Friday, June 20, 2008

Gamer's Diary - Star Ocean 3? More Like Ennui Ocean 3

I think that the publisher subtitled Star Ocean 3 with Till The End of Time not because the story takes the characters to the end of the universe, nor because the main characters have a love that lasts forever, but because it will take you that long to get through the interminable interactive cutscenes.

Seldom have I seen characters take so many words to say so little. And I found on many occasions that between snippets of conversation that the characters would pause. And do nothing. For 15 to 30 seconds. I kid you not. They did not emote. They did not make funny faces. They did not say things with body language. They did not engage in fisticuffs or greco-roman wrestling matches. They. Did. Nothing.


I said last time that I would be able to reach the first save point within five minutes of being handed control of the character. I made a mistake. It took more like half an hour. That doesn't count the half hour I spent in the battle tutorial. It was the cutscenes that slowed me down, including one that was mandatory for getting to the invasion event.

I have a theory about what happened. Play-testing revealed that players could complete the game in 20 hours. Marketing could not accept a length less than the 40 hours standard for RPGs. Some genius bigwig stood up in a focus group meeting and said, "I know! Cutscenes take up half our game's length. Let's just make them three times as long, and players will take 40 hours to get to the end." No one dared challenge the bigwig's logic, and so here we stand.

At this point, with a couple of hours of gameplay under my belt, I have trouble understanding the positive reviews this title garnered from the gaming press. Perhaps RPG reviewers, inured to this kind of padding, didn't even notice. Perhaps the publisher leaned on them to give good reviews. Or perhaps they were just such Square Enix fanboys that their slavish brand devotion colored their opinions and blinded them to the game's faults.

I don't know. What I do know is that I will give this game a couple more hours of gameplay to engage me, and if it does not, I'll put it on the list of games I give away to my friends.

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