Wednesday, August 01, 2007

GODS: Lands of Infinity Special Edition Review

GODS: Lands of Infinity Special Edition, developed by Cypron Studios and published by Strategy First.
The Good: Some innovative features, good performance
The Not So Good: No tutorial, trading is tedious and required, basic AI, hardly any loot, use of action points in combat seems extraneous, small world
What say you? A trade heavy role playing game that’s unmistakably average: 5/8

A good piece of advice from one of my favorite movies: “when someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes.” Games in which you play a god are quite popular, from the strategy genre to management games like The Sims. Role playing games are no exception, and that brings us to GODS: Lands of Infinity. You play a god made human (or less powerful) trying to gather other gods from around the land to rise up and finish the game. I get to play the Special Edition because, as Ralph Wiggum says, “I’m special!” I never played the original game, so I’ll be reviewing the game as a whole, not just the special edition’s additions. How will GODS: Lands of Infinity set itself apart from other RPGs?

The graphics of GODS: Lands of Infinity Special Edition are quite nice. Now, they are not up to the level of Oblivion or even Morrowind, but the environment of the game is well designed and believable. The towns have a nice architectural style and it feels like you are in a functional city. The water effects are very nice, the character models are detailed, and the combat effects induce a pleasing amount of chaos. Apparently, the graphics in the Special Edition are improved, but since I never played the Non-Special Edition I can’t speak to these improvements (remember, I’m special). Overall, I thought the graphics looked decent enough and they run smoothly one a relatively wide range of systems. The sound is average for the genre with appropriate battle effects. Some of the dialogue in the game is voiced, usually the first line of important conversations. Overall, GODS: Lands of Infinity features reasonable graphics and sound for the genre.

So what’s so special about the Special Edition? Well, there are improved graphics, alchemy, songs, sound effects, weapons, armor, and a hot chick. In short, if you own the original game, there is no reason to purchase the Special Edition; it’s really designed for newcomers to the game. GODS: Lands of Infinity follows the story of a hot chick that was once a god, but now has lost her powers and must start over from the beginning. There isn’t any character customization or class choosing in the game: everybody starts with the same stats and jobs are chosen and improved by paying the appropriate NPC. Your character is rated in the usual areas (strength, dexterity, intelligence, vitality, luck) and also given health and mana levels for combat and magic. One interesting aspect of GODS: Lands of Infinity is the need to ingest food and water over time to keep healthy. You will also be rated in several defensive areas, showing your ability to prevent crushing or fire attacks (to name a couple). There are three NPCs in the game world that must be contacted to increase your fighter, alchemy, or mage level. Upgrades cost gold (or items for alchemy) that can be earned through trade or completing missions. Higher level characters can wield better weapons and use more advanced attacks.

There are a number of side quests in the game to complete, most of which are initiated by finding stationary characters that aren’t merchants. Almost all of these involve either killing something or retrieving an item, so there aren’t a great variety of missions. The Lands of Infinity and not quite infinite, as the game world is actually quite small and it doesn’t take too long to go through the entire game, especially if you know what you are doing. There isn’t a tutorial in the game, but if you’ve played any other role playing game, then GODS: Lands of Infinity will be straightforward. Quest locations aren’t shown on the local maps, but the towns they are in are pretty clear. Travel between the different villages scattered around the world is instantaneous, so there are no tedious long-distance walking. You will need to camp every night to recover your health and since your vision is reduced (some god you are). GODS: Lands of Infinity features a typical inventory system that is easy enough to use.

The major focus of the game is trade, which is not very fun to do. The key of trading is to find a manufacturer of a good and then sell it to somebody who is willing to buy it. Problem is that the prices and needs never change, so once you discover one profitable pairing, you just do it over and over and over again. Trade is required in the game since enemy units never drop anything cool when they are killed. It also takes a while to find people who will buy certain goods; although regular townsfolk will say where good manufacturers are located, most of your goods will need to be sold to the boat traders for a much lower profit than if you found a store. There is no dynamic AI in the towns and merchants are always at their post; this makes it easy to find people, but makes the game environment feel less alive. There are a lot of goods to buy: swords, hammers, armor, jewelry, spells, and recipes for potions. Again, almost all of these things can’t be found on fallen enemies and must be purchased in the towns from traders. This puts a lot of emphasis on trade, which is unfortunate because it’s boring and tedious.

The battles in the game are turn-based, much like the Final Fantasy series. Each turn, you can choose an attack, spell, item from your inventory, a formation change, or defend an attack. Complicating the process is the use of action points that prevents you from attacking every turn and requires you to defend (usually resulting in just as much damage) every couple of turns. The AI doesn’t seem to play by the same rules, as I rarely noticed them defending on any turn. The enemies you will encounter have a very basic AI that usually consists of attacking and the occasional spell. The combat is not very exciting and it lasts a really long time; the enemies are very powerful when you start a new game and you’ll need a constant supply of health potions just to survive against even the most basic foe.

Although it has a couple of innovations, GODS: Lands of Infinity is mostly by-the-numbers and it comes with a number of problems that prevent it from being much fun. All of the basics of a role playing game are here: spells, weapons, leveling up, side quests, and so on. The importance of trade in the game is unfortunate since shuttling beer or fish back and forth between towns is a job not suitable for a god. In most role playing games, goods are gathered from fallen enemies and sold for a profit instead of having to buy and sell goods, but GODS: Lands of Infinity hardly has any good stuff to collect after battles. The game is difficult to begin with because of strong enemies for low-level characters and the use of action points that restrict your ability to defeat enemies. The graphics are fine enough and the game runs smoothly, but there is really no reason to play this game over more well-rounded role playing games.