Review

Infinite Undiscovery Review (Xbox360)

For all the posturing of modern-day RPG storylines, the core of the experience is often made or broken by combat mechanics. That fine balance between tactical strategy and visual gratification needs to be compelling and deep enough to form the foundation of an experience that lasts for 40+ hours, whilst simultaneously streamlined to make concentration necessary but not intrinsic. No-one wants the mental exertion of a Ninja Gaiden contained within such sedate pacing, and yet most would happily switch up a gear and down a tactical level from the likes of Final Fantasy tactics and Disgaea. Tough crowd.

Infinite Undiscovery it turns out, sits in neither camp – offering a strange hybrid between action-RPG and traditional mechanics, performing neither duty particularly well. Strategic combat decisions are often reduced to mashing through one of a few combo attacks on the light and heavy strike buttons, or holding for a special move whilst your party bombards magical abilities on a chosen target or group. The pace is frenetic and bouts are swift, nullifying the myriad support mechanics and extended combat systems available.


Infinite Undiscovery can be quite pretty at times
In grand tradition, the opening movie is spectacular

On the other hand, if you switch expectations to that of a pure action title, the combat is nowhere near compelling enough to warrant an RPG-length experience. Aerial and ground combos can be combined to somewhat satisfying effect (with different boosts to AP, MP and EXP depending on which you choose), but the action never flows in a beguiling manner - for the most part coming off as simply boring. The lack of visual feedback in the animation never leads to any sense of connection (as you would expect in an RPG), and without that factor, the Dynasty Warriors pacing seems like a complete mismatch for the genre.

As can be expected from a Tri-Ace title, the framework on which the unsatisfying combat hangs is considerably well-produced. The plot may be nothing new – involving as it does the rather tired cliché of an unexpecting hero pitched into a battle which he doesn't understand – but it does a decent enough job of carrying the sub-par action. Lead hero Cappell might not be the most likable character in the history of modern RPGs, but the voicework and narrative serve the universe fairly well, backed up by a supporting cast of varying polish and interest.

All of the usual RPG staples make a welcome appearance, from item creation through to epic armour quests and a baffling variety of trinkets to bestow buffs on your chosen party members. The menu system is accessed in real-time, meaning you need to find a safe place to rest before customising your load-out to any great degree - although this rarely becomes a frustration. In general the interface is well-designed and unobtrusive, with key functionality explained early on in the game.


Combat is relatively pedestrian
You're quickly rescued from prison

The much-maligned title also has more to do with the game design than you'd initially imagine, as Infinite Undiscovery proves to be a wanderer's dream. Without any decent diary system or story log to rely on, single lines of text or audio cues are frequently the only indicators of where you should be heading next, leading to extensive (and frequently frustrating) bouts of exploration in areas which you may already have traversed.

It doesn't help that the pathways between zones are often hidden and guidance completely incorrect from time to time, creating a somewhat arbitrary level of difficulty. It's quite possible to breeze through an entire area to the exit within a matter of minutes, whilst another player might wander the same turf for a half hour trying to find the exit. As design decisions go, it's completely baffling and an unnecessary obstacle to progress.


Allies often fight alongside your party
It looks smooth in motion

The sporadically glitchy graphical engine rounds out a fairly sturdy list of complaints, with even the earliest combat scenes suffering from slowdown in the more hectic moments. Once you've added comrades to the mix things simply get worse, and although Infinite Undiscovery can prove fantastic to look at, the sharply textured character models and colourful particle effects are no substitute for an engine that simply runs well.


There will be those that can overlook the glaring issues to get to the meat of the standard Tri-Ace plotting below, but unfortunately Infinite Undiscovery simply doesn't belong anywhere near the pantheon of great RPGs, and barely manages to scrape itself a position on the rather barren Xbox 360 podium. Whilst it might sell a good number of Microsoft consoles in Japan, Square-Enix has better come up with something considerably more polished for their next publishing adventure.

Top game moment: Chaining an aerial combo together

Videos

Comments

By Wowerine (SI Elite) on Sep 18, 2008
Wowerine
I love those trailers!;)
By jhellie_baby (SI Newbie) on Sep 18, 2008
jhellie_baby
Capell the mistaken reowned hero! Nice game with the 18 characters. :)
By ScythSoulces (SI Core) on Sep 19, 2008
ScythSoulces
The game looks good......but how do's it play?
By sfabobby03 (SI Veteran Newbie) on Sep 19, 2008
sfabobby03
The trailers for this is really good. I like them alot also.
By loyalknight10 (SI Member) on Sep 19, 2008
loyalknight10
The trailer of this game is very impressive, whether it can win the market is yet to be seen.
By Florentin (SI Veteran Member) on Sep 22, 2008
Florentin
"... an experience that lasts for 40+ hours, whilst simultaneously streamlined to make concentration necessary but not intrinsic..."

that is great
at least it is not 40 hours of people beating the snot out of each other
:)
By PTSnake (SI Newbie) on Oct 24, 2008
PTSnake
i've been thinking about getting this one, but from what i've read in reviews, it hasn't quite met my expectations.