Review: Infinite Undiscovery (360)
Square’s latest thing about whatever.
Infinite Undiscovery – everyone mentions the silly name, and now so have I. Made by Tri-Ace (known for the Star Ocean games) and published by Square-Enix (despite actually being owned by Microsoft), Infinite Undiscovery tells the tale of Capell, a cowardly young musician who shares the same appearance as a renowned hero. Needless to say Capell gets caught up in a quest to save the world and he learns a lot about himself along the way. Typical JRPG fair then (except maybe the whole body double thing). The thing is, the 360 already has a decent JRPG line up so is Infinite Undiscovery worth your Gold/Fol/Macca/Gil?
Initially you’ll think ‘no’. Soon after you start you’ll be running from a very strong, invincible enemy, and then you’ll be running around in pitch darkness with only the mini-map for guidance, which isn’t ideal for learning the game’s combat system. All combat is in real time, no loading screens, no separate battle screen, you’ll just see an enemy, unsheathe your sword and start attacking with simple A and B combos. All team members are AI controlled, with only simple commands such as pressing Y to tell someone/anyone to heal injured parties, and setting the attack mode with the D-pad to things such as ‘Focus’ to focus on one enemy or ‘Save MP’ to stop all magic attacks. The combat is very good though, but not perfect. Sometimes you’ll miss attacks for no apparent reason, and the ‘parry’ move (initiated with LT) takes so long to happen that it’s effectively useless.
The AI is a mixed bag. At times you can be praising your team for helping you clear out an enemy filled room in seconds, and others you’ll be cursing them for using the most powerful healing item you have, or constantly spamming MP heavy moves on the weakest of enemies, or even dead enemies. The enemy AI is pretty consistent, and they’ll generally, given the chance, attack the weakest person on the team, although their field of view can cause confusion with them, sometimes chasing you from across the map, while at other times you can be fighting right next to them and they won’t even notice.
Graphically the game is simply okay, much like a hi-res PS2 game (think Final Fantasy XII quality) although this does have its benefits. Loading times are very, very quick (you can actually be playing the game within ten seconds of putting the disc in) and the action runs very smoothly. There are a couple of design negatives though, like numerous invisible barriers in every environment, whether it’s just the edge of the map or simply an area you’re not allowed to go into yet, and lack of recorded dialogue in certain cutscenes.
Most of the dialogue in Infinite Undiscvery is written, and any JRPG player will be used to this, but in cutscenes the dialogue has been recorded in English (with no Japanese option), and performed with varying success. However in certain cutscenes there is no spoken dialogue, only subtitles, which is fine, but you have no control over their speed. They appear and disappear as if they are being spoken so all you need is to be distracted for a split second and you can miss a line of dialogue incredibly easy. To make matters worse when Xbox Live wishes to tell you something (Soandso is online, suchandsuch is downloaded) the popup appears over the text. Now we know from playing other games that where the popup appears is changeable, so why not move it to a less intrusive place? On the plus side however you can pause cutscenes so if something blocks the text, or the phone rings, or ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway?’ is about to start (it happens), then you can just hit start and you won’t miss a thing. Better yet you can skip cutscenes by pressing the back button, which is very welcome, especially when achievements in this game generally require multiple attempts.
Speaking of achievements, this game has some of the most hateful I’ve come across. Early on in the game you’ll have to save four soldiers from four prison cells, each having its own separate key. Fair enough, get the four keys (a decent enough puzzle in itself) and open the four cells, achievement unlocked. Only problem is that it’s timed. Not only is the time limit tighter than Rick Waller, Vanessa Feltz and Lisa Riley in my bed (it also happens), but there is no way of knowing there is a time limit. The descriptions of the achievements are truly awful, to the point where you won’t know that there is an achievement available at a certain point, or what the stipulation is to get it. It took a lot of research to find out exactly what I had to do to get not just this achievement, but the majority of them. To make things worse, there is a 1 point achievement in the game, and it’s to complete the super hard, final dungeon on the hardest difficulty. Effort to score ratio isn’t quite right there.
I had high hopes for this game, it looked to have an interesting story concerning people chaining the moon to the earth and an interesting real time combat system. But over the first couple of hours I was bitterly dissapointed by a very simplistic combat mechanic and a story which seemed to be missing large sections. These issues remain for the duration of the game, with the combat suffering particularly from slowdown in the more heated encouters.
There are also further issues with the bland art direction and the uninspired locations as you seem to spend most of the game running down corridors, be they leafy tree shaped or bricky castle shaped. Add to this some rudimentary fetch me carry me side quests and more party characters than you can shake a stick at the game does start to grate. However it’s not all bad as the lead character Capell is infectiously likable, and the game is pretty short for an RPG, under 20 hours, which ensures it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. You may find a degree of fun out of this game if you are a fan of the genre, but for anyone else you should just ignore it.
Secondary Score: 4/10
It’s things like this which bring the game down, a few poor decisions can really scupper your enjoyment of the game at a couple of points that will have you questioning whether to keep playing. Even if you’re not that bothered about achievements you’ll still feel it, especially if like me you want to fully experience everything the game has to offer, and want to complete all the sidequests. A lot of sidequests won’t initiate until you’ve spoken to a certain person in a town with a specific member of your party, which means finding that member of your party, ‘connecting’ with them and then talking to everyone in the town to make sure that the dialogue isn’t different. Obviously the more members in your party the longer it will take, and not only that, but after almost every cutscene the dialogue changes and so you’ll have to do it again to make sure a sidequest isn’t available now. Talk about tedious.
But I can’t help but feel I’m being overly negative, because I really did enjoy this game. When you’re not attempting achievements, or finding/doing the rather tedious sidequests then the game can be a lot of fun. All the little things can sometimes get to you, but there are a lot of positives also. Things like the ‘Trait’ system which allows different characters in your party to do different things such as talk to animals or unlock locked chests and how it changes as the game goes on to reflect the characters growth, the combo system which rewards you for keeping a chain of attacks going with extra XP or replenishing your HP/MP, or the ‘Dinner dance’.
So, Infinite Undiscovery has definitely got a lot of problems, but after a shaky start it can also be a lot of fun. If you enjoy JRPGs in a similar vein to Star Ocean or the Tales of series then you could do worse than to give this a try, especially as it is already relatively cheap. For the longest time I thought this was a definite 6/10, possibly lower, but the longer I played the more I enjoyed it. Oh, and there have been a lot of comments about the length of the game, and if you rush through you can complete the main story in under 20 hours, but if you do the sidequests, and explore thoroughly then it will take much longer.