that allows for plenty of customization.

 

Food for Thought

1. I like that you aren’t forced to marry only the characters who like your hero, and that there are consequences for going into a loveless marriage.

 

2. You can access every area of the world map in the first generation, which is nice because it means you can go absolutely everywhere.

3. There’s loads of free DLC that adds makes you party stronger instantly. Combine that with the easy story level and you can zip through, focusing on the story.

 

4. All characters earn experience from battles, even if they aren’t in your party.

5. Events can make all characters, romance option or not, like the hero more or less.

6. There are only 3 generations this time around.

7. If you ever find yourself stuck with no events to advance the story, check the Hunter’s Guild for quests, do a few and then something should open up.

 

8. Be prepared for a lot of loading. The load times in Record of Agarest War 2 felt about as long as those in Mass Effect 3!


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  • VWinds

    Battle system taking inspiration from Valkyrie Profile sounds nothing but a plus in my book.

  • FitzpatrickPhillips

    I played it but I thought it suffered from the same problems the previous entries did even though it improved on some things. I might continue with it though since I only gave it maybe 2 hours chance. Personally, I thought Agarest Senki Mariage was a HUGE step forward in the series. Plays so much better, and faster.

  • https://twitter.com/RaiohV Raioh

    Battle system looks just so much like Cross Edge’s, which I despise more than any other battle system in the gaming world. If it’s the same, it’s already pretty low on my must buy list. Also the absolutely uber boring dialogues in past Agarest games make me think twice about getting this game..Nonetheless I might just get it for completions sake, and cause I like the other aspects of AW2.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/EnvyMizuhashi Garyuu of Spades

      Just look at any gameplay video. It’s the same alright. But if AW2′s gameplay is more streamlined, hopefully it’s more accessible to me cuz Cross Edge’s mechanics really felt like a prototype of something that should be better.

      • https://twitter.com/RaiohV Raioh

        Yeah I’ll do that. And true if it is refined and streamlined, I might get into it, Cross Edge’s was just too rough.

  • Nitraion

    Nice playtest Do i need to play previous game?

    • Landale

       Not really. It’s an alternate continuity to the first two games of the series.

      • Nitraion

        Ok maybe i started the series with this game

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000147755574 Marcos Karal

    Hm… Interessing.

    But it’s gonna take a while until I can play it, so I hope I like it. Reading this review make me feel interessed

  • idofgrahf

    About to finish the game a few observations:

    1. Weiss does not talk much at all and as a result you won’t feel too attached to him in the first gen.

    2. 1st gen is very slow moving in terms of story

    3. battle is a lot faster but no auto battle

    4. you are not forced into battles very often like 1 or zero

    5. bath mini game is freaking hard, easy if you have the move

    6. story does not really pick up until 3rd gen

    7. while story is not uber boring, don’t expect xenogears level depth.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jefriputra Jeff

    the only thing i didnt like about this game is the loading time X( , really annoying indeed

  • Vampiric

    “traditional, turn-based JRPG than a strategic RPG ”
    There is really no difference its all turn based

    • elcido6

      Strategic Turn-based RPG (Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre)

      Traditional Turn-based RPG (Final Fantasy VI/VII/VIII/IX/X, Chrono Series)

      • Vampiric

         its all the same turn based rpg

  • Speedo Redempteur

    i agree with everything said in the article …
    except that you can avoid load times by getting the digital version

    • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

      Lol, i never knew there are difference there.’_’

      But considering most gamers bought their game physical here, it is no wonder that they will mention the loading time as a problem here.

      • Speedo Redempteur

        well i tried the digital 1 hour PSN+ trial before my purchase of the physical edition

        so i know how the 2 are different

  • revenent hell

    Actually I liked the battle system more in the previous games….In this one im disliking it very much.
    Hence I believe this  game goes toward my theory of “If its not broke dont fix it”
    I enjoyed being able to move my charecters where I wanted them and I enjoyed how the battleing went…In this game its just not enjoyable to me and more irkesome.

  • Daniel Morandi

    I still dislike the fact that no matter which girl do you choose, the next generation never make a clear statement of your choices like they try to hide the fact thant the main character is a half-elf or a prince because of their mothers.
    But I glad that they improve the battle system, the world map and pay a little more attention in side-characters development by doing events for them.

    Schwartz is such a badass main character in the second generation. I liked a lot at the end, he and Vanessa are such a good pair.

  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    “People always think about fanservice and never mentioned anything about the story.”

