Infinite Undiscovery Review

| | Comments (0)
Infinite Undiscovery Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: tri-Ace

Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Capell, a poor, wandering musician, is imprisoned by the Order of Chains thanks to a case of mistaken identity. His appearance is so remarkably similar to that of Sigmund the Liberator, the single largest thorn in the Order's side, that Capell finds himself incarcerated and interrogated as another man. When freed by Sigmund's "Liberation Force," Capell finds himself with an unenviable choice: join the rebels or risk being imprisoned or killed due to his resemblance to the rebel leader – a rebel leader whose singular goal is to free the moon from bondage.

Kyle Ackerman

Just as Infinite Undiscovery's protagonist begins the game as the cowardly and inadequate spitting image of a great man, Infinite Undiscovery bears more than a passing resemblance to a great game, but keeps falling just short of the mark. Infinite Undiscovery is ambitious, and does its best to do justice to the capabilities of the latest generation of consoles, but constantly falls victim to its own poor execution.

But Only Finite Patience

Infinite Undiscovery had a remarkable talent for making me mad. Barely had I finished the tutorial dungeon when the game showed off its art in all its brilliantly sweeping high-definition splendor by shoving me into a dark forest where my screen was mostly a disorienting black and the mini-map didn't work. Any time pace started to pick up and build tension, a cut-scene would appear. While the cut-scene itself wasn't a problem, after the scene I would often find myself in a different area of the map facing a different direction, breaking the tension as I searched around to figure out where I was. Besides, frequently I'd save my progress at one of the game's floating blue save orbs, wander off to see a few cut-scenese, fight a long string of inconsequential enemies and then be battered into unconsciousness by a boss battle, only to restart the long repetitive sequence again. Poorly placed save points can kill a game, and shouldn't even be necessary on the Xbox 360.

The game also fell victim to a common problem in Japanese-style role-playing games: not being remotely clear about what to do next. Often, this just required speaking to a particular character or entering a room, but in a world where nearly every inhabitant only has one sentence to say, it didn't always occur to me to speak to a particular character to look for yet another line of dialog, nor did I always know to which room I should go. As a result, sequences clearly designed to be a few seconds of running and a few more seconds of dialog turned into 20-minute in-depth searches of a region. And that modern analog of the old-school adventure game pixel hunting was only when my movements were constrained. When told to search for a bear, I literally wandered in the desert for nearly an hour before giving up and heading back to town to discover I just needed to trigger a new line of dialog from a little boy. Like the save problem, something so easily fixed with better dialog or a quest marker is maddening.

Bring Down the Moon Itself

In those moments when I could get past the various irritations of Infinite Undiscovery, the game has many of the hallmarks of Square Enix games: a compelling plot, an incredible wealth of detail, breathtaking art and androgynous characters. The story itself is fabulously audacious. A militaristic order is suppressing local kingdoms, taking control of the land and its resources to chain the moon itself. By harnessing the moon with colossal, mystical chains, this order seeks to harness the moon's sacred power, but unleashes misfortune and monsters on the populace near the anchor points of the chains. In typical Square Enix style, the art is amazing, with chains that climb into the sky binding a moon that looks almost sorrowful in its bondage. If the story has a weakness, it's the nonsense language and neologisms the game insists on bringing to the table, exemplified by the title, "Infinite Undiscovery."

While you always control Capell, he joins the Liberation Force, a party that quickly becomes incredibly large and can be broken down into multiple parties of four characters apiece. It's wonderfully entertaining to choose who to take on a mission, which characters to build a personal attachment to and how to approach combat, but with such a large force, it is an unbelievable chore to keep everyone's inventory (and connect actions) up to date for those times when you are forced to take certain party members adventuring. There's also the problem that the game just isn't vast enough to really explore all the characters' stories. The game can easily be completed in a few (long) evenings, and while it is long by the standards of many modern games, it is short compared to other Japanese console-style role-playing games that can last 50 to 100 hours. The game would have been better served with fewer characters, fleshed out even further.

Dancing Rhapsody

Combat in Infinite Undiscovery is active. You have free movement around the terrain, and aren't forced to a different combat screen or confined to a few simple actions to take in turns with the enemy. As a result, it requires some coordination and timing. For the most part, this is simple, although it does require some skill to use Capell's parry ability to much effect. While I could usually bring three other party members along with Capell, I never felt like I was in much control of them, so it was largely a matter of choosing the style of support I wanted (e.g. healing, mage with offensive spells or burly warrior support). Capell can take advantage of "connect skills," allowing him to specifically invoke two of an ally's abilities in combat, but this added only limited tactical depth. Some characters also had to be "connected" to Capell for non-combat actions like talking to animals or smashing large rocks.

Because of the active nature of combat, combat was usually interesting. Combat was also fairly easy... except when it wasn't. And when it wasn't, it was usually a long way from a save point. Most combat was fairly straightforward and easy if approached with a modicum of caution. Three situations could change that. Sometimes it was possible to get caught in a long stretch without a character, in which case progressing was unbelievably hard. Sometimes, "gotcha" traps (like giant rolling boulders) would end the game before I even noticed them. Finally, there were boss battles. Like many games, characters can launch massive combos, even juggling enemies in the air in an uninterruptable sequence of blows. Infinite Undiscovery enemies can do that, too, and that can result in losing Capell, or losing the support and healing characters (which is usually enough to kill Capell anyway). So an unfortunate sequence of attacks by a boss can result in playing a long sequence of the game over. This wouldn't remotely be a big deal if there were a save point nearby, but there usually isn't.

Play the Flute... It'll Take Your Mind Off Other Issues

A few more things distinguish Infinite Undiscovery. For one, Capell is a musician, and while an unwilling combatant, is happy to play the flute. Capell can play songs with special effects that allow him to do things ranging from begging for money in the streets to unveiling magically hidden objects and portals. This adds yet another portfolio of actions that keep Infinite Undiscovery varied and interesting... when it isn't trying to annoy me.

Speaking of annoying, Infinite Undiscovery has an intricate menu system, with tons of usable items like potions, extensive character customization and the ability to construct items, write books and cook food. But the game doesn't pause when you open the menu. I understand the need to be in a safe place while forging armor, but the lack of pause function makes it difficult to use potions or items in combat, particularly when it could prevent a reload and replay of an extended sequence leading up to a boss battle. Furthermore, the art in Infinite Undiscovery is amazing, so why are the dungeons so repetitive?

Fundamentally, Infinite Undiscovery should be an amazing role-playing game for the Xbox 360, offering tons of entertainment and a story of stellar scope. Largely, it is... but it's also plagued by a series of minor design issues that can make the game majorly irritating. It's sad that such a strong underlying game can be undermined by something as simple as, say, the placement of save points. But it is. If you're in need of a role-playing game on the Xbox 360, Infinite Undiscovery will do, but Infinite Undiscovery should have been so much more.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Editor published on October 21, 2008 12:41 PM.

Exodus from the Earth Ships for the PC was the previous entry.

EverQuest: Seeds of Destruction Available as a Download is the next entry.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


Add to Technorati Favorites