.hack//Infection - Review

An RPG about RPGs
By: Eakin3

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 7
   Music & Sound 8
   Originality 10
   Story & Plot 6
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy
   Completion Time 20-25 Hours  

Don't worry: it's only VIRTUAL lava!
Don't worry: it's only VIRTUAL lava!

   The first installment of the .hack series (Infection is volume 1 of 4) introduces us to an entirely new kind of RPG. The entire game takes place within "The World," a simulation of an MMORPG. Unfortunately, while the premise and story work fairly well, .hack//Infection suffers from a number of frustrating flaws in the battle and camera system. What we are left with is an above-average RPG, but nothing spectacular.

   You play as Kite, a new player in The World. Your friend, Orca, is an experienced player who offers to show you the basics of the game. During this tutorial, Orca is attacked and destroyed by a mysterious, powerful monster. Kite logs out to find that the kid playing Orca has fallen into a coma. Endowed with the power to "Data Drain", the same power that destroyed Orca, Kite sets out to discover the truth behind "The World". Although the set up is great, the story really doesn't go anywhere after the first hour or so. In addition, plot points are reached by going through fairly repetitive dungeons for little reward. The plot raises tons of questions without ever answering any of them. If this were a stand-alone RPG, I would give the story a much lower grade. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt, though, since it is the first of four games.

   This is the most original game I've seen in a long time. The NPCs all act like people who are playing the game, occasionally breaking character when you talk to them. Your allies will even send you e-mail about themselves and their lives outside the game. Most of the game mechanics are explained on the message board included in The World, and it's a good source of sub quests and special keywords for fields. However, once you actually go to a dungeon, the feeling of being in an MMORPG breaks down. Every dungeon is essentially the same. There are never any other players in the dungeons you explore, and your allies only have a few lines of text, which get old fast. Still, this game is miles ahead of games like Final Fantasy in terms of originality.

   The game interface is fairly simple and menu-driven. It's pretty simple to issue orders, buy equipment, trade, etc. However, because the game is paused whenever a menu is opened and you have to go through two or three menus to cast spells or use skills, the number of menus often bogs down battles. Overall, the interface is pretty good, but not without flaws.

Welcome to The World
Welcome to The World

   The battle system, unfortunately, is not so wonderful. Most melee units are limited to charging at an enemy and rapidly mashing the X button until they go down. There is only one basic attack, which quickly becomes repetitive. Allies won't do anything but attack without explicit orders to do so. It would have been nice to see your magic-users cast their spells automatically, or allies heal themselves when they get into trouble. To use skills and items, you have to go through the menu system, which can take a while. I ended up spending more time in the menus than fighting. Another issue is the camera system. You have total control of the camera, but you can only target enemies you can see. This is a problem in hectic battles when you have to heal someone or target an enemy quickly. A few hotkeys and a slightly improved AI would go a long way.

   Visually, the game is pretty strong. The Data Drain sequence is a personal favorite, as are the "damaged" areas where random lines of computer code scroll across the fields and the screen flickers. The graphics do a fairly good job of preserving the "anime" look of the series. Other than a few special effects, though, the graphics are nothing special. They look good, but they can't compete with visual behemoths like FFX.

   The game sounds pretty good. The voice acting is perfectly fine, and if you don't like it the developers even included the original Japanese voice tracks. Each field has slightly different music and battle themes. This is great for people who get sick of the same music over and over during the course of the game. None of the tracks are really special, though, and the music is ultimately forgettable.

Gee, you think this place sells weapons?
Gee, you think this place sells weapons?

   The game is not particularly difficult to beat, as there are a number of cheap tactics that allow you to sit back and let your partners do all the work. However, if you try to go directly from plot point to plot point without leveling up in between, you will be in trouble. Fortunately, the keyword system lets you generate fields of any difficulty level you want at any time, so leveling isn't that painful. After you beat the last boss, there is an optional boss to beat and several images and movies that can be unlocked. In addition, all your data is "flagged" and can be transferred to the next game in the series, so there is an incentive to hunt down the best equipment and level up after the game ends. The story portion of the game ends quickly, though. Most gamers shouldn't take longer than 25 hours to get through it.

   Overall, we are left with a fairly good RPG. The incredibly original concept and the excellent presentation of the MMORPG environment make up for a repetitive battle system and the short length. The primary purpose of this game is to draw the player in enough to buy volume 2. While the high price tag ($50, includes a DVD with the game) may discourage some players, this game is definitely worth at least a rental.

<- Back
© 1998-2017 RPGamer All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy