System: Xbox 360 :: Rating: Teen :: Players: 1
Genre: Action RPG :: Released: 02 September 2008
By Aaron Robinson
08 October 2008 — The past few months have not been kind to Infinite Undiscovery. Despite being tri-Ace's first RPG for the Xbox 360, it's been overshadowed by bigger RPGs, such as Too Human and Tales of Vesperia. Still, I couldn't help but find myself drawn to it. I've generally enjoyed the few tri-Ace titles I've played, and it had been a while since I'd played an epic action RPG. But after I finally started playing it, it didn't take long to realize why Infinite Undiscovery wasn't making much of an impact.
The story puts you in the shoes of a cowardly and clumsy young flutist named Capell. Despite living in a world where the power of the moon can grant anybody the ability to use magic, Capell remains an unblessed: a person who isn't capable of magic, and is generally looked down upon by society. Even so, he's more than happy to spend his time playing the flute, at least until he is thrown into a cell. Capell, it seems, bears an uncanny resemblance to a renowned war hero named Sigmund, so when he is spotted by soldiers of the Order of the Chains (an evil empire Sigmund is fighting against) they're quick to capture him. Luckily for Capell, Aya (one of Sigmund's loyal followers) has also confused his identity, and quickly works towards freeing him. After a bit of confusion, the two manage to escape and eventually meet with Sigmund and his crew. After numerous setbacks and squabbles, Capell reluctantly agrees to join Sigmund in his battle against the Order of the Chains.
Whilst the story of Infinite Undiscovery has a few interesting ideas, they almost always come across as goofy in execution. In the end, it boils down to the standard coming-of-age story, something that's become far too common in Japanese RPGs. Don't expect to get much entertainment from your party either. They're a mishmash of stereotypical RPG characters, and the story does little to make them unique. You've got characters like the jovial fight-loving meathead, the hyperactive twins and the jealous love interest; it's all been done before.
Surprisingly, the dialog itself isn't that bad, but the delivery is embarrassing. Several of the voice actors seem to struggle with their lines, leading to people emphasizing the wrong words or making halfhearted attempts to sync their lines with the characters — which were designed to match the Japanese dialog. At best the acting is passable. At worst it's embarrassingly melodramatic. Stranger still is the fact that several cutscenes don't have any voice acting at all. There doesn't seem to be any reason for it; one minute characters are engaged in a fully voiced conversation, the next they fall silent. It's a lot less common later in the game, but it does lead to some jarring conversations early on.
Graphically, Infinite Undiscovery holds up quite well. The character models look interesting, if a little awkward, but the environments are nice to look at. The enemies are detailed and varied, even if they're placement sometimes feels a bit random. The orchestral soundtrack is decent, too, but none of the tracks are particularly memorable. Just be prepared for some weird enemy sound bites. Take, for example, the pigmy-like enemies you'll occasionally spot. When they die, they let out a noise that sounds vaguely like the whinny of a horse, which is one of the most bizarre things I've ever heard in a video game.
Uneven would be the best way to describe the combat. The first thing you'll notice is that Capell is the only character you can directly control inside and outside of battle. The other members of your party (you can have up to three joining you) are AI-controlled. That's not to say you can't use the abilities of other party members, but the way to do it feels clunky; you have to "link" to them by holding the RB button and pressing whichever face button corresponds to the character you want to control, then you can choose the ability you want to use. The whole time Capell will be unable to react, and any attack made against him will break the link. It seems strange that they decided to forgo the ability to switch between characters, which was something that tri-Ace had done before in the Star Ocean series.
There are plenty of other weird decisions. Everything continues to move around you, even when you open up a menu. When you're away from enemies or in a town, it's not much of a problem, but healing mid-battle is a pain. I can understand that the developers wanted to create a world where everything is moving, but cycling through a massive menu while your character remains defenseless is never fun. Luckily, your teammates are actually pretty competent when it comes to healing each other. They'll cast healing spells and use the appropriate items, and they're generally pretty quick about it. If you want to hurry them along, just tap the Y button, and Capell will call on his teammates to heal anyone who's injured.
For all its awkwardness, the combat is still fairly fun. Capell can string together attacks into special moves, and it's cool to see what combos work best for a given situation. To spice things up a bit there are powerful attacks that can be used whenever the weak or strong attack buttons are held down for several seconds. These attacks can be interrupted pretty easily, but they're flashy and deal enough damage to make them a worthwhile addition. There's also a nifty little parry move that temporarily stuns an enemy whenever you deflect an attack, but it's awfully hard to time just right, and really only works for one-on-one combat. Whilst you can't control your party members directly, the few tactical options you can choose from are effective enough at guiding your AI teammates, and they're competent at fending for themselves. It's also nice that there aren't any transitional screens between encountering and fighting enemies, meaning getting into fights is an easy and streamlined process free of loading screens and victory dances.
Perhaps the coolest idea is the ability to have multiple parties running around on the same field. At several points in the game, Capell will need to organize party members into separate groups to fulfill different functions. Sometimes, it will be so you can follow another team to a set destination, other times groups will have specific commands they have to follow. For the most part it works well, but it does lead to an odd problem. Over the course of the game, you'll get the occasional party member that can only be placed into these other groups. In other words, they cannot be put into a party you are leading. That means, outside of these specific areas where multiple parties are needed, these guys serve no purpose whatsoever. They just sit around collecting dust.
Outside of battle, the gameplay remains solid but unremarkable. Dungeons pretty much boil down to following long, winding paths to treasures and enemies. The occasional puzzles are quite simple, and serve little more than being brief distractions between enemy encounters. And the game is awfully vague at times. There were more than a few times when I wasn't sure how to proceed, and whilst all of my teammates were happy to tell me the name of the location, finding someone who would give me directions was a little harder.
The link system I mentioned earlier also comes into play when you're travelling through towns. Certain NPCs may not wish to speak to Capell, but might be a little chattier when you're linked to a different member of your party. It's actually kind of cool that you can use Rico, a beast tamer who can communicate with animals, to talk to the dogs, cats and rats that populate each town, retrieving information that you'd otherwise be unable to access. The only problem comes from just how big a few of the cities are. You'll find your party members spread across different areas of each town, which means you might be looking around for a while if you want to use a specific member's abilities.
There's also a pretty nifty crafting system if you're willing to play around with it. Every character in your party will have some degree of crafting knowledge, with each capable of making different items depending on their character type. It's pretty simple but useful stuff. When you're travelling between towns, you'll only be able to craft with the people in your party, but in towns you can craft with anybody you're linked with. That again brings back the problem of having to run around some fairly big towns to seek out specific party members.
As strange as it is to say, I actually did enjoy Infinite Undiscovery. The battle system is fun enough despite its faults, and there are some interesting design choices that help to keep it entertaining. Then there's the terrible voice acting, the clichéd story, the stereotypical cast and the competent but fairly uninteresting dungeon design; it all seems to come together into a package that's completely average. It's just a shame that the few cool ideas are overshadowed by glaring faults. If you've already played the other action RPGs the Xbox 360 has to offer and are looking for something to pass the time, then Infinite Undiscovery is worth a look. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
Final Grade: 6/10