I'm just not having much luck with review material lately. First I had to suffer through Drakengard 2 (which made me fall asleep—no joke), and now, a game lands in my lap which actually ties with Unlimited SaGa for the lowest score I've ever awarded a game in my entire career—Generation of Chaos on the Sony PSP.
According to the box, I could "create, grow, and govern my own kingdom!" in addition to "massive 30 vs. 30 combat!" while I experience "real time battles!". While this stuff may technically be in the game, I'll be damned if I can make heads or tails out of this mess.
For something that appears to be some sort of Strategy Role-Playing Game (SRPG), I always expect a bit of a learning curve. The game's cutesy big-head anime artwork was another tip-off, and of course the fact that it was published by Nippon Ichi (famous for intricate cult hit Disgaea as well as other games in the SRPG genre) was a giant, flashing red light to get ready. However, even taking all of those things into consideration doesn't account for the frustrating disaster that Generation of Chaos is.
After starting, the very first thing presented to me was a Character Edit screen full of numbers, abbreviations and data— and absolutely no context in which to process it. Being clueless as to what this was all about, I accepted the default selection out of about 20 classes (warriors, ninjas, wizards, etc.) to choose from, and then had to allocate a bonus points. Bonus for what, I have no clue since the game had not even begun yet. I figured that once I clicked around and got past this beginning segment, things would become clear. Boy, was I wrong.
After that confusion, I thought it wise to select the "beginner" country as my home area. (The package states ten to choose from, but I could see only two.) Surprisingly, the knight I had just spent time agonizing over in the edit process wasn't even my main character! I didn't know where that person went or who it was, but I tried to not think too hard and just go with the flow.
One long, dull, and uneventful cut scene later, chapter 1 began by throwing me onto a playing field which looked more like a boardgame than anything else. I was informed that thieves were robbing someone's coffers somewhere, and away I went— no instructions, no tutorial, no opening walkthrough to show how the game is played… nothing. It's not as if the game is so intuitive that no instructions are necessary, quite the opposite. No less than eight status windows took up space on my PSP's screen alongside the Chutes n' Ladders pathways, with no help to be found anywhere. The manual that came with Chaos was completely worthless, being little more than list after list of technical definitions without explaining much of anything.
Why is it important to me that the first week of the month is cloudy? What does it mean that there are blue chevrons next to my market? What does it mean that I even have a market? Why could I select a character and move it three squares over, and couldn't do the same anywhere else? Where was I supposed to go? What was I even supposed to be doing? I have no idea what the answers are to any of these questions, or the hundred more that sprang up within the first 10 minutes of gameplay.
By randomly stumbling through and picking things at random, I eventually got to the "real-time combat!", and what a joke that was. When two characters meet after wandering around on the map, the game goes into more stats and information before putting a whole bunch of carbon-copy characters on screen and letting them aimlessly bump into each other while the computer (or maybe it was me) used herbs and cast some kind of magic. It seemed as though I only had control over one character on the entire field, and that level of control was sketchy at best. To be honest, I couldn't even tell which army was mine.
As I sat with PSP in hand struggling to try and get a handle on all of this nonsense, I kept thinking over and over how incredible it was that a developer would or even could create a game so capable of completely losing a person like myself with so much experience in gaming. The developers, Idea Factory, are stunningly, staggeringly oblivious when it comes to establishing the clear structural framework and incorporating necessary conventions that players require in order to become immersed and comfortable in a game. They may know a lot about stats, classes, and attributes, but they don't know a damn thing about being open or accessible.
Regardless of how clever, cool, or interesting the developers think they or their product are, it's a distasteful form of commercial and creative suicide to churn out a product so nichely impenetrable that 99% of the PSP market will be immediately ruled out of ever joining their audience. I'm sure there's a small cadre of super-hardcore math majors into intricate medieval costume drama and puzzling out the mysteries of Generation of Chaos, but I'm not one of them.