Septerra Core is a turn-based
RPG that plays similarly to a lot of Japanese role playing games in that you have a set amount of actions and abilities at your disposal and items that while altering your stats do not change your characters appearance in game. What made the game unique was its highly original story and universe featuring many memorable characters, locations and a visual design style that blended realism with incredible fantasy artistry. Unlike many other RPGs of its time, the game is fully voiced.
The player does not create their own character for Sepeterra Core, but instead control a group of established characters with the lead being Maya
. Unusual for a western developed RPG as they traditionally feature a generic protagonist the player can imprint their own appearance and back story on to.
Like a lot of RPGs, Septerra Core
starts off with you controlling a single character who is simply going about their daily life when something strange happens that ultimately leads them on to an adventure of epic proportions. It's not long until you discover the world is in peril and it soon falls to you to save it and defeat the madman at the root of the problem; a Chosen Heretic by the name of Doskias
who is convinced that in order to gain the gift of the creator; the kingdom of heaven one must alter the very world in order to so. This of course involves sacrificing millions of innocent lives, something that Maya and her companions must stop.
In order to gain the gift of the creator it is said that one must possess a special set of keys that when combined will allow the bearer to hear a message that reveals its secret. This can only be done every 100 years when the alignment of the upper shells of the world allows light to focus directly on the Core activating its power for a brief time.
Doskias believes that since he is a direct descendant of Marduk that he has the right above all others to receive the gift of the creator and does not wish to wait for it to occur naturally and sets about forcing an artificial conjunction.
There are many side stories and character sub-plots in Septerra Core, from helping a bounty hunter escape a prison, to overthrowing a power crazed mayor who uses stolen technology to turn peaceful helper robots in to killing machines the game never got old from a story perspective.
Septerra is a very unique world in that it is essentially a bio-organic creation of a being only known by its people as The Creator, their god. It is a world comprising seven World Shells and a Core that all rotate around a central axis called The Great Spine. Each Shell is a series of land masses or continents held in place solely by the very energy that radiates from the Core of the planet. This same energy is used to power both the magic and technology of Septerra.
It is neither entirely manga styled, steam punk, fantasy or sci-fi but a hybrid of everything. Summoning the spirit of a god like creature, fighting a bio-organic brain that causes earthquakes or battling giant robots with armor that's grown from using the carcasses of floating animals, Septerra Core had a game world truly like no other. While the characters all have manga-like faces.
Helgak are a re-occurring enemy, NPC and item in Septerra Core. Their ability to float using heated air and their highly durable outer bodies are part of what allows many things in the game world to exist and function. Armor, weapons, furniture and all matter of other things are constructed using their highly versatile materials.
- Shell 1 - The upper most Shell, where the Chosen city is located.
- Shell 2 - The Shell the players main character begins on, it is the location of the Junker town of Oasis, Azziz's ancient temple and the mysterious Factory.
- Shell 3 - Wind City, Mourn Graveyard, South Farm, the town of Armstrong and the dark tower can be found here, the tower is where one finds the games best items upon locating all 10 of the hidden birds.
- Shell 4 - Has a continent spanning city and features the Red Light District, where pirates and bounty hunters gather. This is also where the player finds themselves visiting the Ill Repute, a bar and brothel establishment.
- Shell 5 - Ankara and Jinam spent many years at War on this Shell which all changes when General Cambell uses the doomsday device.
- Shell 6 - Location of the secret pirate base where Conner rules from as well as a crashed Jinam war ship and the small town of Pranno.
- Shell 7 - The Shell closest to the core and thus the one with the strangest flora and fauna, including the small village of the Underlost and the expansive Mold Forest.
Septerra Core had an interesting turn based mechanic in which the longer you delayed your offense the more powerful it became with each character having access to a three tiered system of attacks, some of which relied on your overall pool of resource; core energy. Core energy; similar to mana in games like Diablo allowed the use of powerful solo attacks or group based Card attacks. Maya for example has a rifle with three modes of fire while upgrades grant her access to a laser, napalm, homing missiles or shrapnel grenade.
Grubb, on the other hand being a mechanic has a repair ability that can be used to fix the mechanical members of your party (Runner and Lobo) or used offensively as a powerful attack on robotic enemies.
Every character can use one Fate Card per attack, they come in many forms and can be used in numerous combinations for varying effects.
