Friday, 17 June 2011

Lost Odyssey: A beautiful and engrossing RPG

A rather disappointing aspect of the Xbox 360 is that there is a very limited amount of good RPG's out there to experience. Yes, we have Oblivion and the Final Fantasy series to name but a few, but still, this game genre is very small when compared to the more popular first person shooters, such as Call of Duty or the Halo series. A few years ago, I was pleased to find out that there was a 4 disc Japanese RPG epic available on the Xbox 360, and for a good price. This game set me back a mere £5 from Gamestation, and is widely available for around the same price in other game retailers. 

Released in early 2008 for us European gamers, Lost Odyssey was produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the hugely successful Final Fantasy series. Fans of the Final Fantasy series will probably get an idea of what this game is going to be like, and should enjoy the gameplay.

Lost Odyssey tells the tale of Kaim, a thousand year old immortal and the conflict that he finds himself involved in. Set during a magical industrial revolution during the future, Lost Odyssey tells of a world that is blighted by the heavy reliance on magical technology. 

Pretty much everything is controlled by magic at this point in time, leaving human's roles rather redundant. Magic originally was hard to come by, with only magicians being able to possess powers, but soon this changed, with even the normal citizens gaining the ability to cast magic. This reliance on magic however caused two nations, the Kingdom of Gohtza and the Republic of Uhra to experiment with weapons of mass destruction, leading to Uhra building Grand Staff, which allows magical energy to be concentrated in it for powerful, dangerous means, whilst Gohtza hurriedly researched magical energy in a hope to match the weapon that Uhra was buliding. 


In Kaim's one thousand year live span, he has witnessed many wars, and once again he finds himself caught in the conflict of two warring fractions. Whilst Gohtza and Uhra battle for the best weapon that technology can build, a third nation, Numara, is quietly taking a back seat, opting to remain neutral then get involved in conflict.
As the game progresses, we soon find out that as well as being immortal, Kaim has no memory of his past. We follow Kaim on his journey to recover his missing memories, whilst trying to piece together the evil motives of Uhrah's new ruler, Gongora. Kaim is accompanied along the way by an assortment of companions, including fellow immortals Seth and Sarah, and the smooth talking ladies man, Jansen. All of them have their own reasons for joining the journey, and we discover their motives, and unlock their memories as the game progresses. Each character is memorable, but some more so than others. I felt that Jansen was by far the best character in the game. Many of the lines he utters during game play and the cut scenes are hilarious.
Those already familiar with RPG's will probably welcome the turn-based battle system. I can sense some of you right now probably have no idea what this means, so in simple terms, the player and the enemy take it in turns to attack one another. In the players turn, they can choose to attack the enemy with one of their learned attacks, which are either magic or weapon based, or you can defend, use an item (such as healing herbs for when you find yourself in a near-death situation), the healers in your party can use their turn to heal one party member or the whole team via magic, or, if you have unlocked it, flee from the battle if it is proving too difficult. Once you have decided on what you are going to do in this turn, it is then the enemies turn, who will choose to do one of the same options if it has them available.

As you progress, you will earn money, which you can use to buy more items to help during battles, and higher level weapons which will definitely make your fights a lot easier to handle. Some bosses require certain strategies, which you will pick up when you are fighting them (such as one particular boss, who does not react to magical attacks, so what do you do instead?). Sometimes it takes several goes before you finally beat the boss, so I would say that for Lost Odyssey, patience is a virtue, and it is well worth the several retries, as the game gets even more spectacular as it goes along.

The difficulty slope can be a bit tricky at times. Lost Odyssey eases the player into the game with simple fights and quick levelling up. However, as you progress deeper into the game, the enemies get harder (some of the end disc bosses require a lot of patience, and many tries before you beat them!), levelling up slows down quite considerably, and item pick-ups can become a lot rarer. You are able to save the game whenever you come across a save game orange orb whilst exploring, but sometimes these can be few and far between, so I would suggest saving quite often encase you die before you reach a save point! I would also suggest trying to level up all the characters to around the same level as each other, as there are times when only particular characters are allowed to be used on a boss fight, typically the ones you chose to never use, and you will soon be wishing you had stronger characters to make this fight a little less impossible.

One aspect of the game that people may not enjoy much is the lengthy amount of cut-scenes, especially the final cut scenes of the discs. These videos can go on for almost 30 minutes at one point, without the option to skip at some points. However, I did not complain about these, as not only are they very cinematic, with a great musical score, they help to explain the story. After all, you are playing an RPG, so you have to expect a bit of an in-depth story to compliment the game play.

One of the elements I enjoyed highly was the musical score. I find that good music in a game really makes it more appealing for me. I do not want to play a game where the music will end up irritating me so much that I have to mute the television, thus missing out on lines the character says, and so on. Lost Odyssey, thankfully, was not like this. The music was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, a Japanese composer who is probably most known for his musical work in some of the Final Fantasy games. The music is mostly instrumental, and really compliments the beauty, suspense, action, romance and sadness of the game. I would strongly suggest trying to get a copy of the soundtrack and listening to it away from the game, as I found I truly appreciated the music more when I could concentrate on it solely, instead of during a tense boss battle.

For the most part, the achievements are quite generous. You will gain a large achievement after completing each disc, as well as achievements for unlocking each of the memories, levelling up all your characters, and more. Some may take some time, but seeing as you have four discs to work on these, you should be able to unlock most of them during this time. If you find yourself really enjoying this game, there is some downloadable content available via the Xbox Live Marketplace, which will add more to the game. This includes new weapons, and a new area to explore, and both packs are very cheap to pick up now. The download time takes no more than a few minutes, so impatient ones, do not fret!

Is it worth playing?

So is Lost Odyssey worth playing? Definitely. Not only is it a highly enjoyable story, with great cinematic visuals and a beautiful accompanying score, but it is also a very engrossing game. Spread over 4 discs, the £5 spent on this game is definitely worth the money. It took me several months to work through from beginning to end, averaging at around 60 to 90 hours, and the game is packed full of things to do. Not only is there the main storyline to complete, but there are side quests, such as helping out villagers, and collecting all the forgotten memories. I was actually quite sad when I completed Lost Odyssey, as I devoted so much time to completing this epic RPG, that when I did finally complete the forth and final disc, I just wanted to go back to the beginning and experience it again! Sadly, this game got a little overlooked, especially as the Final Fantasy series is still going strong, which is a real shame as it is an excellent game that deserved more recognition than it received. If you are looking for a story-driven RPG, filled with fights, exploration and quests, then I strongly suggest giving this a go. There are not many games like this on the Xbox 360, so even if you have never played an RPG before, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by this.

1 comment:

  1. A fine review! I have seen this game so many times in the shops since I got my 360 but never really taken the time to read up on it.

    It sounds like an interesting concept and it's been a while since I played a turn based RPG. Does having 4 discs mean it's fairly cut-scene heavy though?

    Regardless, I think I'll place an order on Amazon. This could well be the RPG to help me pass the time until Skrim drops. Thanks!

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