Generation of Chaos - Staff Review  

A Toodles to Arms
by Michael "CactuarJoe" Beckett

Hard to Very Hard
35+ hrs.


Rating definitions 

   Armor in the Middle Ages was a bit of a balancing act. Knights needed to have enough armor to protect them from enemy attacks, but too much armor would rob them of mobility. Generation of Chaos is a game that attempts to pack on the innovation and creativity, but manages to collapse under its own weight. While the combat system can provide some interesting tactical challenges, and though the story is reasonably interesting, the sheer rock-headedness of the interface largely defeats the flow of the game and disrupts most, if not all, of the more enjoyable moments it provides. Generation of Chaos provides an abundance of unique ideas, but individual aspects of this design are presented mish-mash without any attempt to organize or explain, and the resulting difficulty in simply understanding what the game expects of its players makes it a chore to play. Generation of Chaos could have been the saving grace for a system without any real options in the RPG genre, but technical issues and overcomplication in system design bog it down to the point where the game simply isnít any fun.

   The combat system operates on several levels. On the world map, the game acts like a board game, with set paths connecting areas of interest such as castles and towns. These locations provide protection for the troops stationed there, as well as a market and income for the playerís army. They also provide an objective - locate the enemy commanderís base and overthrow him, and his kingdom will vanish from the map along with any resistance. Fights in Generation of Chaos are 30 on 30, and plays out like a small-scale real-time strategy game, with the player selecting a formation and a general target before commencing with the battle. The computer AI controls the playing field, directing units down the field towards each other and into combat, but individual units honestly arenít worth much in Generation of Chaos. The commanders are the true powerhouses, largely due to their Super skills. These skills initiate a battle-halting in-combat cutscene, and some of the more powerful units in the game can level an entire enemy squad in one attack.

   The way the system is set up, there are one or two reliable ways to easily crush nearly every foe, and a lot of largely ineffective methods of chipping away at them. A player could choose, for instance, to bombard an enemy city with magic, reducing the effectiveness and morale of the troops therein, or they could simply pick a powerful commander and ride roughshod overtop of them. The player can expend time, money, and personnel to improve the market level of a city they possess, or they could simply conquer a city with a better market. The basis of the system works reasonably well, and it features a multitude of unique and unusual gameplay mechanics, but the vast majority of the options available are pointless and simply overcomplicate the game.

Long-range units like Snipers are among the most powerful in the game. Long-range units like Snipers are among the most powerful in the game.

   Overcomplication is a recurring problem for Generation of Chaos, particularly in the gameís user interface. Beyond the fairly simple and obvious problems of poor AI and overuse of counterintuitive abbreviations for commands, the game begins by throwing the player instantly into the thick of combat without even a simple tutorial. With a manual that explains the game so poorly that the publisher felt the need to release a mini-guide further explaining the game mechanics, it feels as though the first couple of chapters are more of a test of will than anything else. The save system is no less unfriendly, requiring multiple save files in order to avoid routinely saving oneself into an unwinnable situation. The gameís single biggest condition for Game Over is the loss of any major character, but the game encourages sending these extremely powerful characters into the most dangerous and unpredictable situations, leading to a situation in which saving at the wrong moment will spell disaster and a frustrating restart of the game.

   The soundtrack, composed by Kenichi Kikawa, is reasonably well done and certainly has its moments. The voice acting, however, is seriously off-kilter. While most of the voice actors on the heroic side of the story are decent enough, most, if not all, of the villains are so poorly voiced as to border on self-parody. However, the biggest issue with the voice acting and music is a technical one. With constant load times interrupting the flow of the game, music stutters and voice acting lags seconds behind the lines they were meant to accompany. These disruptions in sound lead to an overall experience which becomes grating over time.

Super moves are the most entertaining part of the game, visually. Super moves are the most entertaining part of the game, visually.

   Generation of Chaos features two mainline plots: one following Allen, the Prince of Zodia, and the other following Gena, a commander in the Dravanian military. Overall, the story isnít much to go on. The cast is highly unbalanced, with certain characters being very unique and well developed, while others struggle to have even two dimensions. The villains in general come off as largely stereotypical, particularly one of the gameís main antagonists, Toodles. Due to the fact that the game can never be certain where a character will end up, there is a lack of focus in the setting of the game, and most locations shown in the story sequences are very generic. A bigger problem, however, is the difficulty the game experiences simply trying to keep its narrative in one piece. The enormously long combat sections of each chapter space the story sections unreasonably far apart, making it very easy to simply lose track of who is doing what amongst the gameís extensive cast of characters.

    Like many of the games released by NIS America, Generation of Chaos has a somewhat fractured visual style, combining polygonal backgrounds with sprites and hand-drawn stills. The character design is quite good, showing some unique ideas in armor and weapon design, though this is far more obvious in the character stills than in the individual sprites. On the negative side, the game suffers from some serious slowdown, especially in full-blown castle offensives. It doesnít really affect gameplay all that much, though it does cause the battles to drag a bit.

   With two initially available mainline quests to complete, one of which is a bit easier than the other, Generation of Chaos is technically in possession of a variable difficulty setting. However, "easy" is a relative term. Neither of the two campaigns provide any sort of low difficulty for players to get their footing in, and both of them are brutally unforgiving of mistakes. One thing the game does have on its side, at least for the few gamers who will be able to get into it, is length. Beyond the immediately accessible campaign, Generation of Chaos provides a huge amount of unlockable content in the form of extra campaigns, a gallery of stills and movies, and a persistent world game which allows the player to create and maintain a kingdom of their own design.

   Generation of Chaos had a great deal of potential. With an intriguingly complex combat system and a number of unique ideas, it couldíve been just what the doctor ordered. However, with an interface so overcomplicated and poorly implemented, it becomes a wonder that the game is viable at all. The solid tactical challenges available in Generation of Chaos are buried under layers and layers of incomprehensible, poorly explained aspects of the combat system. There is, of course, still an audience for such a game, and those few tactical fiends who can work through the huge frustration that is the learning curve will probably find something to like, but the fact is that it should not have been this hard to simply understand the very most basic systems of the game. One should not have to wrestle the game to the ground in order to play it without being destroyed through simple lack of information.

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