Less than the sum of its parts.
I really wanted to like Lost Odyssey, I really did. But after spending nearly 60 hours with the game, the only thing I came away with, was wanting those 60 hours back.
From a gameplay perspective, Lost Odyssey does nothing wrong. It has a very polished and strategic turn-based battle system, that almost feels like a tactical experience in the last quarter of the game when you get to choose from nine playable character to bring into battle. Each character can equip hundreds of items and learn tons of skills, on top of that there is a nice option to interchange equipment mid-battle so you never feel like you’re at a disadvantage in case you equipped an item that does massive damage to magical enemies, but you happen to be fighting a robotic soldier for instance.
The enemies of the game are actually probably one of the high points. I can safely say that this game has some of the most creatively designed, and most expressive (Dark Kelelon anyone?) enemies in any game. Now if only this great design was brought forth to the central characters. For a game that is attempting to craft an emotional story of loss and struggle, these characters have about as much depth as the puddle I stepped in walking home this morning (it wasn’t very deep at all, I don’t even think I got wet).
Kaim, one of the four amnesiac immortals, walks around for half the game saying pretty much nothing, so then later in the game when it is time to make any sort of grand speech or ultimatum, it comes off as sounding out of place and awkward. The other characters don’t fare any better. They range from a stereotypical gun-ho pirate, to two kids, who not nearly as annoying as other kids video games, seem to have no real place in the adventure after the first disc.
It’s not even that these characters are badly designed per se, it’s just that the writing and dialog in the actual game is atrocious. The timing in conversations is incredibly bad, people constantly repeat what others say but in question form, and then just when you’re trying to decipher what they’re actually talking about, it simply ends. Half the time, I had no idea why my characters were traveling to this or that land. Plus the camera work in the in-game cut scenes is all over the place. It frequently pauses on character’s faces, even though they show pretty much no emotion, then it takes them another five seconds to pan around in silence before fading out for no apparent reason.
In general, don’t play this game for the main storyline. An incredibly derivative villain, and numerous plot holes, make the whole package hard to follow; and when you do finally realize what’s going on you find yourself thinking why on earth didn’t they explain that earlier in a scene that would have made infinitely more sense. By the end of the game, half the conversations are throwing in places and events that try to tie up unknowns, but in the process it makes the whole thing even more convoluted since those additions are themselves never fully explained.
I’m not asking to be spoon fed the story here, and I understand that the whole point of losing ones memory is the factor of the unknown, but if you want emotional attachment to the story, don’t make it sounds as if you’re making it up as you go along.
The one saving grace of the story is something that oddly takes a back seat. Throughout the game, Kaim and some other characters will encounter a situation that will unlock a memory they had of their one thousand years of existence. These are presented as text on colorful backgrounds with accompanying music. Any one of these short stories has more substance to it than the entire plot of the game, there are roughly thirty in all, but reading just one shows how much more emotion and description can be found in the text compared with the actual game. Characters seem to actually be alive in the stories, not just a CG character voices by someone reading from a script for the first time. This makes even more disorienting when you finish a story with Kaim in it, then go back to the actual game and realize that the Kaim you control has none of the traits or emotion of the that you just read about, instead you once more control a walking mannequin.
If you compare this game with Mistwalker’s other RPG, Blue Dragon, it’s easy to see that Lost Odyssey is a better game by definition. It just seems like a more polished and fleshed out product in terms of gameplay. However, I would still prefer Blue Dragon over Lost Odyssey anyday, just for the simple reason that playing Lost Odyssey, and sitting through the archaic dialog, is so painful, that any fun you get from the actual battles is instantly sapped once you realize you have no desire to see the story play out what so ever. This isn’t to say Blue Dragon’s characters are deep and intriguing, but that game wasn’t going for the emotional drama that Lost Odyssey fails at miserably. Blue Dragon was a simple light hearted adventure, and it pulled it off perfectly.
People say that this game is a traditional RPG that isn’t trying to rewrite the genre. That’s fine. But hold this game against any top tier RPG that came out in the last seven to eight years, and you’ll quickly realize that the script is what needs to be rewritten. Unless your are an absolute die hard RPG fan that only cares about stat building and turn-based battles, don’t bother with this game. The few things it does well are completely crushed by characters and a script that you’ll have to endure through the entire journey.
Don’t play this game, that’s my opinion.
I want my 60 hours back.