Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Infinite Undiscovery - Gameplay Mechanics

Combat is only one aspect of an RPG. In this post, I'll look at some of the other gameplay mechanics in ID.

Story Progression/Exploration
RPGs range from wide open worlds (Oblivion, Fallout) to strictly linear adventures (Eternal Sonata, Enchanted Arms). Which you prefer is a matter of taste, although even largely linear games can feature some side quests and optional dungeons for the completionists to explore. ID is heavily skewed towards the linear end of the scale, with a plot that drags you from one task to the next and minimal side tracks to be found. There are some optional quests (often well hidden...see below) but they're understated and the rewards are largely inconsequential. Also, ID only has one optional dungeon and it's not available until you beat the game, so there's not much value to exploration.

Unlike exploration/side questing, the crafting system is thorough and very useful. Enemies drop components that can be used by your various teammates to synthesize weapons, armor, and other items. Some of the most powerful equipment in the game is available solely through crafting, so it's a good idea to work on your team's skills early and often (hint: especially Edward's blacksmith skills!). Crafting is also a good way to drum up some quick cash by turning less valuable components into pricier items. Overall the system is well constructed, though the success rate on rare items is gratingly low (your attempts at synthesis can fail) even if your characters are high level crafters. Still, I'd count this as something the designers got right.

Kill enemies and go up levels. There's not much more to it than that. You can't assign skills to your characters or control how their attribute points are distributed. The entire process is automated. It's nice that your characters get stronger over time, but it's not something you'll give much thought unless you get to an area where you're clearly under-leveled.

Event Challenges
To mix things up, the game will occasionally give you little events with specific requirements to proceed. Examples include defending a convoy of villagers as they move through a monster infested desert, firing catapults at a well-defended enemy castle, and rescuing a child from a flying monster by shooting it with an arrow. I found these challenges to be more annoying than anything, but I'm willing to concede that the designers were just trying to throw a few curveballs for fun and that's an admirable goal. None of them are overly difficult so even if you don't like them, you shouldn't really be impeded for long.

Interacting with the Townsfolk
And now we come to the big one...the DUMBEST design decision I've ever seen in an RPG. Here's how this works: if you want bonus items and side quests, you need to talk to all the people in the various towns. A given town could have anywhere from 10 to 30 people with whom you can converse. So far so good...that's pretty standard stuff. But wait! Most of the time, the person won't give the side quest or bonus item to you (Capell)...they'll only cough up the goods if you're linked to one of your teammates. You accomplish this by finding said teammate in town and pushing a couple buttons to tell them that they should follow you around. And when I say "linked to one of your teammates", I mean ONE SPECIFIC character. That's right...if you talk to a guard wandering around in the courtyard by yourself, he'll talk about the weather, or the health of the king, or his sore bunions, or whatever. Same deal if you're linked to Edward, or Eugene, or Aya, etc. But if you're linked to Rucha? Now he suddenly remembers the super-important quest he was going to ask you to do for a reward.

So let's say you wanted to be thorough and try every combination of teammate links and villagers in conversation. There are 17 people on the team that can link with Capell, plus he can chat with villagers by himself, for a total of 18 different combinations. With an average of 20 people to a town, you'd have to initiate 360 (the irony) conversations to be sure that you weren't missing any secrets. Now bear in mind that there are several towns spread out over the game, and you're starting to get a handle on how ridiculous this task is. Hold it though, because things get much worse. Some quests can only be initiated AFTER specific plot events. That means that you'll need to go through all those combinations MULTIPLE times just to be sure that the guy who had nothing of interest to say earlier has suddenly come up with an important task for you. All told, you'd need to go through a couple thousand conversations just to have a chance at finding every side quest and secret item in the game. can just read a walkthrough, which is what anyone with sense will do.

I'm sorry, but any system in which the special quests are so well hidden that you'd never know they were there except by random chance is a dumb one, and you can't tell me otherwise.

That concludes most of what I have to say about Infinite Undiscovery, except for one more vital section. Next time: The Achievements!


  1. Why is it abbreviated ID rather than IU?

    I knew you hated this game but reading these posts makes me realize I didn't fully appreciate how much, nor did I understand why so many sheets of paper had to be used... (who's the poor sap that does the initial walk-thru?) So now I don't know if I respect you more for putting in 250hrs to this monstrosity or if I feel a little sick. Hmm...

  2. Because this game has driven me to madness...

    More about the sheets of paper in my next post!