Review: Infinite Undiscovery (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Infinite Undiscovery (360)
Genre: Action/Role Playing
System: Xbox 360
Developer: Tri-Ace
Publisher: Square-Enix
Release Date: 09/02/08

While there are many video games out there with odd names, Infinite Undiscovery has to be amongst the few to use a completely made up word in the title of the game. Everyone I mention the game to seems to have the same reaction: “What’s with the name?” Tri-Ace, creators of the Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile games, have explained the reason behind the name is that throughout the game there are hidden techniques and strategies to use to against enemies in the game. They are leaving it up to the player to discover different ways off attacking the enemy. Why didn’t they call the game Infinite Discovery then? I have no idea.

So is Infinite Undiscovery as confusing as the title of the game? Are there really infinite things to undiscover in the game? Read on.

Let’s start with the story. With role playing games there is usually a fine line between the plot and the action of the game. Often games in this genre will either focus so much on the narrative that the only point of the gameplay is to get to the next cutscene. This is actually my main problem with the turn based style of role playing games. For me it’s like watching a movie but pausing every few minutes. Also many role playing games offer a story that feels like they’re either just trying to fill up 40 hours worth of game time, or are convoluted, don’t make much sense and leaves me wondering how much acid the developers dropped while creating the game. Seriously, try explaining the plot of Kingdom Hearts to someone who has never played it. However, when a role playing game does do a good job of telling a story, it is a shining example of why people like these kind of games in the first place.

That said, I really enjoyed the story of Infinite Undiscovery. The main part of the story is the type of confusing nonsense that I normally dislike. The story follows Capell, a musician who happens to look exactly like someone named Sigmund the Liberator. In the beginning of the game, a force known as the Order of Chains is holding Capell captive since they believe him to be Sigmund. The resemblance is so close that one of Sigmund’s companions comes to rescue Capell. As the story continues, it grows from a tale of mistaken identity to trying to save the world. You see, the world of Infinite Undiscovery relies heavily on the power of the moon. When people are born they receive symbols that grant them powers from the god of the moon, and depending on the phase of the moon they might get symbols that make them more or less powerful. The Order of Chains is messing with the order of things as they’ve decided to set up magical chains that chain the Earth to the Moon. Unfortunately, these chains are causing monsters to appear and they seem to drain the areas where they are connected. The only person who can cut through these chains is Sigmund.

See what I mean? The whole chained to the moon thing is the type of nonsense that I normally dislike about this type of game. Except in Infinite Undiscovery the whole moon/chains/earth thing is sort of a set piece that’s just in the background. The meat of the story in Infinite Undiscovery are the relationships between the characters and what motivates them to join in a dangerous cause to save the world. One thing I enjoyed was that the main character, Capell, starts of as a coward. He doesn’t want to fight, doesn’t understand what’s going on, and would just rather go home. How he evolves is interesting and fun to watch. While there are a lot of characters, only a couple get more development than the others. Each still manages to add something interesting to the whole dynamic from Aya badgering Capell, Edward pouting through half the game, Eugene offering advice, or the goofy giant bear. Not all of the characters are as interesting. For example, there are a set of twins in the beginning part of the story who honestly just creep me out. They’re just creepy looking. Plus another child named Vic…you know, in the future, just leave kids out of these sort of games. Please?

I liked the story in Infinite Undiscovery more than almost any other JRPG I’ve played in a couple years. However that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with how the story is told. Those of you used to RPG’s that use high quality cinematic cutscenes will be disappointed in the fact that Infinite Undiscovery uses the same graphics engine for the cutscenes as it does for the rest of the game. This is weird to watch in some places as when someone is killed. Instead of blood, there’s just the spark used during gameplay that indicates a successful hit. The voice acting is pretty bad and some of the lines are delivered oddly. The lip-synching is practically non-existent. This was one of the things that really took me out of some of the story, since at different parts, I wasn’t sure if the character was speaking, delivering an inner monologue, or psychically communicating with the rest of the party. I’ve seen bad lip-synching in games before, but it’s ridiculously bad in Infinite Undiscovery. Most of the cutscenes have speech, but not all. More of the cutscenes in the very beginning of the game are missing voice work then those towards the end. I’m not sure if this was because of poor localization or if this was intentional. The rest of the audio in the game is well done with some excellent background music for certain areas.

Graphically Infinite Undiscovery isn’t going to impress anyone. The characters are well detailed, and many of the environments and architecture are well done, but up close though the characters look bland. Some of the bulkier characters just look awkward. The environments look good, but also seem fairly sparse of both enemies and some detail. The best visual is a forest in the middle of the game that looks great and has plenty of both enemies and scenery. At parts it will even have a golden rain effect. There will be some larger scale battles against multiple enemies where you will have multiple party members or even teams of multiple party members. When these occur, there will occasionally be some slowdown with all of the effects on the screen. Strangely enough there was one part of the game with a couple of flying creatures where less was going on than in some of the bigger battles, yet it had the worst slowdown I encounteredx in the game. Many of the characters that aren’t a part of the main cast, such as villagers and other random people, don’t look even remotely as good as the main cast.

