Level-5 and SCE's new RPG for PS2 reviewed.
Whilst everybody sits around, scratching their arses, playing with the NEXT GENERATION and generally ignoring anything more than a week old, the PS2 lies in the corner somewhere experiencing its ever more elaborate death throes. It's crying - can't you hear it? Don't you care? You selfish, selfish git. But it's okay, because the machine does have some company whilst it dies slowly - this week it has a visit from Rogue Galaxy, the new RPG majiggy from Level 5.
Basically what we have here is a space opera RPG - now that, on paper, sounds brilliant. It sounds like everything a game should be. There are no audacious claims as to how the game will change your life, and whilst there is a buzz around it, there certainly isn't a sniff of megahype. This is a good thing - for once, maybe a game can live up to expectations. Well, no, it can't, but the thought of it maybe happening for once was a nice one, wasn't it?
Whilst everything looks, on the same piece of paper, to be top notch, things soon unravel as they do with so many unnecessarily long RPGs these days. Within a few hours of play things still haven't really got going and you already want to either commit suicide or simply turn the console off thanks to the ridiculous level of random battles contained within. It doesn't help that the battle system is less fun than watching your family die. Unless, of course, you really hate your family.
Now, I'm not saying these EPIC RPGs should be purposefully shortened by 20-odd hours, but I am saying they shouldn't be purposefully lengthened - taking hours and hours for any actual story to kick in is not a good way to make a game. It feels forced these days, cynical even, and it stops some games from really taking off - the story in Rogue Galaxy is actually half decent, if not a bit cliché, and the characters are (eventually) pretty well developed.
This is obviously speaking in the terms of videogames, not literature. In terms of literature, the story and characters are akin to those a three-year-old would come up with. But that's not the problem - the problem is that a lot of people simply won't bother with the game past a few hours, simply because it doesn't feel like it's going anywhere. It does, yes, but it should go there a lot faster. The game should drag a player in and make them feel like they HAVE to play for 50-plus hours, making them immediately invest emotionally in the characters and making them WANT to see what happens. But Rogue Galaxy doesn't. It falls into the trap so many other RPGs do and ends up boring.
The mechanics of the game are by no means perfect, but they're certainly passable - there are some interesting (read: dull) features such as combining weapons - in some frog's mouth - the revelation chart, insect breeding and some other bits and bobs. It's nice, and it provides some welcome distractions when the random battles get to be too much. But it just isn't anything worthwhile - there's nothing in the little extras that compels you to come back, and when the reason you're exploring these superfluous aspects of the game is because the main experience is either boring or frustrating, well: it just isn't a good thing.
It's an annoying one - Rogue Galaxy looks lovely. Utterly gorgeous at times. The setting seems ideal and has lured in more than enough people with promises alone. Presentation-wise things are generally very good (we'll ignore the ridiculously bad dialogue, though) and initially the game looks like it will be a treat - not a classic, but something to remember. Then the hours tick by, it still looks pretty, the voices are beginning to grate and you realise you just cannot be bothered in the slightest. There's no drive to finish anything, there's not impetus on exploration, you don't feel rewarded enough for putting the time in. It just feels exactly how a game shouldn't - pointless.