Infinite Undiscovery - Staff Review  

Better Left Undiscovered
by Adriaan den Ouden

Click here for game information
Xbox 360
Less than 20 Hours
- Little direction given to player.
- Bad animation and lip sync.
- Mostly bad voice acting.
- Poor battle system and controls.
- Slow to start.
+ Picks up in the second half.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   There is something of a quality expectation from fans of developer tri-Ace. Many of their games have a large cult following, and their consistency over the years lead their latest title, Infinite Undiscovery, to be one of RPGamer's most anticipated titles of 2008. Unfortunately, tri-Ace's quality appears to have dipped fairly severely, as Infinite Undiscovery is fundamentally flawed in nearly every aspect of its design, culminating into a dull and ultimately poor experience.

   Infinite Undiscovery tells the tale of Capell, a minstrel who is mistaken for the leader of a rebellion and thrown into prison by the Order of Chains. The Order is ruled by the mysterious dreadknight, and has chained the moon to the earth. Capell quickly finds himself swept up in this rebellion, following the enigmatic Sigmund, leader of the Liberation Force, on his mission to destroy the chains and free the moon. To the game's credit, the story is one of its few aspects that manages to hold together for most of its duration. Although it begins extremely slowly, the tale picks up significantly towards the end, leading to a triumphant and satisfying ending. Unfortunately, the plot is held together by a rather poor cast of characters. Some of them are quite good, most notably Capell, Aya, and Edward (in the second half of the game, at least), and a few are somewhat decent, but the majority are either bland, cliché, or downright annoying. Furthermore, with a cast of eighteen characters, only a handful are given any real attention. The rest are thrown into the background simply to fill out the already cramped party.

   The game's biggest detriment, overall, is the lackluster gameplay. No element really stands out as particularly awful, but all of them have significant flaws that prevent them from being called good, or even average, either. Combat is similar in design to that seen in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, but feels significantly watered down. There is no form of character customization aside from equipment, and players are limited to controlling Capell and Capell alone. Unlike the aforementioned title, combat takes place entirely on the world map rather than switching to a battle screen. Capell is able to use a series of basic attacks, a special "power" attack that changes depending on the number of basic attacks performed first, and finally an array of special attacks that can be bound to holding down the A or B button, much like the control scheme of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Unfortunately, unlike with Star Ocean, there is no real form of strategy in selecting attacks. There are no guards to break and dodging attacks is nearly impossible and generally not worth the bother during the frantic pace of combat. The game provides a parry button, but attempting to make use of this ability is at best frustrating and at worst futile. Parrying only works if timed with an enemy attack, and even attempting it freezes Capell in place for the duration of the animation, leaving him open to attacks from other directions.

Amazingly, this is only two thirds of the party. Amazingly, this is only two thirds of the party.

   Most disappointing is that the game's so-called "situational battle system" is hardly situational at all. While the developer touted such exciting concepts as using the environment for a strategic advantage and fighting in the midst of natural phenomena such as a tidal wave, the reality is far less exciting. Only in a very small number of places can the environment actually be used to grant an advantage during combat, and most of the time it's simply unnecessary or awkward to do. As an example, early in the game the player has a chance to shoot an exploding barrel to defeat some enemies. Aside from the extreme cliché of exploding barrels in general, actually shooting it requires an awkward series of button presses and manual aiming using the game's poorly designed "connect" system. This system allows Capell to connect with a party member in order to make use of their special talents, but the controls for this are awkward and also overwrites the button used to make healing requests to the party, which can make it a dangerous affair as well.

   The reality of "situational battles" is that in most boss battles, there is some sort of secret task that can be performed to gain some kind of bonus, whether it be experience, money, or items. Most of the time these situation bonuses are granted if the bosses are defeated within a certain time limit, which hardly seems situational at all. The tidal wave tri-Ace has heralded so regularly throughout the game's development cycle is one such battle. Completing it within the time limit and gaining the situation bonus actually prevents the player from seeing the tidal wave at all. These situational battles are not terribly different to what other games have done recently and in the past, including the recently released Tales of Vesperia's secret missions. The latter game's secret missions are based on fulfilling certain requirements during combat in the exact same way, and even provide in-game benefits much like Infinite Undiscovery.

   There are mountains of other design flaws as well, and they all contribute to the overall poor quality of Infinite Undiscovery. The game's menu does not pause combat, which makes fumbling through it to use items a dangerous and frustrating task. There is a crafting system, but each character is capable of making different items, and those characters must be in the party in order to make use of their crafting techniques. Furthermore, in order to use crafting in a town, the player must search that town for a specific party member's location and connect with him, a frustrating and unnecessary time-sink. The player is given virtually no direction when going from place to place during the course of the story, and most of the time will wind up fumbling blindly across extremely large maps in search of their next destination. The list goes on.

It It's okay to hate these children. Really, it is.

   Despite screenshots to the contrary, even the graphics of Infinite Undiscovery are subpar. The animation is poor, particularly during cutscenes, during which characters flail their arms about in exaggerated and unnatural ways. The game also experiences significant slowdown when large numbers of enemies appear at once. In addition, it boasts some of the worst lip sync imaginable. The character designs, on the other hand, are quite good, featuring an art style reminiscent of the Valkyrie Profile series. The environments are also quite attractive, though some of the dungeon designs, particularly the final one, tend to be repetitive. Of note, the chained moon in the sky is a very impressive sight, and the chains disappear as they are destroyed throughout the game. However, the issues with the animation and lip sync are too distracting to overlook.

   The only aspect of the game in which Infinite Undiscovery could be said to be truly outstanding is the music. Composed by Motoi Sakuraba, the soundtrack is very dissimilar to most of his other work, instead capturing a grand and epic style similar to what he created for Valkyrie Profile 2. Many of the pieces, particularly the battle theme, are very memorable, and it is clear that a lot of effort went into its creation. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the voice acting, which is, by and large, atrocious. A few characters provide quality voicework, most notably Capell, whose actor performs remarkably well, but the majority are simply awful. The worst offenders, by far, are the voices for Rico and Rucha. As soon as these characters open their mouths, their voices are sure to annoy even the most tolerant of RPGamers.

   Despite its many, many issues, Infinite Undiscovery actually manages to redeem itself a bit from a certain scene onwards, at which point the story picks up significantly and the characters become a lot more compelling. This scene, unfortunately, is approximately a dozen or more hours into the game, and with a total playtime only running roughly twenty hours, it is simply too late to repair the broken mess that came before. The game provides an adjustable difficulty, although the difficulty can only be set as the game is beginning, not in the middle. Overall, Infinite Undiscovery is a huge disappointment. It's biggest problem isn't any one area, it's simply that nothing is done well, and as a result there is no compelling reason to play it.

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