Infinite Space review
More depth to it than space itself
Platinum Games are starting to become an instant favorite of mine. Madworld was awesome, and Bayonetta was *bleep*ing mantastic! Here, I’m on my chair, thinking “they’re going for a hat trick, I can tell”. Enter Infinite Space, a game unlike the previously mentioned games. Instead of a beat em up (either with fists or with hair blades... go with it), they opted for an RPG of the more strategic variety. It’s not played out like Disgaea or Fire Emblem; it’s more like your typical RPG game, but with loads of strategy incorporated into the mix. Layers upon layers of gameplay build on to one another, managing for a hell of an experience. Some may not like the unforgiving nature of the game or the steep learning curve, but it’s one that opens itself up to satisfaction upon victory after getting the grasp of how it all works. In essence, this game is great!
Yuri is like many kids his age; he wants to go beyond the confides of his home and explore the galaxy around him. The only problem with this is that the planet's ruler is a petty bastard who forbids space travel. After seeing a ship crash near him and the pilot being a young girl named Nia, he and her build a ship to bypass the guards. Eventually, he's roped into some battles against space pirates alongside his mates (crew members). Essentially, it's another one of those games that starts off pretty slowly and requires some patience before it gets good, like when you're really into the characters and whatnot.
A noteworthy aspect of the story is that there are branching paths. You won't notice it at first, but later on, you’ll 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. There's a ton of depth to the plot, so if you're looking for meaty storylines, this is your next stop!
The only real problem I have with the story is the sort of tacked on pivotal plot point. It just jumps out at you like morning wood, with no development or anything. I won’t spoil it for you guys, but just imagine you’re spending a lot of your time with the characters and their relationships, and then BAM – shit hits the fan and you have to just take it for what it is, and go with it. It’s not terrible, but again, it just feels like an afterthought.
While not in combat, the game plays out much like a visual novel where you, the player, are given choices that either help or hinder you. There are many instances where you can get a game over for choosing the wrong choice, where Yuri (and maybe his friends) meet grisly deaths in a multitude of ways.
Also out of combat, you can buy extra parts for your ships. Modules are essentially rooms and facilities that improve different attributes of your ship and fleet -- hours and hours of gameplay can be attributed to optimizing what modules you place and choose in every ship since they act much like puzzle pieces, minus the ability to rotate them.
What’ll hit you in the balls is how complicated this game seems when you’re done with the tutorial. There are lots of little nooks and crannies to go through, and once you gain access to the help menu, there’s a lot of words to sift through. Much like driving, though, it’s actually quite simple. You have a fleet of ships at your disposal, and if your main ship dies, GAME OVER! The formation of your ships can make the difference between life and death, as if one little misplaced unit can *bleep* you over. You can perform actions such as a normal attack, barrage, and dodge, all on the fly during battle, and you have to have split second reflexes as soon as your combat gauge charges. It’s like the ATB system from Final Fantasy 4-9, in which you wait for the gauge to fill, except here, EVERY SECOND COUNTS, since initiating a command even one second too late can wreck your entire strategy.
Remember kids - keep some crew members with high maintenance skill in the engine room, because you'll need to keep your strength up after battles, and during battle, be sure to have some Medics on board. This is important, because you'll need to keep the crew all patched up while fighting. Special skills, as a whole, can mean the difference between life and death, so make sure you got a good idea of what skill does which, how many people with those abilities you'll need, and where you'll be stationing them on your ship.
There are different rules regarding formations and fleets. The first fires a volley from every weapon currently in range on Yuri's fleet, the second takes double the amount of combat gauge charge in return for triple the firepower, while the third will make almost every shot in a barrage miss. Balancing the use of these three commands is essential for victory, since the enemy plays by the same rules and can exploit them, being the evil smartasses they can be. The firepower on hand changes through the game's course as Yuri gains the ability to command more ships, with a fleet of five at maximum.
Unfortunately, while the spaceship portion is a tough cookie to eat, the human portion is just a pain in the ass. It’s essentially a simpler version of the spaceship portion, though whereas good formations and strong ships lead to victory there, here, it’s tough as nails pilots that lead you on your way. This one seems to be more luck based than the spaceship battles. Yeah, there’s still a huge degree of strategy involved since you have to select from different commands on the fly, but for the most part, it’s just luck of the draw, since you never really know if your enemies are stronger or not, despite sheer numbers between the two groups.
So yeah, the gameplay is mixed, though I'm more for the side of good, as you encounter the good side of battle more often. Most of the human battles are skippable, and even the ones that aren't, well, hey, John McClaine had to walk on broken glass barefoot because he had to. What kind of gamers are we if we don't trudge through the bad to get to the good? Exactly!
The graphics are also mixed. The character models are very limited, but they look nice regardless. I wouldn't mind some different expressions based on how they're feeling, because the scenes lose some luster due to static models, but eh, I never get what I want. The spaceship models look fine for the most part. For a DS game, they're pretty detailed and almost convincing, though the explosions look like a dog's anus. Seriously, did the artists just wing it or something when it came time for the explosions?
I can't say too much about the audio aspect of the game. The soundtrack is extremely hard to remember. They're very atmospheric tracks that fit very well with the spacey theme, but I can't really hum the tracks to you if you told me to. The voice acting is very limited, only to the battles, and... it's okay. Nothing special, and.. generally, nothing that evokes anything. Might've been nice if they spoke during the static scenes inside the ship, but like I said, I never get what I want, so whatever.
Overall, Infinite Space is a reasonably good and unique strategy RPG game. The main meat of the gameplay, which would happen to be the spaceship battles, is excellent and, despite being tricky to get the hang of at first, fairly addictive, though it's let down by the screwy human combat that could've just been a beat em up or something. Production values are mostly a mixed bag, but whatever, it's still very well worth your time, especially if you're bored of conventional RPGs and want a story with more depth than space itself.
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