Friday, December 16, 2011

Infinite Space

It's not as infinite as they'd like you to think, but still pretty great.
Every once in a while, a huge game comes out with a lot of gall. Isn't that what Infinite space is? After all, it's supposed to be infinite, right? Not quite. It's got great potential, but fell short of the throne.

GAMEPLAY: If you don't already know, this game is about exploring space, infinite space, no less. Again, this infinite part is deceitful, because lots of the void-gates are closed. Shortly after completing the tutorial, which will take a few minutes, you'll be set with areas to explore. You will quickly notice that there are less than ten destinations, far short of infinite. Furthermore, most destinations contain only a tavern, which doesn't last long as explorations go. Some destinations don't even have that. The void gate, which takes you to a lot of other places, is closed for now, so you won't be able to explore as much as you like. 

Even when you do open the void gate to another region, you will still be limited to that region until you complete the chapter for the region. In this way, the game limits you from truly exploring infinite space, which is the theme that the game is supposedly built around. Instead, the mechanics work more like a lock and key. Usually, you will only have one or two options at any given moment to advance your game forward. This is hardly the freedom you'd expect from a game touting the word infinite.

Get this. After you complete certain chapters, those sectors from previous chapters will be locked. Simply, that is the point of no return. You cannot go back to a previous chapter to grind or just visit the taverns, which really sucks. The only thing you can do at that moment is push forward. This "point of no return" mechanic seems pointless, as it doesn't improve hardware, gameplay, or anything of the sort. In fact, it doesn't really do any good. The game really seems to want to put restraints on the player's freedom, which isn't something a good game would do.

And another thing about the gameplay: the game is ridiculously complicated. The tutorial teaches you a fraction of the basics and lasts less than five minutes (for average players), and then says "go wild!". For anything else, you'll have to consult the "help" option when you dock at most space stations. The "help" option doesn't even show up at first, not until you're a little ways into the game. Even then, a lot of the help isn't intuitive. The robot helper simply tells you things without showing you. It's kind of like reading a textbook on the DS, which, is a no-no for games. Something else that could make with improvements is the objectives. As mentioned before, advancing the story or your game usually depends on one or two options at a time. You'll find yourself hopelessly traveling the system going into taverns talking to people, hopefully to do something by accident that will trigger an event. 

And when you do, you don't have an objective pad, forcing you to go back to that specific tavern or location to review your objective in case you forget. Sometimes, that location will no longer be available. sometimes, you're given obscure clues to work with in which you must figure out the puzzle on your own. It will get frustrating as time goes on. Finally, management is a big issue. The game neglects to educate players about its convoluted ship/crew system, and all the individual stats. This means, with a five-minute tutorial and textbook help options, there's a very steep learning curve. If you like a challenge, knock yourself out. If you just want to casually play, well, this game requires a lot of work and time on it before it provides true enjoyment.

The battle system, as overwhelming as it can be, is deceptively simple. It's almost a turn based, one dimensional strategy game. You can move forward or backwards, employ (as there are six slots) eventually six actions which apply to all your ships, not just one, and 3 'other' actions (slots below the original slots). Not much originality here. There is also the option of melee battle, which is sometimes required for the storyline. Melee fights are one stat rock-paper-scissor battles. Rock paper scissors is fun, but in a video game? The really ironic part about all this is that after all the sweat, tears, and sore thumbs, the only reward you get is to beat up enemies in this unsophisticated battle system. Uh oh.

GRAPHICS: Are the visuals good? Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. It's as if the developers decided to make one part of the game really kick-butt and then decided, "meh, we'll leave the other half hanging". The traveling scenes are wonderful. There's really some space travel going on there, with both screens, the bottom one giving a real-time show of your traveling on the bridge. There are also a number of camera buttons to change the view. The problem is, not much shows up during traveling, so you'll find yourself frequently hitting the fast-forward button instead.

The battles are good as far a ship designs go. You can zoom in, zoom out, change cameras, rotate, etc. The background isn't drab, as you'd expect space to be, but very aesthetic. When you actually attack, though, you should fast forward with the stylus by hitting the screen. The lasers look...very washy. They're not easy on the eyes. When you destroy a ship, turn the DS face down. It looks horrible. From all the design that went into the ships when they're alive, not much went into the ships when they die, apparently. Although, the cool thing is that the ruins of ships stay there for the remainder of the battle, so you can see them again and again.

The...character models are very anime-ish. There are a few still-scenes that are rather artistically rendered, but they're still scenes. So are the characters, no matter how they move or what they say, or how distressed they appear to be, it's always the exact same character model.

STORY: Well, this is probably the only thing that will keep you coming back to play it. As far as stories go, Infinite Space is pretty long. It's not really an exceptional story told with twisting plotlines, heartbreaking betrayals, hopeless romance, or that kind of stuff, but the story will do something to keep you going back to play this game again and again. It plays a little bit like an RPG. Mind you, the story is also quite long. When you pass through the first void gate, you will be shown a map. That map shows all the sectors that exist, and you will most definitely be taken aback by the sheer number of them on the map. By the way, the map scrolls, just so you know.

Another thing about the story, is that, there are branching storylines. You won't notice it at first, but later on you will be given options on what you should do. Choosing one or the other leads to who you will recruit, who you will meet, and sometimes even who lives or dies. Some of the divisions in the paths are so major that it's worth going back to replay the whole thing.

OVERALL: If there was anything else to compare Infinite Space to, it would be like a Suikoden game where all the battles are played out with duels. If you have no idea what that means, don't fret. It means that this game is ridiculously good. Any DS owner would be doing themselves a great favor in buying the game, assuming they don't hate all RPGs with every fiber of their being. And even then, I'd say you'd be missing out.
SYSTEM: Nintendo DS



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