Like many RPGs of old you need to keep a well stockpiled collection of healing items, especially for boss fights. At about mid-game you'll start using many more forms of attack that use core energy so also keeping a supply of core restoring items is useful. By late game if you don't have an ample supply of both you will unfortunately hit a wall and not be able to progress, so planning ahead is the only way to go.
You can only ever have three characters in your party at once and Maya must always be in it leaving you with two optional slots. Many puzzles, missions, activities and dialogues can only be done with certain characters in your group. If you encounter a situation you cant figure out, best to think logically about which character might know what to do or what to say. Their are two sets of character combinations in the game that will result in them fighting each other some times, these are Led and Lobo and Selina and Corgan, but there are two side quests available for Lobo and Selina that wins them their companions' trust, after which characters will stop attacking each other. There is also a hidden quest that grants Grubb and Led a combo attack, that can be performed when both of them are in the party.
Septerra Core still remains a visually impressive game even over a decade after its release as every sprite in the game is a still render of a detailed 3D model similar to how the static backgrounds of the old Resident Evil games were super detailed despite being 2D using the same technique.
The game does suffer from some lack of player guidance with many puzzles being almost as absurdly difficult to understand as classic adventure titles, luckily since it is old they have all long since been figured out and many FAQs have been written in great detail. The lack of guidance also extends to enemy difficulty with the player potentially going to an area much sooner than they should and being absolutely over powered by everything they encounter with monsters being capable of one-shotting your party members should they be strong enough.
The best strategy by far was to wait for your three bars to fill and assume every enemy will take more damage to kill than you think unless you know they are really low level. Saving big healing items for bosses and intense fights is crucial and being aware of certain damage types makes many battles much easier, if a boss does a lot of fire damage then using a fire barrier cuts his damage in half.
Magical cards you acquire as you progress throughout the game, all with different uses and some of which can be combined to perform very powerful attacks. Several fate cards do specific elemental damage and in some enemy encounters it is best to use a certain type.
Each card is associated with one of four famous creatures that lived during the early time of Septerra in which Marduk battled the demon Gemma. Also Involved in the conflict was Dogo, the trickster and Kyra, a beautiful angel whom many worship. Marduk's cards involve offense and defense; Gemma's involve things such as poison, curses and life leeching; Dogo's are tactical and include things such as deflection and speed alteration; lastly, Kyra's cards relate to healing and buffing, these include temporary statistic bonuses and resurrection.
Through out Septerra you encounter and recruit eight companions; all of whom have their own strengths, weaknesses and stories: Maya
A Junker from Shell 2, her mother was killed when she was a little girl during a civil war between the Chosen people. Ever since then she has harbored a general hatred of the Chosen but soon discovers that Doskias and his followers were the primary ones responsible. Not only does she seek to avenge her family but also save the world from the very same man who seeks to destroy it for his own selfish desires. Grubb
Loyal best friend of Maya, Grubb is a mechanic and a scientist as well as the creator of his pet dog Runner and the Work Bots who serve the Junker people. In many instances during the game he is the only one who knows how to solve some of the more complex puzzles and often gives great hints for all of them. Runner
Built by Grubb, Runner is a robotic dog who also serves as a 2 man ridable vehicle and a powerful companion during combat. His main weapon is a powerful beam cannon housed in his mouth. Later in the game he can be upgraded to use both napalm, grenades and homing missiles. Corgan
A noble and honorable soldier from Shell 3, he is one of the Guardians of Wind City. When his commander Lord Bowman is killed during a Chosen attack on the city he decides to join Maya in order to reclaim the city, save his people and stop Doskias from causing further harm to the world.
When he joins with Maya the player is introduced to his love interest; Layla who like many re-occurring NPC characters offers many dialogues and helps with quests. Late in the game tragedy befalls her but her life does not completely end as the Watchers intervene. Selina
A Chosen commander who at one point served Lord Doskias, she was not only one of his loyal officers but a lover as well. When she discovers just how corrupt Doskias has become she decides to no longer simply follow orders and joins Maya's cause. On more than one occasion however her loyalty to him proves to still be just as strong as in one instance she saves Doskias during an attack on the Lens Platforms he was using to alter the planets Core rotation.