    I thought this also happen to Neptunia here?^_^

    • https://twitter.com/RaiohV Raioh

      For their defense, there is no story in Neptunia or the past Agarest games. There is something “like” a story, but you ignore it for your own safety~ :p

      • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

        Well, “no story” is kinda pushing it to far there lol.

        They do had their stories there however for Neptunia case maybe the main story is not as interesting as the side story there lol which is filled with a lot funny cameo for people who had once played those classic game there.^^

      • Luna Kazemaru

         This post same generic one as always….ZzzzZzz.

        • https://twitter.com/RaiohV Raioh

          I didn’t ask for your opinion, but thank you, here take a cookie~

          • Luna Kazemaru

             Ah the ‘cookie’ comment gets old after awhile.

          • https://twitter.com/RaiohV Raioh

            It’s still younger than people having nothing to say but still butting in in every discussion~
            Anyway, cookie’s are all I have with me, so you have to do with my thank you~

          • Luna Kazemaru

             Because when you said agarest war had no story I stopped myself before I took you seriously.

          • https://twitter.com/RaiohV Raioh

            I already explained what I meant, but again thanks for stopping yourself and being nice with me. I’d like to leave it at that as I have nothing against you~

      • Ladius

        Neptunia is a parody, and people who like serious plots could very well
        dislike its narrative style (even if they probably won’t even buy it in the first place, since the series never tried to sound serious), but why bash Agarest?

        It’s an high fantasy series focused on war, politics and conflicts with
        evil deities spanning many generations, and while both 1 and Zero have
        comic relief events, silly characters and some optional fanservice their
        stories aren’t any worse than lots of other jrpgs who don’t receive
        this kind of treatment.

        • https://twitter.com/RaiohV Raioh

          I don’t bash them. I like both games, but what I’m trying to say is that the story is the last reason one plays those games. Neptunia is exactly like you said a parody game instead of a story driven one. And Agarest, while having a story is so bland and the narrative so heartless it makes me fall asleep.(Maybe it’s because of the bored voice actors as well, who seem to just say what’s written instead of giving them any life).
          Mind you I still like certain characters and their stories and the battle system and other stuff like soundtrack and art in the games.

  • http://chronotwist.deviantart.com/ JustThisOne

    Most importantly, the battle system now feels like it was inspired by Square Enix’s Valkyrie Profile games.

    Wasn’t interested before, but now colour me curious.

    • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

      Thats is really one the main point there lol.^^

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      Yup. Each character is assigned to one button if you go with a team attack. I think Valkyrie Profile’s battle system was far superior, but it is an interesting idea. :D

  • idofgrahf

    Also beyond the stats and what weapon you can use, it really makes no difference who you choose in the end because the dialogue is the same regardless. Visual difference is also minimal IE different hair color (except for grey who can have wings) but personality is the same. But this is to be expected from low production games like these, I’m sure if they had 100 mil to make the game, there would be some differences.  

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

       True. It’s a lot like Phantasy Star III that way.

      I went with Yumil, just because the wings were too awesome to pass up.

      • Landale

         Phantasy Star 3 actually had a relatively large variation to the story depending on your choices. Certain characters lived or died or may have never been born, who the primary antagonist of the second generation changed, and how the game itself ends be it getting tossed into a black hole, narrowly avoiding getting tossed into a sun, etc.
        Of course given the limitations of the time, this level of variation meant that the game was even more barebones in terms of the story than normal for the time. So it’s a bit understandable that when Idea Factory tried the concept out they’d avoid writing up 81, 3, or 9 different stories to a single game, though some minor acknowledgements of your choices in this series would be nice

        • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

           I didn’t even realize. I haven’t played Phantasy Star III since like… freshman year of high school so I wasn’t sure. I just remember Thea was different depending on which character you chose and if you married Laya in the second generation, you’d get twins so you’d have a fresh Laya for the third generation.

          • Landale

            It’s actually Kara who was different depending on who you chose, Thea only shows up in Ayn’s story. Kara shows up in all four 3rd generations and is more of a offensive character for either of Nial’s sons and has something of a tomboyish design, while she’s more of a healer for either of Ayn’s sons and has a princess like design if I recall correctly.

  • alastor3

    What Aragest war should I play ? This one look interesting and I want to know all the story (only if it’s good)

    • Landale

       Depends on which story you want. If you want the story to Agarest 2′s continuity that’s the only choice obviously. If you want the story to the first two games’ continuity, pick up Zero as it has both games on it.

