E3 2008: Infinite Undiscovery Hands-On Impressions

We take a step into the infinite with Square Enix's new 360 role-playing game.

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While the Final Fantasy XIII announcement ate up a lot of attention at this year's E3, Square Enix brought along plenty more role-playing game goodness to the show. One such delectable morsel was Infinite Undiscovery, the upcoming Xbox 360 role-playing game from the creators of the Star Ocean series. We took some time to explore the game and learn more about the combat and what makes everything tick.

The world of Infinite Undiscovery is stressed by turmoil because a group known as the Order of the Chains has physically anchored the moon in place, which is causing all sorts of natural disasters and other big problems. It's apparently a bid by Leonid, Dreadknight and leader of the Order, to become a god. One mighty hero rises up against the evil, and that's Sigmund, a strong young man who has earned the adoration of the people. But this isn't the main character of the story--that role falls to Capell, a minstrel who happens to have the unfortunate gift of being identical in appearance to the hero of the resistance. When the Order happens upon poor Capell, he gets promptly shipped off to prison. We saw a portion of a cutscene where Capell begs with a guard for a little food, since he'd been locked up for about three days at that point and was getting a little peckish. The scene was acted out in-engine and had a nice flow to it.

When we took control for our play session, Capell was out of incarceration and running around the countryside with the adorable scamps Rico and Rucha in tow. These two youngsters have the appearance of munchkins but can certainly hold their own in a fight, which we quickly sought out. We entered a rocky crevasse and started to troll for monsters.

The area at first appeared barren as we ran around, until we spotted a dark cavern off to the side with something gleaming in the distance. As we entered, the dark was all-encompassing and we had just enough time to reach the gleaming object (a lever of some sort) before we triggered a short cutscene showing a whole lot of glowing red eyes in the ceiling above. Bats. Very mean, very angry bats, with teeth that were larger than strictly necessary.

As it turned out, the lever we discovered somehow controlled the lighting in the cavern, and when we flipped the switch we could see a lot better. Unfortunately, what we saw was a whole cave full of rabid bats bearing down on us, so we drew our weapons and leapt into the fray. We controlled Capell directly, while Rico and Rucha stuck to their AI settings and held their own. With a weapon out, we had a few different options. The A button served as a quick attack, letting us get in basic melee swings at the target. The B button was bound to a power attack called Spinning Waltz, and Capell would become a whirling dervish for a short time, hitting all enemies in his immediate vicinity. Even without directly controlling the other two characters, you can still instruct them to perform special attacks. Hitting the right bumper activates the "connect" option, letting you choose between one of your two teammates. Hit the button of your selection and then you're connected to that character. Your X and Y buttons are then remapped to two connect attacks that you can direct your teammate to perform at any time. This lets you hook up some devastating combo attacks where you whack away at a foe while your ally fires up an ability.

Continuing into the dungeon, we found a large group of cobra-like snakes surrounding a giant skeletal shrine of an even larger serpent. When we went to engage the group, we approached it from behind and were able to start attacking before we were seen; a question mark ("?") symbol appeared over their heads when we did so. The transition from running around to fighting is seamless, much like it was in the game Final Fantasy XII, though the targeting system in this game features a large red reticle that makes it easy to determine which monster you're focusing on at any given time.

Visually, the game looks great, with large character models and lots of armor and weapon detail and with a satisfying light show when you engage in special attacks. Animations are smooth, and guiding your characters around to fight monsters seems so far to be a good combination of quick button combinations and simple moves that you don't have to go digging through a menu to access. While we saw only a very small portion of the world itself, even the simple cave that we explored was rich in light and shadow, culminating in the serpent skeleton with a skull lightly wreathed in flickering flame.

We definitely haven't seen enough of Infinite Undiscovery, which is currently due to arrive at the very beginning of September on North American shores. Capell and friends will be waiting until then, and we'll be sure to shackle all news to this gamespace for easy discovery.

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