on 12 April 2013
Star Ocean Till The End Of Time is the black sheep of the Star Ocean series, does this make it a bad game? Not necessarily.
The storyline is like a roller coaster, sometimes you're enjoying it, other times it gets really boring. I enjoyed the first part of the game, then it got quite boring but then it started to get quite interesting. The main issue with this game's story comes from the infamous plot twist which ruins the players investment into the story however the plot twist is executed well enough and though it can be confusing at first, it is all explained by a certain npc but they only explain it once and after that the game expects you to realize this which can lead players to believe that there are many plot holes by the ending but there really isn't the game just doesn't explain itself well that is all.
So all in all the plot is likeable should you appreciate the plot twist. The private action endings are probably the best in the series and aren't cut short like most of the private action endings in Star Ocean The Second Story. The private actions themselves though could have been better and there isn't much interaction between each playable character. Most private actions tend to involve boring conversations with npc's though there are some good ones. Personally I enjoyed the story for the most part but it's definitely not for everyone, I find that besides Star Ocean The Last Hope it is the most sci fi themed game of them all, though it still spends quite a long time in an under developed planet which can be a drag. In the end, the story of the game all comes down to the plot twist.
The game play on the other hand is plain and simply horrible, I tried my best to enjoy the game play since the story was good (at least for me) but most of the time i gave up because of the frustrating battle system, it is broken so expect a terrible score for game play. Let us begin the bad parts.
First of all lets talk about the controls, Tri Ace thought it would be a good idea to swap the special arts buttons, so instead on using the L2 and R2 buttons, you have to use X and O, this wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't have made the X and O buttons do three things at once. Both buttons do two different special attacks depending on the range, they also do a regular attack too which costs no health to use (oh don't worry I'll get to that later). The worst part about this is how you execute each move, to use a normal attack you have to tap X or O, X is a fast attack, O is a power attack. Normal attacks bounce off enemies if they have 100% fury (I'll get to that soon too) Power attacks are slower but break through 100% fury shields and you don't get counter attacked so it's important to know when to normal attack and when to power attack. To use a special attack you have to hold down the X or O button depending on whether you want a fast attack or a power attack, you can assign two special attacks to each button (i'm not joking) and depending on the range depends on the special move you pull off.
Now this is just terrible design right here, you do not ever EVER assign 3 different actions to a single button, especially if they don't register well. there are many times where I tap the button and end up using a special and vice versa, most of the time I have to mash the button hard to make sure I get a special and even then it can mess up. I consider this to be broken game design because it doesn't work the way the player wants it to, and if it doesn't work then I classify it as broken and I usually never reward less than a 3.0 unless it is broken.
To make things worse you have cancel bonuses, for mashing the button in the middle of the move cancelling, you can get a damage bonus and a bonus to the bonus line. This is often critical to winning a battle so you have to constantly mash the button hard and even then it doesn't work very well so cancel bonuses are essentially luck, the entire purpose of cancel bonuses is that you are risking your fury to perform them leaving you open to be hit, so if you get a chance where the enemy is left open for an attack, you wont be able to hit them with full power unless you manage to mash the mutton quickly enough mid move to get the full effect, making game play infuriating.
Now for the Main Features of the battle system, this can get quite confusing but here goes, each character has a fury meter which is essentially their shield, their fury gauge fills up when you're stood still doing nothing. With 100% fury you automatically block fast attacks (which most enemies tend to not use making all this information pointless but i need to explain it to you so you understand) and counter them with an anti attack barrier in which you can choose to either stun the enemy or deal damage to them. There is a bonus line which allows you to get bonuses to your XP/fol (currency)/parameter recovery etc based on your performance in battle (*kill enemy in 30 seconds or less* etc) for a chance to obtain these bonuses you have to fill up the bonus line.... by doing cancel bonuses. Now do you see why i hate the controls so much? The game literally rewards you for button mashing, and i mean hardcore button mashing because you need to be hardcore at button mashing to play this game, put it this way, make sure you have a controller with stiff buttons otherwise your fingertips will hurt.
