Scratch That Strategy JRPG Itch With Agarest 2

Agarest 2 screenshot

Hello and welcome to this news post on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Today we’ll be telling you about Agarest: Generations of War 2 [official site], a tactical RPG from Japanese devs Idea Factory. Agarest 2 was released on Steam a couple of days ago.

That was all a bit matter of fact, wasn’t it? Phew! I wasn’t sure I could make it through an entire paragraph without breaking into sympathetic melodrama. But I did!

If you’re unfamiliar with the Agarest series (Agarest: Generations of War in Europe, Record of Agarest War elsewhere), the gist is it’s a TRPG which utilises dating sim elements in what is dubbed the, er, “Soul Breed” system. This basically means pursuing relationships between characters until a wild sexual congress appears, at which point their child inherits certain stats from them and becomes the protagonist of the next generation of characters.

The strategy side of things sounds interesting, with positioning and linking strikes being an important component of the game, although some players have grumbled about the pace and complexity of combat throughout the series. Such grumping aside, the developers have pedigree for this sort of thing: along with their parent company they’ve been making tactical/strategic RPGs for almost two decades. So forewarned is forearmed: if you’re after something accessible and breezy this is probably not a game for you. If you’re up for jumping a few cultural hurdles and getting stuck into something sprawling and demanding, this may be for you.

Here’s a trailer which shows you absolutely nothing of the game itself, but does feature lots of anime characters, some with animated bosoms. Oh dear.

41 Comments

  1. Eight Rooks says:

    When you say

    Such grumping aside, the developers have pedigree for this sort of thing: along with their parent company they’ve been making tactical/strategic RPGs for almost two decades

    to be more accurate, they’ve been working away as eternal second-stringers for almost two decades, content to pander to their fanbase (sex, bosoms, etc.) and never trying anything particularly far outside their comfort zone. It’s not that their games are bad, exactly, but I can’t think of a single Compile Heart/Idea Factory game people who weren’t committed fans of cartoon boobs already were falling over themselves to play.

    • Anthile says:

      As HG101 said so very poetically: “In Japan, Idea Factory (アイディアファクトリー) is so renowned for making kusoge it’s affectionately referred to as Idea Fuck (アイディアファック); not so much the place where ideas are born, rather where they go to be ruined.”
      Kusoge literally meaning shit game.

      I actually bought and played the first Agarest but I gave up on it after I met the second set of re-colored enemies. It’s a budget game in every sense of the word but inflated and padded to make it look epic. Nothing about it is good. Go play any of the other tactical RPG series, there’s more than enough.

      • Aetylus says:

        What! Don’t stop there… “there’s more than enough”… give us some recommendations man! Seriously, the only Tactical JRPG I’ve played is Final Fantasy Tactics and I loved it. Any other recommendations (on PC) would be great.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          If you are a Win8 user there’s Spectral Souls 2 which is a PSP port.

          GoG has a range of tactical games. If you are okay with emulating Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 1 & 2 are must haves. They are GBA titles but sadly Atlus decided against releasing their PS3 remakes in English.

          The vast majority of Japanese Tactics games were developed for mobile platforms such as the GBA, DS and PSP so you are realistically looking at ports.

        • Anthile says:

          Most of them can be emulated with relative ease. Shining Force, Shining Force 2 and Shining In The Darkness are available on Steam and if you want them all, they are cheaper in the SEGA Genesis Classics Pack 4. There’s also, of course, Valkyria Chronicles from Sega.
          Otherwise the King’s Bounty games can be like this but they tend to be a bit grindy, and perhaps Incubation on GOG.
          Also Battle For Wesnoth, which is completely free.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            Its probably my luck but I find the RNG (Random Number Generator) to be too heavily slanted in favour of the AI. I have to continuously save scum because even when I’ve got three attacks at 70% to hit against the opponents two hits at 40% my unit will hit once and the AI both times. I swear even if my unit had 4 attacks with a 100% chance to hit and the AI one attack with 0% chance the AI would still hit more times than me.

          • jrodman says:

            Matt, what game are you describing? It sounds like Wesnoth to me, which I never enjoyed for such reasons, but maybe it’s another?

          • commentingaccount says:

            Shining in The Darkness is a first person RPG ala Wizardry and whatnot. The Shining Force games are actually spinoffs of that, surprisingly.

