Sometimes Steamlog is about the games, as in the first two entries. Other times, it's about the effect playing them has on me, as in the last entry. This time, it's more to do with the differences between genres, and what that can mean for the story.
Apart from Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, it had been a long time since I'd played a JRPG. Truth be told, I'm not entirely sure that one counts, being that it's a MMO. Somewhere along the way, probably around the time of Dragon Age: Origins, I'd really gotten into the idea of a story that you directly influenced, or even shaped, as in games like Skyrim. There was heavy emphasis on the "R" in RPG, and I got caught up n the novelty of that. These were Choose Your Own Adventure books come to life. Actually, the survival rate of the games seemed rather higher, and the experience generally lasted longer....
JRPGs, by comparison, feel more like storybooks. (There are, of course, exceptions!) The tale is already told, maybe with a variable in endings. Granted, it could be argued that small actions that result in the addition of party members add more to the overall story, and that's so. But ultimately, if you want to get through the story, yours is to quite literally fight through it. Depending on the story being told, a battle lost or won may make the difference in the final outcome, but it's all a matter of getting there.
My first attempt at playing through Agarest: Record of War was almost entirely technical. It'd been years since I'd played a tactical RPG, and the DLC didn't help! Suddenly, I had concepts and equipments and tutorials and things thrown at me, so that all my attention was focused on that. I don't think any of it was truly difficult, it just took me time to adapt. Once I had a reasonable feel for it, I actually put the game down and came back to it later, opting to start a new game. I wanted to actually see and get to know these characters that were on my screen, otherwise what was the point?
The game starts in the midst of battle, but one that your character, Leonhardt, is questioning. One of the men under his command is questioning him, saying that he has looked "pale and sickly" of late. Leonhardt allows that such must appear to be an ill omen, but goes on to admit that he hasn't been sleeping well. He says that his mind is restless, and the soldier tells him that all men are restless before battle. This leads to a deeper conversation, wherein the young commander questions necessity of the fighting that they do. His older—wiser?—companion explains the thoughts of a soldier, and the matter seems settled. For my own part, I didn't have a say, I could only go on with the story.
But quite early on, Leonhardt's principles come into direct conflict with his duty. Does he wipe out all of the enemy as ordered? Even if it means killing a child? His answer literally shapes the story to come. To say more would be spoilers. I sometimes wonder, though, what if the question had been different? What if the only given action that I could take was one that I actually disagreed with? A certain somewhat-recently released game comes to mind, and the first playable action in the game. That, of course, proves that scripted choices are apart of every genre, not just JRPGs. Sometimes, things happen because the plot dictates that they will. Maybe in that light, choice doesn't matter as much. Maybe the decision is as simple as, will you play or will you not?
*Disclaimer: Part of the reason this entry is so late in coming is because I underestimated the time it would take to complete the game—to date, I haven't had the chance to do so. If you're interested in seeing the game has to offer, there's a detailed Wiki spanning the series, here.
Header image from Agarest: Generations of War's Steam page.