Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Why do people make bad video games? I can't even begin to describe how awful "Rogue Galaxy" is. In fact, I believe that if you were to smash the "Rogue Galaxy" disc into tiny shards and then drink them, you would be having approximately 35 times as much fun as you would putting the game in your PS2 and playing it.
I am a game reviewer. This means that as someone with little to no experience actually making video games, I have to judge the quality of the content in a game. I consider myself a "softcore" reviewer. If I have fun playing a game, I try to highlight that. Sometimes I make mistakes. For example, I was too harsh when reviewing "Fable." I had high expectations "Fable" didn't meet, so I panned a game that had plenty of merits. I moralized too much when reviewing "JFK Reloaded." I maintain my belief that it is a stupid, stupid game, and the creators are stupid, stupid people for thinking they could convince the world that it was a "scientific simulation" rather than a dinky shooter. I accept, however, that it had good physics, and with more levels and a different setting, it would have been a fun way to waste a few hours.
First and foremost, it lacks any sort of originality. A lot of stories these days seem to lift their premise from their influences, but "Rogue Galaxy" pushes the envelope to the point where it's really just ham-handed plagiarism. The game starts out on the planet Rosa, an arid, loosely populated desert planet. The hardy locals are under the yoke of a large invading empire, due to the important natural resources on their world. In the open desert that covers most of the planet's landmass, colossal "sandworms" devour unsuspecting travelers. If you haven't heard this before, it's a word-for-word description of the planet Arrakis, the setting for Frank Herbert's famous "Dune" series.
The plot stumbles over its own feet throughout the game. Every character is an archetype, most with no personality beyond an accent or some conspicuous feature. The dialogue is painful, and the voice actors are adequate, at best. (The exception is Steven Jay Blum, Zegram's voice actor. I have no idea what a professional like him is doing in a game like this.) Clichés abound: dark, mysterious figures intone on the potential of the young hero; the young hero reminisces about his past, as a boy with unknown parents and adventure in his heart … is this making you as sick as it makes me?
The game play is, unsurprisingly, lifted directly from the many action RPGs we've seen over the years. The player has an action bar, can jump and attack, uses items to heal himself and cure status ailments, yadda yadda, blah blah blah. "Rogue Galaxy" attempts some innovation by adding enemies who have special defenses: some you have to stomp on, some you have to attack extra hard to break their guard. Exciting? No. I'm astounded by how overpoweringly generic "Rogue Galaxy" is. Even the skill system, the "Revelation Flow" is like a cheap knockoff of the License Grid from "Final Fantasy XII." The player finds otherwise useless items, which are inserted into darkened spots on the "Flow," to unlock skills. This might have made for an interesting puzzle, but the mystery item you need for each socket is spelled out in text right above its spot. To be fair, the text is also shaded, meaning if your TV is stuck on the lowest brightness setting, it will be a regular old scavenger hunt.
The graphics, continuing the vein of banality, are cel-shaded, like the kind we've seen in plenty of other PS2 RPGs. They aren't that bad. But they aren't all that great, and they do nothing to improve the already dismal score of "Rogue Galaxy."
As far as replay goes, the first sitting of "Rogue Galaxy" was enough to put me to sleep. I couldn't imagine another round.
At the beginning of this review, I asked the question "Why do people make bad video games?" Considering the critical success of "Rogue Galaxy" both in Japan and elsewhere, the answer is obvious. Why the hell would anyone put effort into making a game when they could just plagiarize all the others and still make money?
That, if you ask me, is the worst part of all.
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