          • Anthile says:

            Wow, you’re completely right, commentingaccount. I must have mistaken that for another game. I actually never played it myself.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            Yep jrodman, I was talking about Wesnoth. I preserved with it but in one instance I had a knight charge a wight with two attacks hitting at 60% chance to hit, both attacks would need to hit to kill him. The Wight had four attacks also at 60% chance to hit and three attacks would need to hit to kill the Wight. I save scummed twelve times before the knight killed the wight. Of those attempts the Wight killed the knight seven times!

          • commentingaccount says:

            I need to play it one of these days… And finish Shining Force… And play Shining Force 2… And play Shining the Holy Ark… And play Shining Force 3…

            Oh god.

          • MellowKrogoth says:

            @mattevansc3 I suggest learning how statistics work. Without a sufficient sample size you simply can’t judge how good a random number generator is. Multiple people have analysed the output of the RNG in Wesnoth and found it to produce results perfectly within curve.

            Otherwise you can always play Civ Revolutions which actually skews the results to match people’s dumb and unscientific expectations instead of having a true RNG.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            MellowKrogoth, I know how sample sizes work but I’m not going to list a huge amount of data here. I can only go by my time through multiple campaigns and during those playthroughs where both the AI and myself have the same chance to hit the AI lands two to three times as many hits as me. The success rate of attacks with a 60-70% chance to hit was less than 50% on the first attempt. The AI success rate on attacks with a 30-40% chance to hit was over 50% on the first attempt.

          • Underwhelmed says:

            @ mattevansc3

            It is a major goof to have a game that cannot generate random numbers*, as in so major that having a game actually cheat on the rolls deliberately is nigh-impossible. Generally speaking the game can be set up to cheat on purpose, or there could be an error in the logic used to assess the roll (such as calling all of a certain type of attack a miss because the game doesn’t compare the correct values) but these are pretty rare cases in finished games. Usually the cheating in a SRPG/Tactical game comes from other sources, like opponents having greater resources, or just plain better stats.

            In games that give you a hit/miss/whatever percentage, it is always possible that the number given is miscalculated, but that isn’t cheating as much as it is poor design.

            Confirmation bias is a bitch. I have written games that when I played/tested later, I was sure I included an error because sometimes the game would just seem to really have it in for me, but it just isn’t the case. Most of us assume that an 80% or better chance should happen 100% of the time. When you base your move on the expectation that a specific result is going to occur, and then it fails, there is a natural tendency to blame the dice instead of our own mistake of putting all of your eggs in one wobbly basket.

            *semi-random really, but random enough for game purposes. Someone here would probably love to type 20 pages about how random number generators can never be truly random, but when you are rolling dice, it is easy to make it random enough.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            @underwhelmed

            It likely is just my luck. Whenever dice or RNG are involved, be it Risk, WH40K or Wesnoth I’m always coming off worse. Sadly it kills games like Wesnoth for me because some maps leave little room for error and bad luck makes a mockery of strategy. While nothing is guaranteed some things should be considered a safe bet, such as putting an elf lord in a forest which causes the AI to have a 30% accuracy on their attacks while your melee attacks are at 60% and your ranged attack is 70%. On one map in particular there are a horde of low level zombies being thrown at you and in one phase five of them targeted him. A single hit from the sword was enough to kill each zombie. All five zombies hit on their first attack, the elf lord missed three of his first attacks and of the three zombies that survived that first attack two hit on their second which was enough to kill him. Those type of against the odds situations happened numerous times on each map. My mage Delfador, who had a 4x 70% magic attack never managed four consecutive hits in a single attack during the entire campaign and managed to hit an enemy three times in a single attack less than ten times throughout the entire campaign without save scumming. He managed to miss with all attacks about three to five times during that campaign, also without save scumming.

            That’s my biggest gripe with Wesnoth, its got far too many scenarios where there is little to no margin for error and through resource constraints, be it gold, time or both, you can’t have a plan B which causes the RNG to play a higher role in determining victory than the strategizing and bad luck makes the entire experience far too frustrating.

          • jrodman says:

            The problem with Wesnoth isn’t that it cheats, but just the way that the interactions play out feels far too capricious.

            The experts will lecture that you should learn to avoid getting into situations where those outcomes matter in the first place, but when it’s the most common complaint levied against the game consistently for decides by endless players I don’t personally agree. I think it’s just a design error.

