Fantasy RPGs are not often without moments of romance and heartbreak, but few such games released in North America are as sexually charged as Record of Agarest War. Even with a mighty war brewing between the forces of good and evil, there's apparently still plenty of time to peep some supple skin, woo comely maidens, and even make a few babies along the way. But don't expect to pick up this staggeringly lengthy title and find yourself constantly awash in a sea of sexiness. While that does indeed pop up at regular intervals, the real heart of this game is its deep turn-based combat system. For many players, the promise of a little sex appeal and a chance to dish out heaping piles of overkill damage will be enough to spur them toward the end, but uneven pacing, repetition and ample presentation issues present a barrier to enjoyment.
A little skin doesn't go along way here.
Record of Agarest War's grand 80-plus hour campaign spans five generations of heroes working to vanquish evil on the Lucrellian continent and beyond, which provides the story framework for an unusual but intriguing dating sim element. Throughout each of the game's drawn out chapters, certain decisions you make influence how potential female love interests feel about your hero. As their passions toward you increase, you eventually wind up marrying one of them at the end of the given chapter and produce a unique offspring who grows up to continue the family line as the hero in the next generation of the story. The whole thing kicks off with a young soldier named Leonhardt who rebels against his unjust leaders who've fallen pretty to an evil influence and sacrifices his fate to protect an elf girl. You continue the ongoing saga as the offspring of Leonhardt and whomever he ends up bedding by the end of the first chapter.
Broken up by occasional snippets of character dialogue and story sequence, the bulk of the action comes in the form of a seemingly endless string of strategic turn-based battles that play out on an isometric map grid much like many other popular entries in the genre. Though there are towns to visit that afford a handful of options for improving your characters and acquiring important goods, the world map is a long snaking path dotted with battle after battle to trudge through while working your way from one story event destination to the next. As standard as these encounters initially appear, strategic combat in Record of Agarest War does go a bit deeper than the average turn-based strategy game.
Combatants on the battlefield can take action when it's their turn, and each round your party members receive ability points that can be spent on queuing up attacks and special abilities. How you choose to layout your band of adventurers on the map is crucial, since positioning adversaries in special highlighted squares links them to their comrades. This lets you chain attacks between any number of connected characters, allowing them to attack out of turn, double team opponents, and hit enemies that are otherwise well out of their reach. Your foes can do this too, which leads to frustration and all-out cursing when four enemies gang up to instantly kill your favorite hero at the start of battle. But it's enjoyable when the system works in your favor, since the game makes it possible to deal insane amounts of damage and rewards you with extra experience, gold, and skill points for dishing out overkills.