Iíve chosen to do this topic on a relatively obscure game that due to an overemphasis on sexiness in the trailers ended up giving the wrong impression about gameplay and turned off quite a few people from the game out of shame, Record of Agarest War. I do realize that it had a prequel recently and that the prequel was a lot of the same warts and all. The game had some good ideas and mechanics but a few glaring problems marred the experience. I hope to fix these issues with my sequel Record of Agarest War 2.
I believe that the starting point for any sequel should be to look the strengths and weaknesses of the original title and try to improve the weaknesses and build on the strengths while making as few changes as possible so as to not alienate fans of the series thus far. Two sequels that really hit the nail on the head in that regard have been Super Mario Bros. 3 and more recently Mass Effect 2. While I wasnít sitting in on the design meetings for these games if you compare them to their predecessor they both addressed flaws in their previous titles and built on the strengths of the previous game.
First I want to take a look at what made the game good so that I can lay out the skeleton on which everything else must be built. The fundamental premise they have for the game is a very interesting a unique one where the quest spans several generations so in addition to chipping away at the villains in the area the hero also needs to choose a mate so that their offspring can finish the job and the capabilities of the offspring are dependent on the attributes of the parents. The combat system they used is another strong point of the game. Combat takes place on a grid and is turn based depending on the action points of each character but if you arrange your characters in certain patterns then you can link up the attacks of multiple characters moving them all over the battlefield and creating really powerful combo attacks. To compliment this they also added that if you do a combination attack that not only kills the enemy but does enough extra damage to wipe out their entire life bar a second time youíll get a rare item so you are encouraged to focus fire down a specific enemy. There is also a fairly wide array of characters and each one feels unique, especially the heroes from each generation each one reacts to knowing their fate differently and reasonably when one stops to think about it. Overall this game has a good skeleton to build off of.
Next we need to take a look at the weaknesses of the game. The worst flaw, the one that stopped me from finishing the game, is that towards the end of the game you are forced to repeatedly fight this one enemy that is the boss monster for earlier generations but with much more HP, healing and damage output. The only strategy Iíve seen for reliably beating these guys is to have someone absorb a lot of hits from these for several turns, heal through the damage, and save up action points until you are able to unleash a massive attack that kills the enemy in one shot. Waiting around for multiple turns is not fun and really makes the end of the game feel arduous. By comparison the rest of the problems are fairly minor but there are quite a few. The impact your choices would have on how the various women you encounter feel about you never feels obvious and often feels random and arbitrary. Events are somewhat time based so if you grind too much you might miss key events that will help you get the best ending. You have a core group of characters that follow you in every generation so it is in your best interest to always use them and as a result any new members that join your party come in at a lower level which discourages you from using them. The best items are prohibitively expensive or difficult to acquire. You can resurrect heroes from previous generations but the item to do so is acquired fairly late in each generation and the cost to do so is so high that it is never worth it and as a result most players will not want to use characters that they will need to replace in the next generation. There are also very few different environments on which you play out your battles maybe around 10-12ish which gets repetitive very quickly. Finally there is this one type of enemy that does nothing but run away from you solely to lower your rank for completing the fight slower.
There are some problems which are easy to fix and wonít really have any negative backlash by changing so Iíll address those first. Characters should join your party at the same level as the lowest level member of your active party so that you feel like you can sub them in without losing power. Resurrecting characters from previous generations should either be done via an item or money but not both and if it is done with money it should be a reasonable amount of money. The number of time based events needs to be significantly cut down or give the player a much wider time frame in which to get to those events. As for the how your choices affect your standing with women a greater empahsis on their personalities would pay dividends in terms of better characterization and give the player a better idea of how they will react to various choices. They should also add in more varied battle environments and do away with enemies that have no interest in fighting you. A few easy fixes that I do not think anyone would complain about.
Now to the more difficult fixes. The loot distribution can be fixed by using that overkill mechanic to give the player either items that will give them better weapons or skills directly on the materials needed to make those items are skills. It would also help if players did not need to search for books to teach them which materials they need to make certain items or skills and instead just have them unlock as the player acquires the necessary items to make them. The problem with the items is that there are only two ways to get items and both of them are arduous at best and make the player feel like they are so much weaker than they could be so making the best stuff more accessible to the player will give a feeling of empowerment rather than weakness which is something I think anyone can get behind.
The most difficult one to fix without radically altering the battle system is the boss fights. The biggest problem that one can address with them is that they have massive hit points and defense, and can heal themselves. So I think the best thing that can be done with these bosses is to either make them damage sponges that dish out massive damage or make them able to absorb less damage but able to heal themselves. If we go with the former the player can riskily chip away at them in the hopes that they can survive the big attacks that will come from them after a couple of turns of getting wailed on or play defensively and wait until you can take them out with a single gigantic attack. If we go with the later the player can try to put these enemies on the defensive by making them heal often instead of attacking or can take a risk by going more defensive and hoping to take them out in one gigantic attack but risk the boss barely surviving and healing up quickly and countering. A mix of these two would be even better because they already have two variants of these bosses in the game where one is weaker to physical attacks and the other to magical attacks so it wouldnít take much to change the formats of them around and it would make fighting multiples of them more tactical.
I think if all those changes are done then we could have a very fun and deep tactical RPG with a long campaign that does something no other RPG does by spanning multiple generations and remaining fun throughout the experience as opposed to the fatigue that most people would experience by playing the first two games in this series.