        • Zeno says:

          Legend of Heroes is a pretty good JRPG with tactical combat. Not exactly the same but close enough that I can pretty heartily recommend it.

        • AgoraphobicHobo says:

          The Super Robot Taisen Series is fantastic, if you’re willing to emulate. Skip the OG series, and pick up some of the fan-translated ones; like Alpha Gaiden on the PS1.

          The real deal is that if you’re looking for JTRPGs on PC, you’re looking in the wrong place. Handhelds and Sony platforms get the brunt of the releases (Nintendo handhelds get the Fire Emblem series, Playstations get Disgaea).

        • Lars Westergren says:

          If tactical small group RPGs are ok rather than JRPGs specifically, I can recommend Freedom Force, a classic. From Kickstarter we have stuff like Banner Saga, the upcoming games Telepath Tactics, Hard West, Unsung Story. And on the currently being Kickstarted: Tahira.

      • Spacewalk says:

        The release of this is possibly the best thing to happen to the PC because you can’t have a master race when you’ve got Idea Fuck games on your platform of choice so now we can officially get rid of that awful term and move on with our lives.

    • pepperfez says:

      I guess if you’re absolutely desperate for a tactical JRPG and absolutely must play it natively on PC? I dunno, I’d break out an emulator first, but my sense of aesthetics is apparently more developed than my sense of ethics.

      • Palodin says:

        Nothing unethical about emulators.

        • pepperfez says:

          Ehhh, I mean, if I’m using them to play games I didn’t buy, that gets morally iffy to me. From a consequentialist standpoint, of course, there’s no problem — I’m not going to buy a WiiU to get an SNES game on virtual console regardless. And failing to play Shining Force and Ogre Battle is probably a greater sin in any case.

          • jrodman says:

            My problem with a lot of the niche tactical JRPGs is that sourcing them is such a pain in the ass. Yeah I can find someone willing to sell their “near mint” copy on ebay for 400$ but that doesn’t really excite me.

          • Palodin says:

            It depends on the game I guess. Is the game available from a source that gives money to the creators? Then maybe it’s not the best idea to emulate (Though Nintendo can sod off with their eshop pricing). Is the game only available second hand via Game, Ebay or the like? Then nobody important is being hurt by emulating it.

            It’s why I like GoG, was a pain tracking down torrents for a lot of these games since they weren’t being sold new anywhere and I don’t want to give someone £20-30 for a boxed copy.

          • jrodman says:

            I’m happy to give people decent money for used copies of games. The problem is they’re often enough *broken* games with a ridiculous price. Let alone the hassle of the trasaction.

  2. Ksempac says:

    “The strategy side of things sounds interesting, with positioning and linking strikes being an important component of the game, although some players have grumbled about the pace and complexity of combat throughout the series”

    hmm…this statement is weird.
    Have you actually tried the game Shaun ? or seen it in action ? or is it just a random news post about one random Steam release (among many others) whose trailer caught your eye ?

    • SomeDuder says:

      Not sure what you mean, but as someone who is trying to “get” the first Agarest, I can’t find anything wrong with that statement. A battle (usually) begins with pre-determined positions, as stated by your chosen “Field” (For fuck’s sake Japan…). Your position on this field determines how many other characters you can “reach” (or link up with) during the same attack. So you position your dudes in order to be able to get the maximum amount of attacks going. I guess that’s the “tactical” part of this tactical RPG, but it gets old very fast, especially when you have to go through the same dance during every goddamn trash encounter…

      But that’s okay. You can experiment with stuff. However. My major gripe is how everyone can do everything. For example, early into the game, you come across some half-naked semi-Elf (?) thing. She (Well, it’s got a female voice-actress, no way to tell otherwise. But she’s 80 years old or something, so that makes it okay if you knock her up, which is what the game is all about) wields dual daggers and initially comes with high points in agility. So, western RPG player that I am, think: “Hey, this girl/granny is a rogue-ish character! She will do high damage, but won’t survive on the frontline. Best put her in the rear with the gear…”

      But nope. Let her do physical attacks and they do fuck all. But apparently, she can do magic as well. Best try that then. And… This is pretty much my experience with every character so far. The fact that your characters don’t get a basic attack like most RPGs doesn’t help. You can set them up with abilities which get slotted into their weapons and armor (Kinda like the materia system in FF7), but it’s all a variation of magic which is just… weird. You get characters with swords that would give Final Fantasy characters compensation issues, but they are all at their best when doing some fluffy elemental magic crap.

