Thursday, September 18, 2008

Infinite Undiscovery - Challenging, or Frustrating, Depending on You.

Just got past the Cobasna Timberlands in Infinite Undiscovery.

For the first time, in a very, very long time, a video game has forced me to play with a pen and paper by my side, to draw out the map of the explorable terrain.

The Cobasna Timberlands have these magical barriers that teleport you around the map. If you're thinking of just running from point A to point B in this area, you'll be either surprised or sorely disappointed. The way the barriers teleport you can feel very 'random' and I think most people will find themselves totally lost in this area.

Tonight I found myself near the point of frustration. I never thought I'd have to get a pen and paper and map out the teleporters in the map to figure out how exactly I would get to my destination.

Maybe I was just feeling lazy. Why should I even bother using a pen and paper and why should I map this out separately? Shouldn't the game tell me where to go by this point? I had already finished the main quest in this area and I thought I deserved to get to the next spot instantly.

I suppose this level of challenge, then, is by design. Challenging, or frustrating, depending on your perspective.

Another dungeon and several cutscenes later, I save my game and now, here I am, relaying my feelings on that particular segment of the game. Getting through it eventually did give me a bit of relief, and some sense of satisfaction.

I ask myself, how are Xbox gamers perceived in Japan? I recall Lost Odyssey and the first major boss battle where so many players could not win without guidance from the Internet or from strategy guides. Then I also occasionally watch my wife play Tales of Vesperia and that game seems like it's no cakewalk either.

And then, there's this game. I have a feeling that Xbox gamers are probably percieved by these Japanese developers as a 'cut above the rest'. I remember a quote from Itagaki which goes something along these lines "Gamers who buy an Xbox in Japan don't buy one by accident"---which seems to imply that there's really this notion that Xbox gamers are largely very experienced players, who've seen every possible trick or dungeon or boss or situation that has ever been imagined in the history of video games.

Is it a mistake to design games this way? Sometimes I ask myself that. There are games which are just so easy that you'll beat them in a day...imagine your $60 / PHP 2,500++ peso purchase just lose its value in a matter of minutes. Actually, I really, really hate it when that happens. So I suppose you could call me the hardcore gamer who's seen everything.

So should I be proud of Infinite Undiscovery, that it literally had me on my last ounce of patience?


Actually, before I was on the brink of giving up, and posting 'THIS GAME SUCKS' here on my blog, my wife was already searching the 'net for the solution to my problem. She was at GameFAQs and had the answer at the ready.

I refused to read it. I couldn't take it nor accept it that this JRPG had me beaten. As I wrote earlier, eventually I did beat the system....all it took was a little bit more mental effort and a pen and paper by my side.

So again, I ask myself, am I disappointed now with Infinite Undiscovery?


Well, I did enjoy that last cutscene. And I want to see more. The game continues.


One other little tidbit; before I got lost, I tried using the other characters while exploring town and, lo and behold, I found out that each character has these unique abilities that you can only access when you're 'connected' with them. For instance, Eugene can forge weapons while Vic can pick locks!

A pleasant surprise. Why didn't the game tell me this earlier??

Granted it's a brilliant feature that adds a lot to the game; consider the number of characters and all those items that you can mix and brew together.

But the game doesn't have anything that really teaches you about these things at the outset. I only found this by messing around with the menus.

So how do Japanese developers perceive the Xbox crowd? I think it's clear: they see players who have an Xbox as the hardcore--the ones who've seen everything and are really hard to please in terms of challenge and gameplay. There must be so much pressure for game devs working on Xbox game projects....

At the same time, I can imagine these same game developers pressured to make such great games for the Xbox are themselves hardcore players who have seen everything, and put a lot of expectations on themselves when making a game for the Xbox 360.

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