May 13, 2008

Lost Odyssey, Part 1

Well, I said I'd write a review for Lost Odyssey. Here's the first part.

At its gameplay core, Lost Odyssey is a fairly standard jRPG. It's the second outing from Mistwalker - their first being Blue Dragon - which should say a lot about the people who made the game. You walk around, talk to people, get in random encounters, etc. Like recent jRPG outings, the game lacks a true "overworld" map (that is, one which you actively walk over), except for when you're traveling in a ship over the sea. Instead, when you reach the end of a zone, you're presented with a map and a list of areas - actually, end-points of areas - that are available for you travel through at your current point in the game.

Battles are strictly turned-based, though in my experience this means many things, so let me explain. At the beginning of each turn you choose what each member of your party is going to do that turn. Then, based on each participant's speed and the speed of the chosen action, the actions are executed. This means that you have no way of knowing when a character will act, other than rough estimations that you'll have figured out later in the game. The one consolation to this is that item usage is the fastest action in the game and regardless of who uses it, they generally get to go first.

As part of the nature of a turn in Lost Odyssey, spells have a casting time. That casting time is measured by a number-letter sequence. For instance, a spell with a casting time of 1-A means that it should be one of the first spells cast on the turn in which it's chosen, while one with a casting time of 2-E will probably be one of the last spells cast on the turn after the one in which it's chosen. That's right: a spell can take more than one turn to cast. If your caster gets hit? They can get interrupted and it will push the cast back - this also works in your favor versus enemy casters. Luckily, if a spell does take more than one turn, you have the option to cancel it.

Regarding melee combat, your attackers can (and should) make use of "rings," pieces of equipment craftable by you and combinable by a traveling vendor of sorts. When your attacker has a ring equipped and they make there attack, the idea is to hold down the right trigger until an outer ring overlaps with a smaller, inner ring, thus gaining the bonus of the ring. These bonuses are things like extra damage, elemental damage, HP/MP drain, and Guard Condition (GC).

Guard Condition is the other thing that Lost Odyssey adds to combat. For quite a long time jRPGs have presented characters in the back row as much more unassailable by at least physical attackers. Lost Odyssey takes this a step further by quantifying that protection. At the beginning of each combat, each party (if they have members in the back) starts with a GC relative to the total current HP of each front row member over their max HP. The lower this GC, the more damage the back row takes from all sources. As the battle continues, attacks against your frontline subtract from the GC, and only skills that explicitly recover GC can bring it back.

Tomorrow I'll be back with a little more on gameplay outside of combat (mostly), and possibly the beginnings of the story portion of this review.