Please, stop me if you’ve heard this before. A reluctant and bland protagonist gets involved in an epic adventure to save the world. Along the way, an ominously named villain makes appearances, but he can’t be defeated until much later. Instead, you have to fight lesser bad guys with paper-thin backgrounds that are shallow even by the clichéd standards set forth by the rest of the plot. These lesser bad guys are easily dispatched, but the slightly more important villain always gets away, prompting a wild goose chase. Repeat these events a bunch of times and roll the credits.
Oh, so you have heard this one? Pardon me, then.
Infinite Undiscovery not only contains a word that doesn’t exist in its title, but it’s a bland RPG to boot. It comes from the fantastic developers of tri-Ace, which crafted the unique Valkyrie Profile series and the equally interesting Star Ocean series. While all of those games are high-brow fare, Infinite Undiscovery is the lowest common denominator in terms of Japanese RPG refinement.
Early on in the game, it’s obvious that the setting isn’t exactly revolutionary. It’s a fantasy world with swords, sorcerers and the extremely dull environments that often need to be traversed multiple times. It’s like EverQuest without actual people populating the massive landscapes. Things get kicked off when The Reluctant Hero, also known as Capell, is sprung from Bad Guy prison when he’s mistaken for a legendary champion of the people. The confusion is forgivable since Capell looks exactly like the famous Lord Sigmund, right down to the exact haircut. Of course, when Capell meets the liberator, they’re only slightly perturbed that they they’re identical. Cue the quest to save the world.
Capell can be accompanied by up three other characters as he romps through the countryside. This fellow is the only controllable character, which is sort of good for the sake of simplicity. Hacking and slashing with two buttons isn’t very difficult, and there’s even a block button that can probably not be touched once throughout the game since it’s so much more effective to bludgeon foes.
The only way to control other characters is to “connect” to them one at a time. When connected, their special moves can be used, such as a sniping ability or magic spells. Another way they can be controlled is through several six different kinds of tactics, such as “save magic points” and “go all out and kill everything.” Finally, tapping the Y button asks for some friendly healing, although sometimes it takes far too long for this too happen.
The problem is that when Capell becomes incapacitated, either through dying or by becoming paralyzed, all that can be done is watch his buddies and hope for some speedy healing. It’s such a sad, helpless feeling. The benefit of this is that there is a break from the button mashing that rears its head whenever a monster shows up. Sure, there can be some strategy used through blocking and connecting to put the maximum hurt on the miserable creature, but it’s quicker just to swing a big sword at them over and over again.
There are some decent bits to the game, though. A few times throughout the game, multiple parties can be made and all of the characters go off and kick ass throughout the map. It’s a fun time even though they can’t be controlled whatsoever. The problem is that when too much is going on there is some nasty slowdown. It happens enough with four party members, but with twelve it can get out of hand. At least all the pummeling and flashy spells look pretty.
Other tri-Ace games I’ve had the pleasure of playing has had some fun combat, so in that respect Infinite Undiscovery can’t compete. Another strong suit of those esteemed developers is their deep item creation systems. Valkyrie Profile 2 relied on this, but the feature feels far too rudimentary here. It’s also fairly annoying. Like other games, random loot can be used for set recipes. Some characters cook up random foods that I never bothered eating since the game is too easy, while others serve up new skills or weapons. The more junk the characters make, the more items become available to be made.
The annoying part comes in that only characters in the party can make items. Fair enough, but it’s a bit of pain when you’re unable to switch things up in the middle of a lengthy dungeon. One would think that going into town would and switching the party would work, but it doesn’t. Even if you switch around the characters, you have to find them scattered around the town and connect to them one at a time. This time consuming process is even worse since most of the sidequests are unlocked by connecting to certain characters and then talking to NPCs. It doesn’t help that there is well over a dozen characters. Having such a crowded group can be annoying when trying to follow the plot and realizing that some characters have virtually disappeared from the storyline.
Infinite Undiscovery is never particularly awful or broken. The music is excellent, and overall the presentation is pretty solid. It’s just that this is one of those games that seem to drag on even though it’s a relatively short game. I finished the first of two discs in eight hours and it felt like I had been playing the game for five times that length. Considering the pedigree behind this RPG, the sheer dullness and tedium of this “adventure” is inexcusable