When it was first announced, Infinite Undiscovery was one slick looking game. On the surface, it looked fantastic: developed the Tri-Ace, the team behind the relatively popular Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile games, replete with a stunningly creative premise, an entirely new gameplay engine, and stunning next-generation graphics. The central concept of the story—that of giant chains reaching up into the sky and wrapping around the moon is intriguing both thematically and aesthetically, seemed like an excellent premise for a new RPG franchise that might one day rival the behemoth Final Fantasies and Dragon Quests of the world.
But, somewhere along the way, something went wrong. Infinite Undiscovery, a game that should not just have been good—it had the pedigree of an instant-classic, after all—fell apart. Infinite Undiscovery is a game built around a plethora of new ideas—many of which are very good—but none of which are implemented into the game very well. In fact, nearly every aspect of the game is implemented poorly, almost as though Infinite Undiscovery was created as an example of what not to do in a game. If we’re lucky, perhaps someday in the future developers will use it as exactly that: a guidepost on how to avoid making another infinitely underwhelming game.
Infinite Undiscovery boasts a fully real-time combat system that utilizes the general field locations for combat rather than transitioning the player to a separate area for battle. It sounds all well and good on paper, but, as is usually the case with boasts, the concept falls flat when you look at the reality of the situation.
As Capell (and only Capell) you run around outside fighting monsters. After you defeat monsters, they will eventually respawn, though there is a mild delay. You can sheathe and unsheathe your sword: you can’t fight without your sword in your hand, and you can’t interact with objects with a blade between your fingers. Constantly switching between the two is tedious and unnecessary. You have access to two basic combat moves, a fast attack and a heavy attack, which can be chained together for a small number of combos. You can also play Capell’s magical flute to use a small number of magic spells, or ask for healing. The magical flute doesn’t contribute much to either the combat or the story of Infinite Undiscovery.
One of the principal gimmicks of Infinite Undiscovery is the large cast of characters that can join your party, for a total of eighteen. Unfortunately, most of those characters have very little development, and aren’t all that useful in gameplay. In comparison to Suikoden V, Infinite Undiscovery’s inability to incorporate a mere 18 characters into the game is physically painful, and indicative of the overall laziness on the part of the developers. For one inane reason or another, Infinite Undiscovery does not allow you to control any character other than Capell, although you can temporarily assume control of their special abilities. For example, you can take over control of one character to shoot an arrow at an exploding barrel, or mind-control a monster.
Sound fun? It’s not. The controls are pretty clunky. That arrow you want to shoot at that barrel (which, of course, will explode, damaging any nearby enemies) requires you to manually aim the arrow. By the time you turn the character around to even seen the barrel–and the character turns very, very slowly–most of the enemies will no longer be at the barrel. They will be right next to you. Attacking. Ouch. But what about the mind control ability? That sounds fun, too, doesn’t it? It’s not. Nine times out of ten one of your allies (which, as I’ve mentioned, you cannot control) will kill the enemy monster before you can mind-control it. And when you do succeed in mentally dominating the beast, you’d best be careful, because it will wear off very quickly and you’ll have to be fast (and lucky) if you want to re-cast mind-control before your allies kill the beast. This can be particularly infuriating when the game forces you to use these special abilities to proceed with the story. All of the characters have multiple abilities, and none of them are implemented well. To be blunt, it’s a complete mess.
I realize I’m focusing on the negative here–and to be honest, there’s little else to see. I will take care to say that the battle system can actually be fun. At times, given the proper planetary alignment and stellar positioning. The AI for your allies is passable–they’ll heal you frequently and fight the enemy on their own, and I’ve not seen any major path-finding issues. Running into a group of giant, angry cobras and swinging your sword around wildly can be a lot of fun. The controls, though a bit laggy, are sufficiently responsive that when mixed with the above-average combat animation and visual effects draw the player into a rather visceral combat experience. You can really have a lot of fun just going around fighting weaker enemies. I say weaker with a bit of a bite, you see, as fighting enemies that are stronger than you is not at all fun. In fact, that brings me to the single greatest flaw in the recipe that is Infinite Undiscovery:
If you want to use an item in combat–say to heal yourself, replenish your magician’s mana, or cure a status ailment–you’re sorely out of luck. The game does not pause for the menu. Well, that’s not entirely true. When you open the menu, your characters pause–they stop fighting and stand still–but the enemy doesn’t. Oh, and there’s also a bit of a lag when opening up the menu. If it doesn’t sound like much fun, it’s because it’s not. You really have to get used to fighting and winning all of your battles without using any items. This, coupled with the myriad of other flaws in Infinite Undiscovery, makes me think that Tri-Ace either never bothered with the playtesting phase of development, or simply ignored the comments their testers made. It’s rather inexcusable for Infinite Undiscovery to be lacking such a simple feature.