Monday, 24 May 2010

Infinite Space: Harsh As.

I recently bought 'Infinite Space' for Nintendo DS. Part of the reason I've been slack at updating of late is that I've been playing the aforementioned game. I've racked up about 36 hours, not including the many hours lost by suddenly dying and forgetting to save. More on this shortly.

"What is this shit you're on about?" I hear you gasp, what with all my previous nonsense having been mostly music, politics or footballs based. I'm branching out a bit. Bear with me. It's been some time since I've done a game review.

Infinite Space is a space-based RPG. The story owes a lot to various sci-fi films; the star Yuri is essentially Luke Skywalker without the Jedi powers, and there's a lot of nods to both the Stars Wars and Star Trek, all with a strong sense that you're in some kind of anime series. This is no bad thing, indeed there's a surprisingly deep plot, which I won't ruin here.

The gameplay is of course the point of any game. It's an RPG, so there's lots of random battle. It's essentially turn-based combat, but with a gauge that fills up allowing you to decide what kind of attack to use based on this. As such there's lots of strategy involved, as well as modding your ship as best you can, buying new ships and making decisions that effect how the game pans out. It's the movement of the plot as much as the geekiness of the upgrading that draws you in.

However, If you've never played an RPG before this is not the place to start. If you've never played a video game made before the Playstation era, again this is not the place to start.

People talk about 'hardcore' games, by which they generally mean first person shooters or anyhting which involves killing folk. These people never played the old console games, ones which were incredibly hard, ones where you could spend a week trying to finish the first level, ones where you'd be smashing up controllers after you die in the same place for the hundredth time.

This game is hardcore. There isn't so much a learning curve, more a straight jump from 'start game' to 'harsh as fuck'. You will die, lots. You're probably thinking "yeah whatever, he's probably crap at games, it can't be that hard" and there'd be no convincing you otherwise - I say to you go try it out then, and come back when you've seen your first 'game over' screen. It will happen. Not only will it happen, you'll have forgotten to save. If you've just lost 2 hours of progress, as I did early on, you might even stomp around shouting expletives for a bit. Needless to say you'll remember to save early and save often after that!

But I like the fact that it's hard. I like the harshness of it. It reminds me of a childhood wasted playing Commodore and NES games back when games were proper harsh, when game over meant game over. I think you can even include some of the 16-bit era ('Flashback' just popped into my head). Of course you've got a save function here, you'd go mad if there wasn't [I gather I'm barely half way through despite the 36 hours of play, a completist could easily rack up more time], but it's the feeling that the odds are actually stacked against you, rather than being massively in your favour as is the case with so many games these days (shit, I'm old), the feeling of genuine achievement when you defeat someone who's killed you the previous 4-5 times.

There's bits where not much seems to happen, or you get lost as to what to do next, and these points along with the hardness factor have led to criticism in the various other reviews I've read, some (not all) of which appears to be mollycoddled modern gamers moaning about not being able to burn through the whole thing quickly.

I'll leave this digression because I'm going to carry on in a similar old man way in a separate blog post rather than shoehorning it all in here with questionable relevance.

Infinite Space is very very harsh. It's also very very good. If you like RPGs or a half decent sci-fi/anime yarn you'll learn to love this. If you only like killing Germans or killing prostitutes then you're better off looking elsewhere.

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