Infinite Space (DS) Review
SEGA sure is deserving of some praise from the “hardcore” gamer crowd. If not for their efforts in releasing mature games on the Wii or their penchant for keeping retro gaming alive, this new real-time space combat DS game is another offering from SEGA to save the dedicated gamer from a market of disposable handheld games.
Infinite Space crams all the technical aspects of a real-time space combat simulator with the story and dialogue of a JRPG into one small DS cartridge. It’s a huge game set in the vast voids of space that does an impressive job of cramming a lot of content onto the DS. The story follows the adventures of Yuri, a young protagonist of ambiguous gender (he is referred to as a male so I’ll go with that) who follows a string of JRPG clichés into the stars and beyond in an epic adventure entailing exploring and surviving the dangers of space.
Navigating the deep galaxies is a perilous affair, done through plotting a course along maps as players explore from planet to planet, investigating taverns and space ports through a never-ending stream of menus. The game sticks almost entirely to menu options and dialogue trees in a manner familiar to space combat games (Freelancer comes to mind) where most of the fun outside of combat is found in ship customisation and exploration.
There is a huge learning curve in Infinite Space, and by the second chapter you’re thrown straight into the deep end of ship building and re-modelling, staff management, fleet arrangement and all sorts of space tasks. There are a lot of menu screens and it doesn’t help that nearly everything is abbreviated down to fit onto the DS screen. With so many options and so little space, a lot of the menu options are crammed together making it very confusing until you learn what everything means, and with so many sub-menus this is no easy feat. The manual included has a brief summary on most of the terms but not exactly what to do with each aspect of a ship and what repercussions they will have on battle. It’s also hard to see the instant reflection of your changes or upgrades, so without the instant gratification of levelling up, it’s hard to discern which direction to take your vessel in.
The level of customisation for ships is remarkable. Every facet of a spaceship is under the command of the player who assigns and arranges the manner in which ship components are purchased and placed, all of which will have an independent factor on a ship’s performance. When it comes to combat, things aren’t quite so complicated as attack commands boil down to a fairly simple rock-paper-scissors type of game.
There aren’t a lot of commands in battle but that doesn’t stop most fights from providing quite a challenge. Movement is on a 2D plane as the player commands a fleet of vessels simultaneously to either move forward, backward, or wait on the spot for the next command. Attacking abilities are various with the most powerful Barrage ability being countered by the Dodge, and the Normal attack is always a good back up. There’s a lot of strategy involved in picking when to attack, when to move, who exactly to attack and what with, including commander special abilities and another set of melee attack commands.
With so much content in one DS game, it’s nice to see the production values haven’t taken a back seat. The opening animated cutscene and occasional use of voice acting sure confirms this. In game, the fully 3D visuals are actually quite good – each ship is well detailed and each planet surface has a unique panoramic backdrop that adds an immersive feel to space exploration. It’s to be expected though since the world is explored mostly through menus. In battles, there isn’t a lot going on aside from the tedious and drawn out cutscenes panning around ships before each and every attack. They’re skippable though, and so are the canned destruction animations for numerous ships that explode in the exact same manner as the last.
With all that content, throw in a local multiplayer mode and that’s a lot of time to sink into Infinite Space. The size of the game is huge and it’ll take you a while to get your bearings. There is a lot for you budding space adventurers to sink your teeth into. Novice space combat simulation players may have a hard time getting into it, as while the combat is easy enough to pick up, the intense level of ship maintenance will require a high level of dedication to mini menus and stat graphs. But if that’s your thing, then you should definitely give Infinite Space a look.
Impressive backdrops but too many repeated animations.
Expansive and immersive but the learning curve is a big hindrance.
Epic music with the occasional voice acting makes a commendable audio package
Online would have been great but the story is huge enough.
The deep ship management unfortunately corners a somewhat niche market.