Record of Agarest War Review

Review: Record of Agarest War Breeds Indifference

Record of Agarest War is a game that wants to be many things at once. It is, first and foremost, a turn-based strategy game with RPG features. It also includes visual novel-style narration with light dating sim elements. While it is no Persona on that front, romancing and choosing a partner for your protagonist is an integral part of the game. These elements tie into the titular generations, as the story is told through five different generations of the lineage of the initial hero, Leonhardt Raglan.

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Immediately after pressing “New Game,” you are offered the option to enable any of the multiple DLC packs that released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Record of Agarest War. These DLCs range from very powerful weapons and skills to extra gold and resources. Activating any of them will make the game a breeze, as you will immediately get a ridiculous amount of resources from the beginning. I imagine these would be better suited for a second or third run of the game, when trying to see new generations of heroes and other endings.

After picking between Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty, the game starts by delivering a considerable amount of exposition in a simplistic looking intro cutscene, explaining the Era of Myth and the war that led to the creation of Agarest. This immediately leads to the very abrupt and unceremonious introduction of Leonhardt, a minor aristocrat and member of the military from the country of Grimadas who is the first protagonist of the game. The odd pacing and cheap feel of this intro is representative of the rest of the game. Shortly after getting acquainted with our first hero, Leonhardt opposes the war against the high-elves that his country is waging by trying to save a high-elf child named Ellis.

Review: Record of Agarest War Breeds Indifference

Leonhardt is then mortally wounded, and in an attempt to survive he makes a pact with the mysterious Dyshana to become a Sprit Vessel. The pact gives him great power and allows him to fight back against the Grimadas soldiers, but also makes him indebted to Dyshana. Because of his nature as a mortal and his comparatively short life span, his Spirit Vessel pact passes on to his progeny, which ties into the main mechanic of the game: the Soul Breeding system. As the name suggests, it is… awkward, but never as awkward as the Conception games. The player can, and must, romance a character in each of the five different generations of the game. Each one has, generally speaking, three different romanceable options.

Depending on which wife you choose for your current protagonist, the main character for the next generation will be somewhat different. The generation mechanics of Record of Agarest War are never as interesting as Phantasy Star III. While the later game can change parts of the adventure for the next offspring depending on the parents, Agarest takes a simpler approach, changing only the appearance and combat properties of the child. Otherwise, these offspring always have an identical name and personality. The game counts with five generations, and each one can last anywhere between 10 to 20 hours depending on how many side content you play.

Record of Agarest War Review

Dialogue and exposition are presented in a visual novel style, with static background art and anime-style character portraits. The art style is serviceable. The game uses desaturated colors for the character sprites during combat and exploration, which can look a bit drab. Character designs, however, are very on the nose. If the oddly named Soul Breeding system and every offspring always being male wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the choice of designing female characters that look like minors (but are actually hundred-year-old elves) wearing ridiculous revealing outfits feels really gross, and it reflects directly into other parts of the game. While the story is a fairly serious war drama, the amount of sexual fanservice is incredibly jarring.

The other main selling point for Agarest is its combat system, and it is an interesting one, albeit terribly bloated. Encounters are divided between Move Phase and Action Phase. Move Phase is rather self-explanatory. Turn order during Move Phase is determined by a unit’s agility stat, and to move you need to expend AP. However, turn order in the Action Phase is determined by agility and the remaining AP of that unit, so by conserving AP you can make slow and hard-hitting units act before the enemy.

Something I quickly noticed about combat is that it has some noticeable quirks. For example, controls for the D-pad when navigating through tiles are inverted, and to attack you first select a target and then the skills to use. It doesn’t take much to get used to, but it surprised me how persistent elements like these are in Agarest.

Record of Agarest War Review

Because of the strategy elements of combat, character positioning is very important. Each character has a unique field that allows other characters lining up with it to launch their attacks in tandem, no matter how far they are from the enemy. Arts are combinations of particular Skills, and they are really powerful and pretty cool looking. Each Art has a really flashy and long animation, but these can be skipped with the press of a button. Additionally, Record of Agarest War counts with a plethora of other smaller systems like Extra Skills, definitive attacks that characters can use under very particular conditions, the skill allocation system, crafting and upgrading weapons, etc. It can be a lot to learn and manage.

Outside of combat, the game progresses through a world map similar to Fire Emblem Awakening. In between each event lie several combat encounters. Fights are very short compared to the length of a regular tactical RPG encounter, so advancing in the world map is fast and breezy. The other main form of exploration comes from Dungeons. These are regular fare for any typical JRPG, with random combat encounters while exploring. However, dungeons can be very tedious, as the exits to each screen might not be apparent immediately, and encounter rate is quite high.

A curious thing I noticed when I started playing is that the default audio balance is all over the place. Fortunately, by pressing the R button at any time during play, I could access the settings menu and change audio to my liking. Voices are only available in Japanese. They are fine, but the recording quality is very uneven and of a low quality. I would suggest lowering everything a bit except for the voices, and making those louder, as by default they are very quiet. The soundtrack is serviceable as well, with no standout tracks.

Record of Agarest War is a generic take on a generational RPG. The experience feels dated even for 2007. While combat can be fun, the game is a slow burn, and it is difficult to ignore its more questionable content. Considering the price mark for a game that is sixteen years old, and the overwhelming length of the game, I would only recommend it to someone interested in a crunchy, slow combat system, looking for quantity over quality. Considering that the game received a prequel and two sequels, it surely has enough public.

Record of Agarest War is readily available for the Nintendo Switch and Windows PC.

Record of Agarest War

The Fate of Agarest is in your hands! Leonhardt and his descendants are the last hope for a world devastated by a war between the gods. Their journey will span generations and continents as they strive to restore peace. Includes all add-on dungeons and extra content packs, featuring tons of extra items, weapons, and upgrades. Switch version reviewed.

Record of Agarest War could have been an interesting generational RPG, but the fanservice and bloated mechanics water down the experience. Switch version reviewed.

Food for Thought
  • Keep an eye out on the counter of turns that appears on the world map! Some side content becomes inaccessible if you take too long on each generation.
  • Reaching the true ending can be tricky, since your need to be on Neutral karma, and the endgame gives a lot of mandatory Light points.
  • Duran, the hero of the fourth generation, might be the most interesting compared to the rest of saint-like heroes.

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Daniel Bueno
Daniel is a staff writer and translator from the Spaghetti Western land of Andalusia, Spain. He got his start writing for Xbox Outsider in 2022. His favorite genres are RPGs, survival horrors, and immersive sims. In truth, he is a Dragon Quest slime in a human suit.