July 7, 2006

Star Ocean

For the past few weeks I've been playing Star Ocean: Til The End of Time, and it has to be the console RPG that I've put the most time into, clocking in at 70 hours and apparently I missed some of the private actions that I could have initiated. Everything about this game was excellent, and it's clear that the combination of Square and Enix resulted in a first-rate RPG.

There were several things that struck me as well done, especially after finishing the Xenosaga series. Facial expressions were animated and held emotion in a decent manner. The audio was very nice, and kept things fast paced or emotional as appropriate. English voice-overs were good. Load times were extremely fast. Moving between areas was not an annoying pause. Full three-dimensional worlds with camera rotation.

The combat was fast-paced, intense and often challenging even at high levels, and fun. The real-time action-oriented combat with support for things like combos and battle skills was always fun. Combat was a little strange at first, and I failed miserably in the practice combat. But after I got a hang of things, and realized that the combat AI should take care of itself most of the time, it became very intuitive and easy.

The user interface was polished and extremely simple to use, although I would have preferred more control over inventory management during combat. Many times I was scrolling through inventory during combat for items I was never going to use. Otherwise, the menu system for both combat and non-combat situations was very good, and controlling your character on-screen not a problem. The only issue I had with things was you sometimes had to work a little at lining yourself up correctly to talk to someone or interact with an item.

The skill system was simple, and never a waste of time. You can choose which skills to focus on, and each character has a specific set of skills and magic that they can learn, but which you don't have to care about if you don't like that particular skill. Skills are acquired at a decent rate and can be extremely useful.

The item creation aspect of the game is actually very important, but can be both tedious and daunting without a guide to help you. Otherwise you have no idea what you might create, and unfortunately there's no in-game tutorial. The instruction manual is a little sparse on item creation even though that is one of the more complicated and important features. That may be intentional, since it's supposed to be like invention.

The story itself is detailed, deep, and very well constructed. There are questions posed about everything from where our current technology is headed, the definition of life, religion, faith, and existence. All wrapped up in an intriguing plot that manages to mix space ships with swords in a believable and complementary manner. The storyline is moved forward through cut-scenes which I felt suffered a bit from either slightly longer than desired load times or pauses, but it always had my attention and interest.

Posted by josuah at July 7, 2006 2:38 AM UTC+00:00

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