Those Who'd Like It, Will Like It A Lot
I'm going to start this off with the disclaimer, personal preference is going to play a big part about Infinite Space. Ask yourself: do you like old-school science fiction? Classic space opera about ships, their crews, and the situations they face? Can you deal with old-school RPG elements, like random battles, statistic number-crunching, and a fairly linear design in your games? If so, consider this game.
Infinite Space is a story-driven RPG that sees the player embark on an epic quest through the stars. The battles themselves are simple but fun, rewarding good judgment but also harshly punishing mistakes. It's a unique sort of 'rock-paper-scissors' set of maneuvers with fleets of up to five ships per side. It's definitely intense to know that you're a single barrage from crippling the enemy fleet, or being crippled by theirs, if you take that risk. At first this can be very frustrating, especially since the in-game tutorial doesn't do a great job of explaining many of the nuances of battle. After a couple losses it's not hard to develop a feel for the system and have some fun blowing enemy fleets to bits; by the end of the game, the battle AI is actually fairly easy to fool but make one mistake and you'll definitely be feeling it. Boarding and ground based combat is less fun and feels more like a minigame compared to space battles, but luckily they are much rarer.
You'll also be spending a lot of time customizing ships you've bought. Internal parts are arranged in a tetris-style grid inside a ship's hull, and it's a lot of fun designing ships with just the right combination of parts to make them as effective as they can be. You can also assign specific crew members to important stations within you flagship. There are a lot of crew members to discover, and they all have unique specialties and backgrounds. Crew also levels up alongside the main characters, growing better at whichever kind of jobs they are assigned. This extra layer of customization is part of what really makes your ship feel like your ship, and it can be fun to review what a certain person is good at and what department they'll be best in.
The game's story is lengthy, lasting a good 40-50 hours depending on how much extra exploring and customization you do, with additional content available after the first play through. Although the plot itself sometimes gets a little uncreative or implausible, it manages to have enough interesting and engaging parts that it remains a rewarding part of the game. There's a ton of text, a lot of reading, and menus abound, but the dialog tends to be fairly well written and helps the story along. There are a couple major branches where the player may choose their own path, but generally, there's only one area at a time to progress the story along. Exploring other worlds can give extra money, new parts, ships, and crew, but it's all strictly menu-based and generally won't last long.
Visually Infinite Space has 3D graphics for space battles, with good looking ships and decent effects. The rest of the game uses 2D backdrops and characters. The ship design and technical art focus is really well done, with ships appearing functional and futuristic in just the right way to suit this setting. The 2D system works well and has a fair amount of decent art, giving a good impression of what all the characters look like (in distinctly Japanese, anime-style). That said, there aren't any extra sprites for facial expressions or mood changes, leaving some conversations looking a little weird in comparison to what's being said.
Sound is more mixed, with most of the music being decent but forgettable. However, a couple tracks shine through and excellently set the mood for what's happening in the game. Sound effects are okay as well, with nothing truly standing out in terms of the lasers, missiles, and explosions you'll be hearing. During battle there's actually a fair bit of voiced commentary, and although it's an interesting touch, it's poorly delivered and you'll be skipping it 99% of the time.
Overall, Infinite Space's strongest points are a good story, battle system, and a lot of customization. Its weakest areas are archaic design choices, like random battles, linear progression, and sometimes punishing difficulty. In this reviewer's opinion, the strengths of this game and its setting are more than enough to offset its weaknesses in other areas. Should you enjoy what it offers in the first place these won't be enough to keep you from having a great deal of fun with this game.