      Like I said, I’m trying to work my way through it, but the going is tough and I’m only at around turn 40 (Just past the magic cave of the giant chicken). I might just restart and use the DLC that gives you the best equipment and just try to enjoy the storyline about getting into the pants of every female party member in order to pass your stats on to the next generation…

      /rant

    • Frank says:

      In this gameplay video over here, the “linking strikes” look an awful lot like a rhythm minigame, which — to be clear — is the worst possible thing one could put into such a game.

    • Shaun Green says:

      I’ve not played it. I read various user reviews of the game and the preceding titles, and spoke with a friend who I knew had played it (and rates it as an SRPG despite not being a committed fan of cartoon boobs, to address the preceding thread).

      Clearly given the response on this post, PC gamers are not fans of Agarest or Idea Factory’s output in general! With more than a few good reasons, by the sounds of it.

  3. bv728 says:

    Yeah, these are terrible – tons of interacting subsystems that LOOK complicated, but have little actual impact, random number generators which are slanted against the player, level grinding as the main way to progress, actual in game power as for pay DLC, and the game goes out of it’s way to hook you up with the girls who appear most underage.

    RPG.net had a partial LP of this one, and the hatred that the guy playing it developed was palpable. Fights where an enemy 10 levels lower would beat him on initiative and kill his entire party in one action, fights where an attack labeled at 95% hit rate would miss dozens of times in a row, mandatory scenes with the 2000 year old elf who appears 10 years old wiggles her ass at the camera…

    Also, as I understand Idea Factory actually didn’t make all the CGI cutscenes – they got a new CGI to do them for free, in exchange, the cutscene has the company’s logo in the middle of it.

  4. strangeloup says:

    It’s a shame because Idea Factory’s other main series — at least, the one that’s heard of over here at any rate — Hyperdimension Neptunia — is a pretty fun, albeit silly, concept, but it’s still rather poorly executed, if not so much so as the Agarest games. (I played all of them. They all suck, and are unbelievably opaque at times.)

    That being said, I’ve heard positive things about the Re;Birth editions, the first of which (at the link) just recently showed up on Steam, so might be worth a look.

    • Palodin says:

      I’ve thought about trying it but I watched a stream and honestly the voice acting makes me want to vomit, ultra cutesy bullshit voices. Is there an alternative, original Japanese audio or whatever?

      • strangeloup says:

        I am not 100% sure, but I think the Re;Birth edition (on Steam at least — it also showed up on Vita) has a Japanese voice option, yeah.

  5. Xerophyte says:

    I picked up the first game because I like tactical JRPGs and there aren’t that many of them on the PC. I’m glad I bought it in a sale because ye gods it may be the single worst gaming purchase I’ve ever made, and I’ve got a copy of Braveheart in my collection. That game at least was grindy, slow, dull, stupid and pandering to the worst parts of its demographic. It also had the worst goddamn DLC I’ve ever seen.

    I’m guessing this sequel is better, if only because I can’t imagine how it could possibly be worse.

  6. BooleanBob says:

    I agree with everyone, the first at least was a terrible game. Incredibly bad pacing, mechanical stew, boring story, even the menus were horrible. I don’t think the idea of TRPG-spliced-with-dating-sim is necessarily bad – the Sakura Taisen games are much better if the concept has piqued your interest (though I think only one made it to the West, and you need a Wii or PS2 to play that).

    • jrodman says:

      A tactical rpg mixed with a relatively tasteful gay dating sim would be amusing.

  7. MellowKrogoth says:

    Hopefully pretty soon animated bosoms will be the standard in games and impossible stiff ones will be seen as weird.

  8. DrManhatten says:

    I have both number one and number zero. As the second one they released on Steam is actually called zero. And as many have stated here don’t buy this ever on full price. The main issue with both of them they become super repetitive very quickly, the grind factor is enormous just to get your character,weapons leveled up. The first one I actually managed to make it to the Third generation and then gave up. They try to lure you into buying you some of their DLC which are basically EXP points and boosted weapons to reduce the grind. I don’t know how Number 2 is but I will stay away from it until it is 50-60% reduced.

  9. ExitDose says:

    Why couldn’t it have been NIS that decided to port their games to PC? I would love to play a new Disgaea on my PC.

  10. Oakreef says:

    TBH the cover art puts me off.