Of course when Doskias finally tells her that she was a simple pawn he was using to further his goals she finally realizes that believing he isn't truly mad was foolish. Araym
An ex-Ankaran soldier and initially a bounty hunter working for the pirates of Shell 4 and 6 but after seeing just how far his comrades are willing to go for money and power he soon defects and joins Maya. Araym was a demolitions expert but while serving in the army an accident resulted in the loss of both his lower arms. He had them replaced by cybernetic ones that have the unique ability to be fired like rockets. Led
A young mechanic from Shell 6, the daughter of the General of the Ankaran army. She was briefly working for the military but after a tragic accident she lost both her lower legs and was quickly forced out by her father. She had her legs replaced by artificial ones and pleaded with her father to allow her to re-join but he forbid it out of a fear that something worse may happen to her.
Since Grubb and Led are both mechanics it isn't long until she takes an interest in him though of course he is completely oblivious to her advances. During a special optional quest though if you take both Led and Grubb with you to the Ankaran HQ you are given an opportunity during an encounter with some pirates to either have Grubb save Led or to instead grab whatever special item he happened to notice. If you take the item it turns out to be just an average piece of armor. Help Led however and both characters gain a special combo attack that can only be performed when they are both in your party. Lobo
An ex Jinam combat cyborg. Unlike his fellow soldiers he managed to gain his independent thought once more when his ship was shot down and a man salvaged him and managed to find a way to deactivate the mind control chip implanted in his head. Later on Grubb figures out the same technique and performs it on Lobo's rescued crew mates, to which he thanks Maya and her companions not only by joining them but also offering up his ship for use.
His ship allows you to travel between world shells and much more quickly navigate the game world. Badu
An Underlost warrior from Shell 7. He joins you when you help the Underlost villagers. While not speaking English or having much personality or even a back story he proves to be one of the best additions to your team as he requires much less upgrades over time and is one of the most powerful characters.
Badu and his peoples head design is reminiscent of the H.R Giger creatures from the Alien films. Although unlike them they are a noble tribe of warrior people who were once human but due to living so close to the Core of Septerra mutated over time and had to develop a special way of seeing using a glowing gland in their foreheads attuned for certain frequencies of sound and forms of light.
The villagers often speak of a creature called the Hell God that destroyed their old village and lives in molten rock, you will eventually encounter this creature late in the game and he proves to be one of the most difficult boss fights.
Notable Non-Player Characters
- Doskias - A Chosen heretic convinced he is destined to fulfill Marduk's prophecy and intends to be the savior of the world and unlocks the gift of the creator, no matter the cost.
- Conner - A cybernetic pirate lord from Shell 6, encountered on more than one occasion.
- Gunner - A noble soldier who was the first of his people to stand against Doskias and label him a heretic, unfortunately his opposition to Doskias would be his end.
- The Watchers - Strange mysterious creatures that live in a large structure on Shell 2 known only as "the Factory".
- Azizz - A wise old man on Shell 2 who helps Maya on many occasions.
- The Emperor - A very old man who once ruled over the Chosen people, once Doskias started his quest for power he was killed.
- Tori - a young boy who gets Maya in to trouble on more than one occasion.
- Layla - love interest of Corgan and commander of the Wind City Guard when Lord Bowman is killed.
- The Magi - Three cyborgs who work for Doskias, they are some of the tougher bosses to fight in the game.
During your time playing Septerra Core you may notice some brightly colored birds scattered in random places. If you help an old woman in South Farm on Shell 3 she will give you 10 helpings of bird seed. Feed all 10 birds and you will gain access to a mysterious tower on the same Shell, inside are several powerful special items.
There are a few optional side quests that can be done, many of which grant a large amount of XP, some also give awesome and unique items while others resolve sub-plots between characters.
The game also includes several cheat codes which grant the ability for players to automatically win battles, avoid battles altogether and show the statistics of all enemies.
- Marty O'Donnell of Halo fame was responsible for the game's soundtrack, it was one of the first games he worked on before being joining Bungie. The voice actor of Master Chief, Steve Downes also plays a role in the game. It was during the scoring of Septerra Core that O'donnel suggested Steve audition for the role of Master Chief.
- A patch (Version 1.04) was released to address the issues of crashes and cinematics not playing whilst running Windows XP.
- Septerra Core was re-released on GOG.com for $5.99.
Original System Requirements
- CPU Type: Pentium
- CPU Speed: 200 MHz
- RAM Memory: 32 MB
- Hard Disk Space: 105 MB
- Graphics Card: SVGA
- Graphics Resolution: 640x480
- Color Depth: High Color