If lots of aimless wandering sound tolerable to you, Infinite Space might be right up your alley
- Addictive ship-building and upgrading, hundreds of quirky characters, huge in-game universe, tonnes to do
- Design flaws that range from puzzling to downright infuriating, vague objectives, all-over-the-place difficulty level, high learning curve, battle system that's only sort of interesting even when it's at its best, starts out painfully slow
Infinite Space has the pedigree to be the next pint-sized blockbuster. It's developed by Platinum Games, the folks behind Bayonetta and Madworld; it's got hundreds of collectible ships, a cast of anime-inspired characters; and it takes place in outer-space, a setting ripe with possibility. Unfortunately, something went wrong during the launch sequence, and as result, Infinite Space doesn't live up to its vast potential.
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Despite its RPG roots and its heavy use of stats, Infinite Space actually has a lot in common with the Phoenix Wright franchise. Although the game world is set in the far reaches of outer-space, the gameplay is structured as a series of menus populated with characters that you must converse with in order to advance the plot. Unfortunately, you often find yourself in narrative dead ends, with little clue as to what you should do next. You'd have to be Sherlock Holmes to sniff out some of the obscure hints the game uses to lead you to your next objective. This often forces you to wander aimlessly and engaging everyone you encounter in the hopes that something will happen. Worse still, the game has no quest log to speak of, so if you zone out during one of the game's zillions of crucial conversations, you're out of luck.
Fortunately, all that wandering gives you plenty of time to grind on random encounter battles, which can be a bit addictive. It's also fairly handy since the money you earn can be spent on upgrades for your fleet of ships. The battles lack any real impact or pizzazz, however, and consist of a multi-tiered attack-defend system that's pretty much sci-fi rock-paper-scissors with the occasional super-laser thrown in for good measure. This, in turn, robs the ship upgrade system of any actual meaning; in other words, building your ships is far more enjoyable than actually using them. Some battles can be downright exhilarating but most conflicts are infuriating thanks to an inconsistent and uneven difficulty level.
All of these issues make for a hellish introduction to the game; the first few hours are absolute torture and if I weren't reviewing it, I would have given up on it early on in my playthrough. But I persevered, and to my surprise, the game got significantly better as time went on. The plot picks up momentum, and you eventually meet a quirky cast of characters that serve as the game's main selling point. The level of character interaction isn't as deep as, say, Mass Effect 2, but Infinite Space's cast is undeniably solid.
The question, then, is how much you're willing to suffer through in order to get to know your party. If alternatively frustrating and dull combat, a slow start, a mediocre plot, and lots of aimless wandering sound tolerable to you, Infinite Space might be right up your alley. Otherwise, I'm going to recommend one of the other hundred or so infinitely better RPGs -- Chrono Trigger, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, etc. -- already available on the DS.
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