    • M’iau M’iaut

      @Trotmeister:disqus Sir if all you are going to do is continue to spam us with such banal comments, please keep them away from here. We have asked that of you before.

  • Nightmare637

    Do you care to elaborate on that or are you just one of those people who hate on things while never giving them a chance.

    I’m going with the latter.

    Now disregarding mister Trot

    The story Isen’t bad for the first two, but since its split between generations it can get abit seperated on occasion.(mostly applies to the first 2 generations, after that it’s pretty straight)

    For agarest 2, the story can get messed up because of a very annoying thing alled LP, which the amount dictates whether you can do an event or not.(other then that the story is fine, a little slow in the begining but fine)

    The endings are not good unless you get the True ending(if not It just seems half done)

    • alastor3

      looks complicated…

  • Luna Kazemaru

    Oh look who shows back up posting to try and be relevant.

    @alastor3:disqus Look up MasterLL he just got done with a true ending run of the game if you want to give it a look go right ahead.

  • Göran Isacson

    Okay, have to admit that the possibility of entering a loveless marriage based solely on stat-gains you can give your next generation MC (or at least, that’s what I’m assuming you enter loveless marriages for) is an interesting feature. Not too sure I’m really into the rest of the game, but that feature alone would make it at least worth consideration.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

       What’s really interesting is that the stats usually end up being a lot lower for the resulting child than they would be if it was a love-match.

      • Göran Isacson

        My dream of one day playing a game that allows to be a worse father than Gendo Ikari and give my progeny crippling anxieties.

        POSSIBLE AT LAST!

  • LynxAmali

    I actually preferred the 1st game’s battle system.
    Eh.To each their own.

    That being said, I need to pick up Zero.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

       I never played the original. What was the battle system like in that one? Was it similar to another IF game? (Because sometimes they can be pretty similar.)

      • LynxAmali

        I found it to be slower and more strategic and more of a strategy RPG format compared to 2′s Valkyrie Profile/ Heroes Phantasia battle system and typical RPG format.

        Each really have their own flaws and pros though.

      • Landale

         Agarest 1 & Zero had the exact same system, though Zero presented a little bit more information.

  • http://www.silconera.com/ Tsunami_13

    …If I may quote you

    “When most people think of Agarest War, they think of fanservice. The fact that these are stories with deeper stories concerning political strife or justice over generations never seems to come up” – Jenni
    You know what, I didn’t know that, and I feel that if more people did, they would be more gamers who would share an interest to it.  The PR team should take more care in crafting the image for the game.  Yeah, I know sex sells, but their are also people who are looking for that…as well as much more.  If you feel like a game offers an intriguing narrative, than covey that to the people, let them know.  This is something I am seeing a lot with the Crystal Dynamics team and their Tomb Raider Project, as well Naughty Dog and The Last of Us.  

    Gamers have an array of different reasons/motives of why they play the games they do (gameplay, story, art, music etc.), if your game succeeds at being multi-dimensional, make sure that you convey that.  From all the screenshots and preview articles I’ve seen (and this may lie partly in fault with the media) from the game, it seemed like fanservice was it’s only forte, that’s all that I got from it.  After reading your first paragraph, I will definitely be picking up the previous two installments soon.   

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    I want this gameee

  • pinta_177

    I have never played an agarest war game before, and i am a huge fan of JRPGs, are they any good?, how many hours of gameplay does it have?, is the story interesting?.

    • Landale

      They’re good, not AMAZING, but good.

      Depending on how much stuff you miss it can be probably anywhere between 20-40 hours to 60+ to finish the game.

      The stories are pretty good, if a little predictable, though there is one problem; That wide range in playtime? That’s depending on how much of the story you get. Say the wrong things or in the wrong order and your affection levels and time limit end up locking you out of certain events, which in turn for not seeing those lock you out of certain events, repeating until you reach the end of the generations wondering just where the hell the “sudden” change in personalities in the characters may have come from. Agarest 2 isn’t as bad about this as 1 and Zero, but it’s still there to a degree.

  • JustaGenericUser

    Honestly, I’m wondering why someone who doesn’t like fanservice is playing a series that is (partly) famous for its fanservice.

  • Crimson_Cloud

    I bought both of the previous games and I think I’ll skip this one out for now, even though by the looks of it, I’ll like the battle system in this one more. Gonna try once the price drops.

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