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Odin Sphere: not drinking the kool-aid

posted on July 17th, 2007 by chris

Odin Sphere was released to a slew of rave reviews. Several called it the best PS2 RPG in years, and game forums everywhere were filled with topics full of praise.

A couple weeks ago I convinced myself I should try it out. And, in fact, for a while it was impressive. The graphics are quite nice, the voice options are great, and the story is enjoyable. The game is quite smooth, and controls pretty well.

You’ll notice I left out the actual system behind the game. It felt okay for the first couple hours. I figured I’d get used to it, and that soon enough I’d be planting Muggles and Napples in the heat of battle with the best of them.

Unfortunately, I am now another ten hours in and still don’t see the appeal of the system. Fighting is simple enough, but when you have to hold off dozens of enemies at once it becomes incredibly hectic. When you realize that you’re letting precious Phozons go to waste by taking so long fighting them, you frantically search through your inventory for that Napple seed you’d been saving.
Here’s where Odin Sphere makes its first mistake: inventory management. If done well, it’s nearly transparent – or unnecessary. If done poorly, it makes a game very stressful.

Which led to a thought. I’ve been working 60 hours a week lately (thankfully no longer). When I come home and play a game or two to relax, I don’t want to have to fuss over whether that Turny or Carroteer I just found will fit into my overstuffed pack.
Strategic decisions? Sure. But I don’t see the strategy in deciding to throw away either this seed or that bone. I see it as a distraction to the otherwise fast-paced, action-esque nature of Odin Sphere. Even mixing potions – obviously made to be simple interface-wise – can become an exercise in futility, as the “mixed” potion appears on the ground in front of you to be picked up. In the middle of a battle, it puts you at risk. Outside a battle, it’s still annoying.

Don’t get me wrong. I still enjoy the game, but it’s mostly for the plot and the action – and not the minutiae that seem to serve only to distract you from both.

5 Comments

  1. Christian said on July 17, 2007:

    We should dual review this. The game is solid, and I actually like the combat. Simple is good, hectic can be (mostly) good. It feels more like an action game than an RPG, something I think we all need in the genre. The inventory is a pain in the ass. Sometimes I can’t find something I know I have, the alchemy is a little too complicated for battlefield brewing. Even the currency system isn’t simple and straightforward. Its like they took the bloat out of the main parts of the game and had to store it elsewhere, in systems we usually don’t care much about.

  2. jay said on July 17, 2007:

    Dual review? Freudian slip or said on purpose?

  3. TrueTallus said on July 17, 2007:

    A dual review! I demand a dual review! (Seriously. The game has been sitting unopened on my shelf ever since I bought it in a bout of drooling 2d graphic whore hysteria, and now I’ve been wondering if the game itself is all it’s cracked up to be. The last time I took home a 2d game for its looks, I ended up with Shining Tears. Yeah.)

  4. jay said on July 17, 2007:

    Damn it, you did say dual review, not duel review. I imagined you guys duking it out but apparently I need to learn English. And TT, did you see my Shining Tears review?

  5. TrueTallus said on July 17, 2007:

    Yeah. I’d already bought the game at that point, but it felt comforting to read something so vicious (and hilarious). Most reviewers were content to call the game mediocre (which I took to mean I could enjoy the game despite it’s flaws), but as we both know it was a lot closer to vomitously awful.

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