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Lost Odyssey Review
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Feb 12, 08 (released)
|» All About Lost Odyssey on ActionTrip|
Single-player RPGs are scarce at the moment. Also, with games like Mass Effect raising the bar, players have certainly come to expect a lot from each new game that hits the market.
Latest in the domain of Japanese-style role-playing games is Lost Odyssey. The X360-exclusive was brought to you by Mistwalker. Just to jog your memory, development studio Mistwalker was founded by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. The company's recent work includes the RPG, Blue Dragon, which sadly ended up being mediocre and landed mostly mixed feedback from both critics and the public.
Regardless, knowing that FF creator was behind this one was enough to tickle our fancy. We have spent the past several days getting deep into Mistwalker's latest single-player RPG experience, which, by the way, is neatly-packed on 4 (dual-layer) DVDs. (That's a lot of gigs. - Ed)
And wouldn't you know it, sporting the essentials of a traditional JRPG, Lost Odyssey should immediately appeal to fans of titles like Final Fantasy. During the first few hours of gameplay, however, some gamers may find its design choices somewhat awkward, especially if they are new to this type of game.
It's going to be a while before things kick off. The initial portion of the game doesn't say much about who you are or what the hell you're supposed to be doing. You find yourself in the middle of an ongoing battle, fighting against a vast army of evil-looking tin-men with gigantic swords. You are then treated to a brilliantly animated cut-scene. The main character looks up, and witnesses the sky opening up (literarily), as heaps of steaming lava pour onto the huge battlefield. Two massive armies evaporate in the ensuing catastrophe, but you somehow manage to get out alive and unharmed.
In the aftermath, you emerge from the ashes, unscathed. You continue to fight your way through enemy soldiers that keep spawning from the scorching ground. Understandably, this segment teaches the player all about the mechanics of the game. You'll learn how to engage enemies, acquire items, use weapons, gain skills, etc.
As you progress, you discover that your name is Kaim. Traveling to the city of Uhra, Kaim is brought before the high council. Soon you learn that a character named Gongora cast an immortal spell on Kaim, before the mentioned cataclysm took place. With no memory of how and when this spell was cast upon him, Kaim is instructed to go on a quest to investigate unusual events at Grand Staff - a magic research facility in the Sea of Baus. Apparently, Gongora is somehow mixed up in all this, though you have yet to find out how and why. Thankfully, Kaim quickly gets two companions to go with him on his quest. One companion is Seth, a female warrior who, incidentally, is also an immortal, while the other is a young, wacky and self-centered magic-wielding merc, named Jansen (a comic relief in the game and not a bad one at that).
Concerning story presentation, Mistwalker did a fine job of mixing the gameplay with top-quality cinematics. Most of them are a real pleasure to watch, as you begin to put together pieces of your past and learn more about the world you're traversing through.
At its core, Lost Odyssey is a clever combination of turn-based combat and third-person action. Players explore a huge variety of locations in third person, randomly encountering groups of enemies or single, larger, monsters. Confronting enemies is turn-based. Mind you, instead of just selecting a skill, attack or spell, and then waiting to see what happens, players can carry out certain attacks manually, in real-time. For example, a typical melee attack can be executed via the Aim Ring System (you pull off a move effectively and easily by pressing the right trigger and the 'A' button on your gamepad). The game then categorizes the attack (perfect, good, bad). Well-timed strikes are marked as 'perfect' and are likely to bring more damage and other benefits.
One of the elements I've come to appreciate in this game is the use of skills. Two of your characters, Kaim and Seth, are both immortal and therefore cannot master any skills themselves. They can, however, establish so-called skill links with mortals. If a mortal character wields Black Magic lvl 2, Kaim simply links to that particular skill, mastering it in due time. It's a neat take on conventional skill systems we see in most RPGs today.
Interesting characters, good presentation, decent voiceovers, immersive, generally fun, adds a nice twist to the genre with its skill system and turn-based combat.
Awkward camera, lacks more weapons, armor and such, certain areas need more backdrop detail, can get repetitive after a while.