Now my main gripe about battles is the parameters, using special moves costs you health (HP) so you're hit points works essentially like magic points except that there are also magic points (MP) which you spend to use symbology (magic). the worst part about this is that if you run out of either HP or MP you die, so essentially the best tanks in the game are nel and peppita or anyone who has balanced HP/MP because later on in the game by the end of disk 1 enemies with deal MP damage to you which can KO you very quickly which leads to some really nasty difficulty spikes that you won't be ready for.
Now I see what they were trying to do, they were trying to find another cost for special moves instead of using mp all the time like in the first two games but the whole idea is just ridiculous and has you manage both health and magic points to keep yourself alive, meaning you have to have lots of mixed syrups or anything that recovers both hp/mp in your inventory to stay alive, you will often find yourself lacking necessary items and needing to return to town often to restock on supplies which is a bad coincidence since the final dungeon, or the dungeon just before the final dungeon should I say is long and confusing, it's one of the worst dungeons in rpg history and is almost as infamous as the plot twist itself.
The field sections have you having to explore the entire area to fill the map, you are rewarded with bonuses, usually money or items for doing so. Dungeons are the same, there are quite a few puzzles which can be quite a bore but some of them are both interesting and frustrating at the same time such as the hauler mine cart mini game.
And finally the item creation is quite possibly the worst part of this game, unlike previous games in the series, item creation is compulsory if you don't want to struggle later on in the game, basically you have to find a workshop and put in facilities for invention which is basically the new item creation. The way it works is that instead of putting a base resource in a pot for a lucky dip like in the previous games, you have to spend fol to develop ideas for a new blueprint for an item which you can distribute throughout stores, it's sort of like a mini game, you have to distribute high rated items to get the highest score but you may also have to distribute bad items because they are useful in battle.
Once you have invented an item you keep one of the item that you invented so it's kind of like it was in the previous games though instead of using materials to create items, you use money. There is also synthesis which allows you to combine almost any item with weapons/equipment/accessories which is probably the only fun part of item creation as you get to customize your equipment the way to want to sort of like the customization in Final Fantasy X, you have 4 factor slots which you can put bonuses in like lower mp cost or bonus damage to humanoids.
The worst part of item creation is the fail rate, for each attempt to create an item you must spend a set amount of fol depending on the quality of the item, now if yoy want to get decent equipment then you have to spend 5000 fol each attempt and the fail rate is so high that you will end up spending over 100k fol in total to invent a single item, later on in then game it costs even more fol per attempt which makes matters worse. The worst part about it is that it's simply boring to watch your characters fail over and over and it's frustrating since you never get the item you want, and the only way to find out how to get the specific item you need to use a guide. I won't go into any more depth into this since this review is long enough but it is extremely irritating.
If you managed to survive this long then this game may still appeal to you yet, the music is fantastic as always since it's composed by Motoi Sakuraba and the moment you hear the music in the first dungeon, you know that this game is going to have an awesome soundtrack. It may take time to appreciate it but it grows on you like the story does, there are also some very unusual songs in the game, the final boss theme for example is both epic and unique with it's jazz solo in the middle. There's also a boss theme that sounds like some sort of fitness tape which is quite awkward but it's likeable and pumps you up for battle. There are also some great sci fi sounding tracks in the mix too.
The graphics aren't the best but they're good, the models could use a bit of work though, Peppita looks like smashed her head into a bar and it left an awkward shape in her face breaking her nose off in the process, she seriously needs a face lift....badly. Everyone seems to have really chubby cheeks for some reason but the art style is generally appealing.
The main game is of a decent length and it doesn't end too shortly, there are 3 bonus dungeons though i haven't tried them because of the horrific game play. There is 2 player battle mode which is broken due to the battle system but it's there. There are also multiple difficulties to try if you want to have an even bigger nightmare playing this game. All in all i hope i haven't given the game too much of a bad impression, I'd say no more than £10.00 any lower is worth it.
And on a final note.... save yourself the trouble, play on earth difficulty.
Plot/story: 8.0/6.5 (all depends on the plot twist really)
Game play: 2.0
Replay Value: 8.3
Overall score: 7.4 (or 6.8 if you didn't like the plot twist)
Buy this game cheap for less than £10.00, you'll get your moneys worth.