posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Jan 2009 22:22 UTC
IconAfter our article on modern gaming a while ago, we decided to dive futher into gaming. That's why I met up with one of my friends, and asked him if he could loan me the best game he had for his XBox 360. Maybe I should have been a bit more specific, I thought, because when he came over, before I knew it, he shoved a Japanese RPG in my console. This would be my first foray into the strange, magical, and disturbed world of the Japanese RPG. Read on for a review of Lost Odyssey.

Let me cut right to the chase. This is a very bad game. There are a lot of ways to mess up a game, and Lost Odyssey plays like a checklist of bad game design decisions. Despite all the crap you have to wade through, this is still a game you should experience. Wait, what? I'll explain later on, but first, let's get all the bad out of the way.

Combat

Let's start with the combat system, which is so flawed and aggrevating it made me long for the days I hadn't yet bought my XBox 360 and I wasn't playing any games. You see, the combat is turn-based. While turn-based combat in and of itself is already a total antidote to immersion, the problem is made worse by a number of totally retarded design decisions that only make it worse.

This game is built around random encounters. This means that the world you move around in is completely void of any enemies, and as you move about, you randomly move into combat mode - there's no warning, no evasive manoeuvers, no nothing. You go into combat, whether you like it or not. There's no choice involved. These random encounters never stop - you can run around in the same small cave for three days on end, and you'll continue to be bombarded by the same group of enemies.

To make matters worse, once you're in actual combat, the turn-based system is totally messed up. You see, in Lost Odyssey, there are certain actions which are only invoked by chance, such as evade. The problem is that your enemies will evade much more often than you do, which gets really frustrating. It gets worse though - enemies are very, very good at evading magic attacks. In fact, there are enemies that will always evade every magic attack, but you won't actually know that until you've spent several turns and mana points on casting these spells. Obviously, your own party never evades magic attacks.

Because of luck always being on the side of your opponents, your preciously devised strategy goes down the drain within a few turns. Which kind of defeats the purpose of having a turn-based system in the first place.

The end result is that combat becomes something you want to avoid, because it's so cumbersome. No matter what level you are, a random encounter will last anywhere between 10 and a gazilion minutes, and even though you'll win in the end, you will always have lost most of your health - whether you employ decent strategy or not.

You can always select the "flee" option, but this is also ruled by chance. In other words, before you can actually flee, your enemies will have cut you to pieces.

Platforming & Pixels

Then there's this brilliant idea that the designers had to implement some platforming elements into the game. The problem with this is that the game is based on a fixed camera. You cannot control the camera, and in every section of the playing map, it's fixed in one single position. And the platforming elements always occur somewhere at the edge of your screen, or just behind a tree or a rock, so you can't actually see the things you have to evade. Like the combat system, it's an exercise in total frustration.

But wait, there's even more crap! Exploring the playable map is a total disaster, because in order to activate an item, or pick something up, you have to place your character at exactly the right frakking pixel in order to activate or pick up said item. Let me explain why this sucks, with a few in-game examples.

At one point in the game, you have to place several discs you collected into four holes in the ground, in a certain order. To active the holes and place the disk, you have to stand at exactly the right pixels for each single hole, and it took me god knows how long before I finally had them all in place. Of couse, during all this I was greeted by several random encounters. And the holes were located on ONE SQUARE METRE. You'd think that your party members would actually NOTICE 25 bad guys on ONE SQUARE METRE.

In another case, I had to enter the cockpit of a train, and the door was locked by a numerical password. The various numbers that made up the numerical password were written on notes scattered around the train segment (a sysadmin would call that bad password policies) right before the cockpit. That segment was slowly freezing over, threatening to kill me.

I died because it took me too long to find the proper pixel to stand on so I could pick up one of the notes.

Table of contents
  1. Lost Odyssey, page 1/2
  2. Lost Odyssey, page 2/2
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