At its core, Septerra Core rocks–leisurely

Septerra Core
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Septerra Core arrived at GiN headquarters with a special request: Let Michael Cheek review it. I don’t think this was an example of "Let Mikey review it; he’ll review anything." You see, I’m not the role-playing game reviewer. I look at DVDs and puzzle games for the most part, and Septerra Core is neither. In fact, I’m not that fond of RPGs since many tend to be complex and unforgiving for a methodical player like myself. Moreover, when building characters, I can never get the balance just right between character’s attributes.

But I launched into Septerra Core and found I just might like this particular kind of RPG.

Okay, I admit it: Mikey liked it.

With a strong plot, some puzzles and compelling graphics, Septerra Core offers extended amusement that keeps the player engaged. It’s not purely a turn-based RPG or shoot-em-up game. Septerra Core is something a little different, with plot, characters, puzzles and battles. It almost lends itself to an interactive, graphical novel.

While the press materials said it should take 80-hours-plus to finish the game, I’ve been playing well beyond 80 hours and have yet to make it to the end. (which is why this review is a little late)

Part of the reason for the length of play might be the duration of battles. To attack enemies, your characters must charge up energy. The longer the wait, the more powerful the attack. That, I did not mind.

But the attacks are pretty much all the same. Especially when invoking magic–known as Fate cards–some attacks take several seconds. And graphically, the attacks appeared all the same. It would have been nice if Septerra Core offered a little more variation.

The interface acts relatively straightforward without intricate keystrokes. Almost everything is accessible by using a mouse. The 640-by-480 pixel resolution doesn’t seem quite so low–although there were times I wished a bit more real estate made it to the screen.

Characters and illustration incorporate a nod to Japanese anime, although some of the more dynamic, seizure-inducing components are missing.

Navigation is pretty simple, although I wished a variety of minor settings to make it easier. First, when traveling long distances without resistance, I could have moved instantly without going through every single step. Second, setting some character defaults, like always running rather than walking, would have sped up game play.

Despite its sluggish nature, Septerra Core’s plot moves using movies and more to keep the player current.

In fact, I found the religious-laden back-story for Septerra Core fascinating, although I thought it went a heavy handed naming one historical character a "begotten son" (for those of you not familiar with Christian teachings, the most quoted verse in the New Testament, John 3:16, includes the phrase "begotten son" in reference to Jesus.)

Characters arrive fully rendered. Changes for characters occur only as you purchase items to upgrade arsenal, armor, speed and limited magical qualities. Each excursion is limited to three characters at a time–yours, a female named Maya–and two others you can select. Although I’ve not finished playing, I’ve found that by building up gold and experience, the game isn’t particularly challenging, although figuring out how to kill some higher-end bounty can provide some difficulties.

Battles also lack a particular strategic nature. When battles begin, you’re stuck in one place. You can’t move. But in this, comes a benefit. You can attack any enemy, no matter that enemy’s location. Then again, each enemy can attack you.

Puzzles were not particularly complex, although some made play more enjoyable since solutions could be rather subtle. On one puzzle, I needed a creature’s blood, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it. It turns out I had all the items required, but piecing together the sequence and how they fit together turned into a challenge that, logically, I was eventually able to solve. (Here’s a hint for players: These creatures will eat their own "young.")

I played Septerra Core in several environments, even taking it on the road with me using a notebook computer. I never had any technical glitches, although sometimes audio could lag behind screen action; it didn’t matter whether I was on the notebook or my PC, sometimes sound just did not catch up.

I did like the ability to install all of the required files onto the hard drive, although that didn’t solve the audio problem. Being able to leave the CD-ROM at home made taking Septerra Core on the road more bearable since the spinning CD didn’t suck up battery power on a coast-to-coast flight.

Septerra Core has got a lot going for it–fun, logical and engaging. I just wish the game play was a bit faster so I could add "action-packed" to that list.

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