Back in the days when Clinton was president and Sega still made hardware, one of my favorite games was a little known strategy RPG for the Sega Saturn called Dragon Force. Choosing from one of several nations to play as, you waged war, recruited generals and uncovered the plot across a fantasy island full of monsters and mystery. Sadly, it has taken me almost a decade to find another game like it. And while Generation of Chaos has made several changes to the genre, I?m glad to see the core gameplay is just as fun as I remember.
In Generation of Chaos the player takes control of one of 10 nations on the island of Lost Ground (though only two are available at the start). The island is home to numerous species of people, including humans, hawkmen, elves, beastmen and undead among others. Each nation has their own back-story, starting location and cast of characters. With your commanders to lead them, the player sends troops across the map to explore and invade the rest of the land.
While issuing orders on the world map is turn based, battle occurs in real time with up to 30 troops on each side. This combination is what makes the game so appealing since it allows you play as both a king and commander; governing over your vast empire as well as issuing orders in the heart of battle.
In map mode, the player issues orders to his commanders. There are several actions each commander can take, such as building fortifications, negotiating alliances, investigating areas and sabotaging the enemy. The success and length of time for each action is determined by the commander?s stats. Commanders can also be ordered to move their unit along roads on the map. A unit can move a certain number of spaces depending on its speed and the terrain they are traveling over. You will need a variety of units in order to move quickly across the map?s many landscapes, especially since you are only allowed five movement orders per turn. Units that land on undefended enemy territory claim it for your side, but when two or more opposing units land on the same space, the real time battle mode begins.
After the mission?s overview of the battlefield is shown, each side selects a formation for their troops. In addition to determining where your troops will stand, different formations can strengthen and weaken certain troop stats. Finally, the two units meet head on. The player can issue general orders to the unit, such as “target the commander” or “pull back,” but they are not always compliant, which can be frustrating. Commanders play a large role in combat, as they are the most powerful soldiers on the field and can use techniques to heal, alter stats and even effect the weather. The first commander to die looses the battle. Trying out various strategies based on your opponent and environment is engaging and requires some imagination. But since the A.I. just charges forward (or runs away) in a random formation, you can get by without putting too much thought into it.
Many factors, such as weather and time of day, affect battle. Knights have a hard time moving through snow and vampire units can only take their true form at night. Terrain can similarly affect units and also determines what features (trees, hills, etc.) will lie on the battlefield. Fortunately, this is one factor you can control by having commanders reconfigure terrain within your territory. With 75 different soldier types available, you may be overwhelmed by all the factors to keep track of, but in time you get used to incorporating them into your strategy?or you can just ignore them altogether. Again, the A.I. doesn?t seem think things out too much, so only the most difficult opponents require thorough planning.
Though each nation has its own perspective on the plot that unfolds, the main story is told when playing as the Empire of Dravania. A nation devoid of natural resources, Dravania initially began its campaign of conquest in order to survive. But now ambition drives the nation as Gena, commander of the 8th Knight corps is sent to capture the Dragon King: a living weapon that could destroy all of Dravania?s enemies, as well as the rest of the world. Gena?s loyalty will be tested as her mentor and one time lover will tempt her to into rebelling against her homeland and the player must make the decision whether to follow love or duty.
The story is told by some of the best voice talent I?ve heard in a portable game. In fact, they?re almost good enough to hide how badly the dialogue is written. I don?t think the writers know what a pronoun is, as they repeat names like “Thunder Lord” about five times in one sentence, and they occasionally use misworded sayings like, “the means don?t justify the ends.”
All the visual aspects in this game are great, from the beautiful character designs to the colorful and easy to understand map. Even the battlefields have their own ambiance. I do feel, however, the game gets carried away with spell animations, as they take far too long to complete, and I usually have to watch about four or five of them per battle. Considering you?ll participate in about six or seven battles each round, this can slow down the game considerably.
In fact, there are several things that slow this game down, especially having too many soldiers on the screen. Even plot sequences make you wait forever as characters walk almost in slow-motion across the screen. If you have little patience, this will probably make the game unplayable for you.
If you have the patience for a large scale strategy game with depth, and you can deal with the steep learning curve, Generation of Chaos will provide you with plenty of engaging gameplay. Hopefully, I won?t have to milk this game for another 10 years until the next one like it comes along.