Review: Infinite Undiscovery

InfiniteUndiscovery.jpg It’s pretty remarkable how the console RPG scene has shifted this generation. For the two previous generations, the PlayStation consoles absolutely crushed all competitors with their staggering libraries of all-time great RPGs. This generation, though, roles have reversed entirely. Eternal Sonata, Fallout 3 and Valkyria Chronicles are coming (as are White Knight Chronicles and the Final Fantasies further on down the road), but as of this moment Oblivion is the only RPG the PS3 has to offer of any significance. That’s just sad.

The Xbox 360 on the other hand is brimming with RPGs of all varieties. However, while quantity sure is high, the quality hasn’t exactly been of the highest order. Other than a few shining stars like Lost Odyssey, Tales of Vesperia, and Mass Effect, the Xbox 360 RPG library is made up of titles ranging from merely decent to a few that are downright abysmal (Operation Darkness, I’m looking at you!). And right within that zone of mediocrity falls Square Enix’s new 360-exclusive action-RPG Infinite Undiscovery.

Actually, Infinite Undiscovery is more like a missed opportunity than anything else. In fact, many aspects of the game are excellent. For one, the gameplay is thoroughly engaging, addictive even. I love how the game world is structured in a similar fashion to Final Fantasy XII’s sort of faux MMORPG design, and the real-time combat system, which to me feels like a hybrid of the battle systems in Kingdom Hearts and tri-Ace’s Star Ocean titles, is about as satisfying a hack-n-slash-style combat system I’ve experienced in an action-RPG this console generation. Your AI teammates are actually pretty smart and help out as they should, and the lock-on mechanics function properly. tri-Ace even snuck in some surprise elements of variety with short action sequences that pull you away from the melee combat into other activities, like in one instance manning catapults to break through a castle door or in another where you carry a companion while on the run from an attacking dragon.

However, with such a huge virtual landscape to explore it’s disappointing that there is so little to actually do. Even though it spans two DVDs, the game only takes 15-20 hours to complete, and there is very little side content to dig into after that. The achievements are fun to go after and the game has a fairly deep crafting system that’s easy to get lost in for extended periods of time, but other than that there isn’t much to do to extend the life of the game. Yes, there are optional dungeons and side quests sprinkled in throughout, but they are few and far between and not nearly rewarding enough to sink additional time into. Unlockable difficulties are great and all too, but you can’t carry over character data from your completion saves, so starting all over again from square one defeats the purpose.

Certain control elements could’ve been streamlined better as well. Using items in battle, for example, is far too cumbersome. Opening the menu system does not pause the game, so while you’re bringing up the item screen and scrolling through your inventory, combat continues on around you. Bad things often happen when you stand idly by. You can tap the Y button to request aid from a teammate, but I still would’ve preferred a simpler real-time menu system or at the least a pausing of the action. The Connect system is awkward as well. During gameplay you can link up with a nearby companion and gain access to their special skills, but to do so you first have to press the right bumper, then the button associated with the party member you want to connect with, and then the button for their special attack you wish to use. Again, you have to do this all in real-time. It’s such a hassle.

Really though, many of the complaints I’ve laid out thus far are minor in the grand scheme of things. My main beef with this game is actually how weakly its narrative elements come together. The core concept behind the storyline, while certainly not venturing beyond traditional good-versus-evil fantasy themes, is pretty strong. The problem is that none of the characters (and there are a lot of them; 17 in total I think it is) ever develop beyond superficial boundaries, particularly the star character Capell. He comes into his own a tiny bit at the very end, but in general he’s an uninteresting, sometimes even unlikable, protagonist. That hurts a lot.

What’s more, the game’s production values simply don’t live up to Square Enix and tri-Ace’s typically high standards. The voice acting in particular is dreadful, made even worse by equally woeful lip-synching. Many serious moments in the storyline that have the potential to leave an emotional impact are continuously undermined by bad writing and voice over performances so bad that they become a distraction. These two twin 10-year-olds Rico and Rucha are the worse offenders. They’re like annoying knockoffs of Final Fantasy IV’s Palom and Parom. Thankfully the game fares much better graphically. Nothing that’ll blow you away, but it’s certainly attractive.

My expectations going into Infinite Undiscovery weren’t all that high, so I can’t honestly sit here and say it’s some colossal disappointment. But after giving it 20 hours of time and seeing how well certain elements of the game were designed I can’t help but come away feeling let down by the overall underdeveloped nature of the experience as a whole. This game could’ve been something truly special, but unfortunately tri-Ace just missed the mark this time out.

Basically, Infinite Undiscovery is the appetizer course for the RPG feast Square Enix has lined up with The Last Remnant, Star Ocean: The Last Hope and Final Fantasy XII. It’ll stimulate your taste buds just enough to be worth consuming, but it doesn’t have enough meat on its bones to fully satisfy your appetite.

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Pros:
+ Fun, satisfying real-time combat system
+ Well designed MMORPG-style world structure

Cons:
– Absolutely terrible voice acting
– Shallow character development limits your ability to really involve yourself in the story
– Not enough side quests and other optional content to supplement the relatively brief campaign

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: tri-Ace
Release Date: 9/2/08
Genre: RPG
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!