They say first impressions are everything, and if that’s true than Infinite Undiscovery fails right away. One of the biggest problems in the game is the fact that the first two hours of the game are probably the worst two hours in the entire game. I’ve faulted other games for not including enough variety into the gameplay. Infinite Undiscovery has the opposite problem as the game tries to throw in a lot of styles of gameplay. It just doesn’t do any of them very well.

The game starts out with a chase scene. Most games would throw in a string of battles first to get you used to the action in the game,. In ID, if you slow down to fight the creature chasing you, you’ll die. Right after that the game puts you into a stealth type situation. Except the stealth portions of the game aren’t very good. The enemies seem to have an incredible range of sight and the only way to go stealthy is to move really, really slowly. The whole stealth thing is really stupid though as the main character yells what special attack he is doing. If you walk quickly the enemy will spot you, but if you yell “Crescendo Spike!” loudly, they don’t care.

The whole game is this way. You’ll have to face escort missions, missions that require you to use the specific abilities of your teammates, search missions, etc. None of these are any fun. Even worse, in addition to all that, the game frequently doesn’t give you a clue at all about how to proceed next. A lot of the time you’ll just be given a town name and told to go there, except the town isn’t on your map and the world is fairly large. I spent what felt like half my time with the game wandering aimlessly or talking to everyone hoping to figure out what will trigger the game to continue. There’s a section where you have to use a different character’s ability to unlock a door using different animals. This is annoying because the game doesn’t even give you a hint as to what you are supposed to do. The game made it appear that I was just supposed to run back with those creatures following me, and after several attempts I finally figured it out.

I hate to say it but when the game is at its best when it’s not trying to be innovative. The combat in the game is in real time and works great. There’s a button for quick attacks and another for powerful attacks. These attacks can be combined into different combos for either juggling an enemy into the air or for knocking them down to the ground. There’s a button for parrying attacks, which if you hit it successfully will freeze the enemy for a second. As you play the game and Capell gains in levels you will unlock different battle skills, which can be assigned to one of the attack buttons and then activated by holding one of them down. At one point Capell ends up with a magic flute that can be used by pressing the X button for different effects, such as making things visible or neutralizing magic. While Capell is the only character throughout the game that you can control, you can sort of command what another member of your party does by Connecting to them. Connecting to another character is pretty easy, as you just need to press down the right bumper then select the right person to connect to. From there you can command another character to use their battle skills through the X/Y buttons. Pressing the right bumper against cancels the connection.

The Connect ability is a good idea…in theory. In practice it’s sort of a mess. For example, there will be another member of your group named Aya, who has the ability to shoot arrows. Once you connect with her and select the skill, she will move close to you. Then you will have manual aim over where her shot goes. This is supposed to provide some strategy for when there are things like explosive barrels around to damage an enemy with. However by the time you Connect, select the ability, wait for her to get close, then manually aim, the enemy is no longer anywhere near the barrels. While Tri-Ace has said that there are supposed to be hidden ways of approaching combat that will make battle easier than the straightforward approach, well that’s untrue. Sure, if I could hit the explosive barrel when I meant to 30 seconds ago, the battle would have gone quicker, but it’s far less frustrating to just go for the straightforward approach.

The AI of the game is at least pretty good. The game seems to have taken an example from FFXII, where there’s a main world and you can see the enemies and either avoid them or attack them as you please. Instead of being able to program the reactions of your teammates like you could do in FFXII, in Infinite Undiscovery you have a quick select menu of different commands, such as whether to focus attacks on one target, to conserve magic, etc. This is controlled by pressing up or down on the keypad and works well, except for the times when you forget that you selected to save MP then are wondering why your teammates aren’t attacking with everything they have. Pressing the Y button will request that a teammate heal you, and this is one of the few things they do with haste. This is a good thing since you cannot stop the game to access the menu. However as long as you remember to stock up on a lot of healing potions this never really becomes an issue. Thankfully this isn’t like Star Ocean 3, as in Infinite Undiscovery your teammates actually work well enough on their own without constant management.

The most fun I had with the game was when I was hacking through enemies with the other members of my team while going through a dungeon and solving some light puzzles. In fact, I really wish the rest of the game were just doing that. The Connect system is interesting, but Mass Effect let you direct the abilities of your squad members in a much smoother fashion then in Infinite Undiscovery. Take out the Connect system, the random situations and the game isn’t that much different than many other games of this type, but it would’ve been so much more enjoyable.

This game will last the average gamer about 20-30 hours, depending on how often they get stuck in one of the many confusing areas of the game. Infinite Undiscovery does not have the amount of side quests and missions that other games in the genre usually do, though there is a harder dungeon to go through after beating the game. There are also certain parts of the game that can only be accessed by playing at a harder difficulty level, including cutscenes, which seems like a way of punishing people who play it on easy but gives a good enough reason to play it through a second time.

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Enjoyable
Control and Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Decent
Balance: Great
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: Enjoyable Game

Short Attention Span Summary:

There are plenty of things that are frustrating about Infinite Undiscovery: the pacing, some questionable design choices, the odd lack of voice work in places, and the fact that every new thing it tries to do it doesn’t turn out very well. Still, at the core of the game, there is a surprisingly good story and a fun combat system that’s worth at least a rental if you are a fan of action role playing games.

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