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Infinite Undiscovery : End of Disc 1

I reached the End of Disc 1 of Infinite Undiscovery after 10 hours of play. Some might think that's disappointing; but actually that isn't a bad length for being halfway through a JRPG, considering Eternal Sonata took 10-12 hours to complete. (Note#2: Too Human also took exactly 10 hours to finish, though it isn't a JRPG). The description for the game on Play-Asia promises a story worth about 30 hours, so I'm guessing I might reach the end of this in 20 hours.

By the end of Disc 1, one thing really stands out for this game: the fact that it lets so many of your party mates be on the field at one time. Granted, you only really have control of one character, and you can only give orders to three other characters. The rest of the party that you didn't pick for your own party are assigned by you to sub-parties, who travel on their own and accomplish their goals. The thing is, they travel on their own by your side, so as you're fighting on the countryside, there's this other party of adventurers running alongside you killing monsters, getting loot, and generally making the playing field seem more alive and action-packed.

The high point of this design decision for me was upon reaching the final dungeon of Disc 1, where, when you encounter the last boss, all the characters engage in this epic battle against the last boss and his forces. Imagine yourself in the middle of this large fantasy battle, with swords clashing, and spells flying back and forth between combatants. IU doesn't hesitate to put in some really fancy special effects (sparks, sword slashes, lighting bolts, fireballs etc) when characters are engaged in combat, and that's apparent throughout the game. When you get to the end of Disc 1, having all those effects going off at once really gives you that feeling that you're in the middle of a very large scale battle between some powerful adversaries. Some might notice a bit of slowdown every now and then, but it never gets in the way of controlling the action.

I got killed a couple of times before getting to the final boss because there's this enemy in the last dungeon of Disc 1 which provided a bit more of a challenge. Because I wasn't doing so well, I tried out the 'Enchant' feature which lets your character increase the attributes of any other characters for a few minutes. It's essentially 'buffing up' your characters temporarily, and it's only possible if you have certain items in your inventory. I was able to pass that enemy thanks to this feature; before getting to that point of the game I didn't really think of using the 'Enchant' feature but it turns out to be quite useful, and adds yet another layer of strategy/planning to this real-time action-based Japanese RPG.

The graphics in the game continue to be quite beautiful and aesthetically pleasing; faces of other characters are rendered quite cleanly and animate pretty well during combat and during cutscenes. Everything is rendered in real-time; I haven't seen any other CG scenes other than the introduction movie. Despite this decision, the graphics are still quite stunning, and I'm glad that the framerate does not suffer during real-time cutscenes unlike in some other Western games. They make the real-time cutscenes just as appealing to watch as CG in any other game.

The environments don't exactly go for a realistic look; everything in the world reminds me of a miniature model set. But it does feel wide and expansive, and the game continues to give me the feeling of being lost, because the areas to explore are so wide, and there's no feeling that you're stuck on a set path when you're travelling.

Monster encounters are real-time so you can opt to run away from all the monsters if you don't want to get into fights. The regular monsters on the field aren't that difficult to kill; there's just that occasional one that has higher HP than usual or the one with abilities to stun or paralyze you or your party mates, but for the most part, you won't really be in much danger when you fight other monsters in the world. As I mentioned earlier, there are 'boss' fights in the game, and I recall losing not just in the final dungeon but also in this other boss encounter in the desert. I didn't lose enough times to make the game feel 'frustrating' though.

By the end of Disc 1, another thing I recall which I haven't probably mentioned is that the game has this thing called 'situations', which I think are its own version of mini-games from other RPGs. For instance, one situation has you escort some villagers back to town; another one has you escape from a boss monster to help another character. I think some achievements are associated with these 'situation' moments because I got some 'situation bonuses' from certain scenarios. What's great about this is it changes the pace every so often, for this 'hack-and-slash' action RPG.

[spoilers coming]

Now, for the storyline....maybe I haven't played as many JRPGs as my wife so I might not be as reliable when it comes to saying that any story is original. Some might say the lead character seems typical for JRPGs, and some of the scenarios (and the obvious love angle) have been done time and again. But I like what happens by the end of Disc 1. It's pretty clear that anyone could guess what would happen and which character would eventually kick the bucket.

But I enjoyed how they resolved that scenario, and how the other characters reacted to it. By the start of Disc 2 things really get interesting because some conflict is introduced within your adventuring party. It's the kind of thing that will make you keep going because you want to see how exactly it will all end.

What happens at the end of Disc 1 also manages to give each character a bit of a moment to establish who they are. Granted, there's so many of them so there really isn't enough time to spend with all of them in the cutscenes. But by the end of Disc 1 and the start of Disc 2 you really get to know everyone a little bit more.

[/spoilers end]

So, is Infinite Undiscovery worth recommending? I can only say that so far I'm enjoying this game; I really liked what happens by the end of Disc 1. If you're already playing the game but find the pace to be a bit slow at the start, just give it a chance. It really picks up towards the middle and end of the first disc.

Other than the very first 'puzzle' in IU (which I posted about way earlier), I haven't encountered anything terribly frustrating about this game as I played the first disc. Unlike Too Human where the control scheme was initially disconcerting, this one is pretty easy to learn. I haven't found any control issues with the game. Even the mechanic where the game doesn't pause when you're looking through your inventory....granted it makes things a lot tougher when you want to look through your inventory to get a healing potion, but over time I've gotten used to it. In fact, I just let the other characters do the healing for me (press 'Y' during combat to request for healing). Since the characters use up inventory items rather quickly, I buy a lot of potions before questing, and I buy all sorts of them (even the ones for conditions like paralysis, silence etc. etc..). The other characters know to resurrect any downed party members or to heal conditions. The only problem you'll have is if they can't follow your command because they're being attacked; everything is real-time, after all. So if that happens, you'll have to be the one to look through your inventory to get the item that you need. It adds a layer of challenge but it hasn't frustrated me just yet. And it does make a bit of sense in a game where everything's 'real-time'.

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