Lost Odyssey loses some of its charm due to technical issues

Posted by Mark Raby

Game Review - Lost Odyssey has an amazing story, unbelievable graphics and an award-worthy soundtrack; it's just too bad the game itself faces antiquated mechanics and blatant rip-offs of others in the genre.

The credit list for Lost Odyssey includes an award-winning novelist, a renowned music composer and a world-famous Japanese artist.  Production on the game began more than a year before the Xbox 360 was even released, and it is easily the biggest project to date for Microsoft Game Studios.

As such, the game shines on so many levels.  It is one of the first console RPGs to have full 1080p HD video support.  The soundtrack is amazing at times, and by the time you get through the game you'll have read through enough text to create an amazingly well-written novel.

The problem is, however, that the actual "video game" part of Lost Odyssey feels clunky.  More than any other RPG that comes to mind, the work needed to advance the story is less worthwhile than the story itself.  

In Lost Odyssey, you control the main character, Kaim, as he ventures through the planet trying to recover his lost memories.  See, Kaim was inflicted with an immortality spell and then had his memories erased.  Think "The Bourne Identity" with more science fiction.

Throughout the course of the game, Kaim comes into contact with other immortals and hunts down the man responsible for erasing their memories.  

Like any other RPG, the game has a fair amount of visually impressive dungeons and enemy-riddled landscapes.  This is where the meat of the game is.  However, there are obviously other safe havens, like cities, airships, etc.  In these areas, you'll often need to perform some sort of puzzle or task, but more often than not it's a bland, meaningless exercise that requires more time than mental effort.

Battles are turn-based, a refreshing throwback to classic RPGs of the past, and for the most part they work well.  However, there is a notable lack of character attack customization.  Every character can pretty much learn every attack and magic spell, and those that are unique to a character are part of that character's initial moveset.  In other words, there's very little differentiation possible among characters as you progress through the game.

Additionally, while I personally prefer turn-based battle systems in RPGs, I found Lost Odyssey's mechanism kind of boring.  There's no "big payoff" during battles, at least not until more than half way through the 50-hour game experience.  That is to say that there are no attacks with really cool animations, there are no combination attacks for multiple attackers, and the especially good attacks are almost useless.  

That's because these attacks require characters to sit out part of the battle before they can use it, and if they're attacked they become immobile even longer.  In other words, to use an attack that performs 200 HP in damage, you may have to wait three turns before the attack actually hits.  In that time, you could probably use a normal attack every time and inflict a total of 300 HP in damage.  So there's little to no incentive to use special attacks, and thus it actually encourages a strategy of stale attacks, making the whole process rather tedious.

Mix those shortcomings with one of the most intriguing storylines and best-looking cutscenes ever seen in a console video game, and it makes the part where you're actually controlling the characters nothing more than a chore.  I often found myself just going through the motions so that I could get to the next part of the story, instead of being engulfed in the mechanics of the game and battle system.

Additionally, in between dungeons and boss battles, you'll be presented with scenes that practically require you to read through pages of the game's script all at once.

Therein lies one of the more unique parts of Lost Odyssey.  Throughout the game, you'll run into scenarios that trigger "revealed memories."  These are text-driven stories with no animation, no cutscenes, and no video.  These memories alone total around 100 - 150 pages of text, all of which is exquisitely written.  It's literally like reading out of a novel or screenplay.

For the most part, these are easy readings and flow pretty smoothly, but it is kind of weird to have to just step out of the main game to devote 10 - 15 minutes at a time of doing nothing but read.  For the most part, these micro-stories do not relate directly to what's happening in the game's main story, so it's kind of weird in that it breaks up the game at some of the most random times.

In short, Lost Odyssey works as a gripping novel but not as a game.  The story is one of the most intriguing ever seen in an RPG, the voice acting is top notch, and there's a perfect mix of humor, drama, and plot twists.  But even in the most well-written RPG games, the game itself should never take a back seat.  Of the 50 hours it takes to complete Lost Odyssey, a small portion of that is connected to cutscenes and story advances.  Most of that is time is spent running through dungeons and completing various tasks, and the game just kind of falls apart when those objectives are boring and tedious.