Infinite Undiscovery Xbox 360
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Tri-Ace
Release Date: Out Now
Infinite Undiscovery is the first Xbox 360 single-player RPG offering from Square Enix and it's the first of some highly anticipated titles to arrive from the publisher over the next year. Developed by Tri-Ace, of Star Ocean fame, Infinite Undiscovery is a game that most RPG fans thought would have been a sure-fire hit. Whilst there is no denying that the game is a good RPG, and a game that many fans of the genre will enjoy, it's surprising at how many aspects of the game just aren't as good as they could have been.
You'll play as a young flute player by the name of Capell. The game begins with Capell locked away in a dungeon. He's been mistaken for the famous Lord Sigmund and it's for that reason that he's behind bars. A young woman called Aya, an associate of Sigmund, also makes this mistake and breaks into the dungeon to rescue him. Whilst Capell and Sigmund look identical, they couldn't be more different when it comes to their personalities. Sigmund is fearless and brave whilst Capell thinks of no one but himself and is oblivious to everything else that is happening in the world around him. What is happening is that the moon has been chained by a group aptly known as the Order of Chains in order to fix its position in the heavens. This is actually far more serious than it would first appear as the moon is seen as life-giving and with the moon now in chains, things are taking a decided turn for the worse with crops failing and strange creatures beginning to roam the land. The only one who can break these chains is Sigmund and as such he's a target for the Order of Chains. Whether he likes it or not, Capell has become involved and as unlikely as it may seem at the beginning of the game, the time has arrived for him to become a reluctant hero.
Unfortunately the early stages of the game are disappointing and at times a little frustrating making the first part of the game arguably the worst part. Escaping from the dungeon and then having to navigate your way around a forest that's so dark that you can barely see anything is certainly an uncomfortable beginning. In the early stages of an RPG you want to get to grips with everything before you are thrown into situations that could potentially be frustrating. After a few attempts at getting killed in the forest of low visibility I found myself opting to run around avoiding battles, leaving a trail of enemies in my wake, and find the exit point. This did annoy me a little and it felt like a cheap way of progressing. Thankfully from that point onwards the game does begin to improve and once you're around three hours or so into the game, it feels like you're playing a Tri-Ace RPG.
Whilst the quality of the game definitely increases once you're past the first few hours, there are some things about the game that just don't seem right. Take the map for instance. In most RPGs the map will give you some idea of where you're supposed to head for. There is no such luck here however. The map only shows you locations you've already visited. The map is constantly displayed on the top right of the screen and while you can call up a larger version of the map, doing so is pointless as it shows you no extra details. There are too many times when you're simply left guessing as to where you should go next. Of course you'll eventually work it out, occasionally if you keep talking to a party member they will give you some information, but it sometimes feels as though there's too much trial and error in finding your way around.
There are other times in the game when you'll be left wondering about what needs to be done. About seven or eight hours into the game you'll have to escort a group of villagers back to their town. At one point a young woman tells Capell that her young brother has gone missing and requests that he is found. You're given no additional information so you'll talk to every one of the villagers and one of them will say that she saw him heading south but no one else knows anything. After roaming around (and being told not to go too far by the villagers) you'll eventually see a sign giving the name of a southern location. Should you question the villagers again, a man will tell you that he saw the boy by some rocks (the man didn't have any information for you before). Before you can go and look for the boy however, you'll need to talk to the sister again. This is just one example of how convoluted a simple task can be and there's no denying that at times it's rather irritating.
With this being a Tri-Ace RPG it should come as no surprise that a combo-based real time battle system has been used and there are no random battles. You'll fight with a party of four, although you'll only have full control over Capell's actions. You do have access to a Connect ability which allows you to take temporary control of a character to carry out an attack on a target of your choosing (you can also use the Connect ability to have other characters engage in dialogues in which they will get more favourable results than Capell) but for the most part you'll simply take charge of Capell. The battles are enjoyable but there's a major flaw here. To use items you'll need to bring up the menu, select 'Items' and choose your item to use. The only problem here is that the action doesn't pause whilst you're accessing the menu, meaning you're going to get slaughtered if you attempt to use an item during a battle. It's a strange design decision to say the least and a baffling one. You're much better off simply pressing the 'Y' button to request a healer in your party to heal those party members whose health is low.
We mentioned earlier that Capell is a flute player and early in the game he acquires a flute that has special powers. He can play tunes that reveal hidden locations and temporarily raise the attributes of party members amongst other things. Capell can also craft items and as you progress through the game he will gain the ability to create enchantments which can give the party temporary boosts. During the course of the game you'll actually gain quite a few party members. There are times when you will have your party split up into three groups of four (you'll just control the one group of four although you do get to compose the various groups yourself) which is certainly novel. I do wish the party members had been acquired gradually however. You go from having two or three to suddenly having around nine. As a result you don't get to develop a sense of familiarity with some of the characters which is a real shame.
During the early stages of the game you'd be forgiven for thinking the graphics aren't anything special. The textures in the dungeon that you have to escape from are well below par for the Xbox 360. Once you've escaped the dungeon and frustratingly dark forest you'll begin to realise that Infinite Undiscovery is actually quite an impressive looking game. Some of the landscapes in the game are gorgeous. I particularly liked the look of the desert landscapes and the sandstorm effects. The character models look good too, although you will notice almost immediately that the lip-synching is way off. In fact at times the characters' lips do not move at all during dialogue which is very strange. The menus in the game look very basic and have an unfinished look about them. Sure, this has no bearing on the game but it's a shame given that it wouldn't have taken much work to polish them up. The frame rate in the game is mostly OK but you will notice some slowdown in battles with multiple enemies. This slowdown isn't anything that interferes with your control but it's still slightly disappointing to see it.
Infinite Undiscovery does offer subtitles but not all of the dialogue in the game is subtitled. You'll have no problem in following the storyline because all of the crucial dialogue is subtitled. In fact some of the important dialogue is delivered exclusively in text. Some speech isn't subtitled however. During battles your various party members will make the occasional comment and none of this is subtitled. Whilst you're travelling around with your party they will occasionally say things to you. Sometimes their input can be useful and it's a shame that none of the comments given in this way are subtitled. Like virtually every other RPG, icons are used to display status effects meaning you'll be fully aware of when a party member has been poisoned or silenced, for example. There are times in the game when Capell will need to use his flute to uncover hidden areas and these areas give off a distinctive sound, for which there are no captions or visual clues, that gets louder as you get nearer the hidden location. Whilst this makes finding the locations trickier for deaf gamers, you'll be pleased to learn that walls behind which the locations are hidden will ripple so it's possible for deaf gamers to find these areas but you'll have to keep a sharp eye out to find them. On the whole Infinite Undiscovery won't cause deaf gamers any major problems but it could have been more accessible.
Infinite Undiscovery is a game that's greater than the sum of its parts. Despite the aforementioned problems I've described above, I have enjoyed the game. There are quite a few aspects of the game that simply could have been so much better and had the game simply replicated the formula of previous Tri-Ace RPGs then we would have had a more impressive experience. Despite the game's shortcomings which do tarnish the experience to a certain extent, there's no denying that it still manages to be an entertaining and enjoyable RPG that many RPG fans will enjoy. I suppose the biggest disappointment is that it could have been a great RPG had certain areas of the game been improved upon.