IGN Review of Infinite Undiscovery
Hamlet spoke of the "dread of something after death, the undiscovered country." Capell, the main character in Square Enix's nonsensically titled Infinite Undiscovery philosophizes on the meaning of a damsel in distress's promise to do "anything" in order to thank him. Shakespeare wrote about something profound; developer tri-Ace settles for middle school humor. In other words, if you were hoping the fanciful title meant this was going to offer something deeper and more intriguing than what you've experienced in the past 20 years from Japanese RPGs, forget about it. Infinite Undiscovery, while enjoyable, is nothing special.
You play as Capell, a floundering musician who looks a whole heck of a lot like the world's greatest hero, Sigmund. Due to a comedy of errors, Capell is mistaken for Sigmund and dragged into an epic quest to unchain the moon from the world. Yeah, that's right, the moon is in bondage. You certainly don't see that every day. The Order (aka the bad guys in this world), have tossed some heavy-duty chain around the moon in an apparent effort to siphon its power. Sigmund is a chain cutter. And Capell, being mistaken for Sigmund, gets dragged along with a group of resistance fighters to hack down some chains.
The story plays out very linearly, with no branching elements. There are sidequests, but none add to the overall story and amount to little more than time-consuming fetch quests. There are some nice twists and turns in the story along the way that help turn what could have been a somewhat dull adventure into something compelling. Capell is much like Luke Skywalker. He starts out whiny and pretty much never stops. Of course he's destined to save the world, but his development never betrays his underlining whiner persona. And that, oddly enough, makes him more likeable than some of the other rags-to-hero characters.
Along the way, Capell runs into a considerable number of allies. In fact, there are 18 characters you'll be micromanaging during the course of this fairly brief adventure. Capell can only take three other characters into his own personal party, but often you can form two subsidiary parties of four members a piece. These other parties will have their own goals, though your paths may intersect while hacking and slashing through a dungeon. This means that you have to try and keep everyone's armor and weapons as updated as possible, because you can never be sure when one of the 17 other characters will be required to assist Capell or when you'll break out into multiple groups.
And that's where Infinite Undiscovery hits its first big snag. It is a real pain in the ass to have to manage equipment for so many characters. There's no option to have the AI equip the best available armor. And you rarely make enough cash to fully equip everyone under your command.
Because Infinite Undiscovery is only 20-30 hours (depending on how much you love ancillary fetch quests), there's not enough time and story to bring all 18 characters to life. I won't lie, there were characters that popped up in cut-scenes near the end of the game that I didn't even know were on my team, because they were so underutilized in the story. I'm not sure why tri-Ace felt the need to throw so many characters into the mix, but it was a mistake. Six-to-eight characters might have worked.
Infinite Undiscovery utilizes a real-time combat system. This isn't faux real-time or partial real-time or "interactive" real-time -- if you don't want to get your ass handed to you, then you need to press buttons on the controller. It's a two-button combat system with only a handful of combos. Still, it's mindless fun and works for the most part. The rest of your party attacks at their discretion, though you can set broad AI parameters, the most useful of which tends to be "Save MP." While some may wish for full control over the whole party, it is pretty cool to have battles where magic attacks from your party members are raining down unexpectedly amidst your own sword-slashing combos.
You do have some control of your party in certain respects. Infinite Undiscovery allows you to "connect" with another member of your party. When connected, you can order them to perform two pre-set special attacks. This is necessary for some areas, when you need to perform a certain move to get past a puzzle. In combat, it's mostly a novelty. The AI does a good job at fighting, leaving little need to manage specific attacks from any character. Besides, Capell has his own special moves and three-button combos to worry about.
There is one other input for commanding your party in the field. Hit the Y button and you will call for someone to heal the injured. The AI makes the choice between casting a heal spell or using an item in inventory. This works very well, which is good, because healing is a prominent part of combat. There is no block button -- just the ability to parry with a well-timed press of the trigger. Parrying successfully stuns an enemy, but you'll most likely focus on pounding with offense rather than dilly-dallying on defense. Especially since healing is so readily available.
Health tends to only become an issue when your other party members fall in battle, something that generally only happens during boss fights. Opening the menu system doesn't pause the game and you have to search for your health item, select it, then wait on an animation to be healed. This tends to mean death in most boss fights.
And yet, despite many poor design choices, I couldn't help but enjoy the majority of my fight to unchain the moon. That may be because the quest doesn't last long enough for the combat to become too frustrating. I do have to credit tri-Ace for creating the brilliant imagery of the moon wrapped in chains. It lends itself well to a fantasy-RPG story and certainly had me at hello. And while there are many aspects of Infinite Undiscovery that rely on RPG clichés, the magic system is not tied in any way to the four elements. None of this "fire, water, air, earth" stuff that most RPG developers use as a crutch. That certainly is a refreshing change.
An RPG is only partly about combat. There's also the adventure element to consider. The towns in Infinite Undiscovery range from small, single-street hamlets to semi-large cities. There's plenty to wander around in outside of combat and lots of NPCs to speak with, though few ever offer any worthwhile dialogue. In town, you can use your connect action to take one other party member with you. Have the right person in tow when you speak to a villager and you may get a different response or even an item. And some characters have abilities that will help you in your endeavor to fetch items for lazy townsfolk. Rico, for example, can speak with animals. So having him by your side lets you speak to the rats, cats, and dogs of each town -- all of whom lead far more interesting lives than their aimless owners.
Capell has no magic capabilities. To make up for this, he has a flute. Well, a magic flute. Playing different tunes do different things (and even cost MP). The most useful little number reveals hidden items. This is where the "undiscovery" happens. But the flute is greatly underutilized and most of the other songs will rarely (if ever) get used. The flute plays a bit of a role in your exploration of both towns and the vast deserts and forests you'll wander in search of the next battle. Sad news: There are a finite number of things to find in this game.
Square-Enix has a reputation of making great-looking games with phenomenal CG story elements. Don't expect that from Infinite Undiscovery. The traditional CG work is largely absent and the visuals, while certainly passable on Xbox 360, won't drop your jaw. The stars, at least visually, are the nice special effects that fly about from magic and special attacks. This makes for a pretty and almost blinding light show in most battles but also leads to many instances where the framerate slows to a crawl. And as more characters and enemies clash on screen, things tend to get worse. Fortunately, you can play through this, as the majority of slowdown occurs during the animations for moves you've just executed.
The music is a highlight, as there really isn't a bad piece that ever plays in the background. While the score won't be remembered among the greats in Square-Enix history, it's still very good. The voice acting offers only English dubbing, but the majority of characters are at least average in their delivery. There are only a few that truly stink. Oddly, there are some cut-scenes without any dubbing, and these can sometimes occur sandwiched between two dubbed pieces. I'd guess about 80% of the cut-scenes are dubbed, with the rest mysteriously (and seemingly randomly) lacking voices.
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