Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Idea Factory
Release Date: February 28, 2006
Generation of Chaos is not an especially deep game. Despite the NIS America logo on the front – probably the only reason anybody is interested in this game in the first place – there is none of the mounting complexity of Disgaea and Makai Kingdom. Sure, the game starts off nearly impenetrable, with a stat distribution screen. No tutorial, no opening video, just distributing points in a roundabout fashion into stats that are, for any new players, nearly meaningless.
This introduction says volumes about what developer Idea Factory planned for players to experience: something they've done already. "You've done this before. Just distribute those points and make sure to deal more damage points to the enemy than they deal to you, 'kay?" They had a little surprise in store, though, and it's all in the game's presentation. The gameplay seems deeper than it is because simple actions are far too hard to execute, and what do we end up with?
I'll be generous: not much. As pretty as the box art is, as nice as NIS America was to give out free soundtracks with online pre-orders, this game is salt rubbed into a wound opened up by the cancellation of Makai Wars.
I can't discount everything about Generation of Chaos. Voice acting, graphics, and sound effects are all passable, even somewhat exceptional, for a PSP game, but that breakdown has its downsides, too. The voice acting has the tight-lipped ring of mediocre anime dubs. None of the actors try very hard to fill the shoes of their characters, but, then again, maybe that has more to do with the generic designs and two-dimensional writing.
Said writing sprawls about much further than it needs to, spinning a boring tale that is probably best described as a shameless sort of progression that could only exist in the sort of game with super-deformed sprites. Think SaGa, or any other open-ended Japanese RPG. To keep things open, they must be simple, yet the script goes on and on, mirroring the gameplay in how often it feigns intricacies.
Loading voices also causes more of the random stuttering that the PSP is becoming famous for. Even if text is skipped, the game still looks to the slow-moving UMD drive to load voices anyway, making the script just a little more painful to wade through.
Once the text finally stops ambling along, the next step is to watch a small horde of sprites move back and forth on a game board reminiscent of Candy Land more so than other, better strategy games like Culdcept and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, two games Generation would have done well to emulate a bit. What it does take from the latter is a simple random-event system. Patrolling soldiers can run across landmarks unseen on the board (usually an endless march of goldmines), and specific forts can have various afflictions suddenly thrown upon them. The player has no control over these events and can do little to help their soldiers along if something is going to delay progress for two months in game time. These events are the only changes to the progression of the game, which hides very little of its whole from the player at the start. Fine, at first, because it seems like there will be a lot to play with, but a few hours later, players will be begging for the proper pacing of Makai Kingdom.
Then, the battles, the bandied 60-man triumphs, the moments that were exploited in screenshots to make fanboys drool (or weep) because of the memories of Dragon Force invoked. Anybody who plays this game will never mutter Dragon Force and Generation of Chaos in the same sentence again, except to express the most sincere regret. Players control the action by giving simple directions to a commander. Think Dynasty Warriors without having too much control over your leader. The rest of the men go at it on their own, and players have nothing to do but pray for success.
You can mix up the action by sending down commands for formation changes, but it doesn't help the action along one bit. The game's single coup against the status-quo – real-time battles – is more of a curse than a positive point. Ample time is given for decision making, even though there is little of that to be done in the first place. When I say ample, I truly mean it; the game moves at such a slow pace, I wouldn't be surprised to see a small surge in PSP sales triggered by pale Nippon Ichi fans throwing the PSPs they originally purchased for Makai Wars straight at the wall.
Generation of Chaos, to get to the point, plays like a Korean freeware game. Idea Factory had their hearts in the right place – they didn't go out to reinvent the wheel, but just wanted to make a quick and dirty strategy game with a lot of fun to be had. The problem is, they have taken this task to be much lighter than it really is, and they spent their work fleshing out the wrong things. Say what you will about Nippon Ichi, but they do know how to put a level-grind together. Their games may be long, their rules extremely hard to penetrate, but the rewards reaped are always enormous.
Generation of Chaos might prompt a player to take a look at the instruction manual for the first time in ages, but that would be the end of the rewards, once the gameplay is revealed for the simple farce it is. Don't get me wrong; simple can be a good thing in a strategy game – look at Fire Emblem for an example as to how it is properly done. Generation is simple in a way that requires dozens of obtuse concepts to be learned with little justification. It simply isn't a good game, and it is definitely the weakest game in NIS America's lineup. Hopefully, a better PSP strategy RPG will be realized in the absence of Makai Wars, but this definitely isn't it. As I'm typing this paragraph, a battle has been running in the background. I'm winning. That probably tells you more about this game than any detailed review ever could.
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