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Archived Review

Septerra Core

Set in a distant futuristic world a struggle rages to capture the power of the great Creator, the power of a god. Members of the Chosen, ancestors of the long dead warrior Marduuk, the creator’s son, rule this world called Septerra. Made up of six shells orbiting a central core, Septerra is like a clockwork of worlds. Every so often all the outer shells align and allow the suns rays to penetrate deep into the core, thus activating a mechanism buried within and letting its powers reset the orbiting worlds so that they do not fall out of alignment. A ruthless Chosen lord, by the name of Doskias, is power hungry and looking to fulfill an age-old prophecy wherein a descendant of Marduuk will come to save Septerra and obtain the powers of the Creator himself. To achieve his ends, he plans to prematurely charge the core of Septerra, thus bringing about the conjunction. Upon achieving these ends he will swoop in and become a hero to the world in addition to obtaining godlike powers.

Much as a person would kill an insignificant ant, Doskias thinks little of the character you play, Maya. It’s doubtful if he even realizes she exists at the beginning of this little story. Maya is a junker from Shell 2 of Septerra. Spending her days searching for trash dropped from the Chosen on Shell 1, she lives a simple life. Simple, that is, until one day she sees Chosen ships in the skies above the shell. The last time such ships were in the vicinity there was great fighting. Maya was a young girl at that time and her parents were killed from the fallout of the horrible battle. Now with the background of the two main characters out of the way, let’s get on to the gaming.

Septerra Core is one of the newest CRPG’s out there today and it may be one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever played. With Anime-esque artwork (always a plus for fans of the genre) and exciting special effects and sound, this game might be one of those that takes the cake; but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. You begin the game with control of Maya, alone in the town of Oasis. Inside this quaint little town there is a weapons shop, an interesting local bar, a clothing shop and an herbal shop (this shop contains items used to heal yourself and keep your supply of Core energy (Mana) full). Once you get Maya equipped with some basic items you will be in good enough shape to venture out into the wilds of shell 2 and beyond (Insert Maniacal laugh here).

The story begins with Maya trying to discover what Tori, one of the junkers she lives with, has gotten himself into. It turns out that the boy has been smuggling weapons, and when Maya finally finds him she is mistaken for the smuggler and is forced to defend herself. Wanted by the law and desperate to discover what the details of Tori’s smuggling operations are, Maya begins to investigate and eventually she is wrapped up in saving all of the world as she knows it. She is not alone in her endeavor though; she is joined by a group of 8 more comrades through the course of the game, almost all of whom specialize in one field or another. Some are good fighters who have quite the edge in physical encounters, as well as take a good deal of damage. Other characters are more suited towards spell casting, and while they are usually not set up to take much punishment, they can deal out an enormous amount of damage. Weapons for the fighters are almost always bought in the game. Only few are really found for free. For spellcasting Fate cards are needed. Most of these are won through combat with other characters in the game, and after you defeat a major character you usually receive one of these items. There are four classes of cards all having to do with different powerful beings. One set is for Marduuk, which are generally protection spells. One set is for Kyra, Marduuk’s love, whose cards pertain to the healing variety of magic. Another deity who has a set of cards is Gemma, an evil force that was overthrown by Marduuk. His cards mainly focus on the offensive nature of spell casting and generally do the most damage. Last but not least are the cards of Dogo, the trickster, whose powers affect the reality of your players such as cloaking them or speeding up their attacks. Though these cards are powerful enough singly, if you combine three different cards you can get a much more powerful effect. Such spells range from potent heal spells where you summon the goddess Kyra herself, to Summon Fire spells that call upon three fiery dragons to deal out some mighty punishment.

Combat in the game is done through a time-based system. Each character has his/her own unique speeds and attacks. Corgan’s sword attack is much more powerful than Grubb’s staff attack, and early on in the game it makes a critical difference as your ability to wield those nifty spells really doesn’t come into play until much later in the game. When your first energy bar charges up, it indicates that you can use your weakest attack. When the second lights up you can use your medium attacks, and the same goes for the 3rd power level. Your characters can purchase newer and more devastating components for their weapons. As your level increases via your experience, your characters also achieve certain inherent skills in their higher levels. Some skills are even a result and combination of two of your party members’ love for each other, and their special attacks.

The fighting in the game is tied in to where you are and what level you should be at. So if you are on the first world shell in the beginning areas, the enemies are proportionally more difficult than what you can deal with. Later in the game when you revisit some of these areas, you can kill what once took you a fully charged assault to deal with, in one minimal energy attack. Most of the generic monsters just keep appearing at different points in the game with progressively more hit points and different names. Their colors are altered, their hit points are higher, but all in all they are still the same creatures. There are a few key enemies who really do take a pounding, and certain spells or attacks must be used against them. There are even the occasional enemies who don’t have an actual body but must be taken apart limb by limb to be destroyed. These villains add a little flavor into the overall slow fighting process. Since all it takes is a simple walk through Septerra to see how many reconstituted creatures appear, it is a very welcome change to run into something out of the ordinary.

The game, as fun as it is, tends to get extremely monotonous towards the end, becoming an exercise in running through areas and just hacking and slashing through the same old foes. Until you get past all the cut out dolls and to one of the leaders, it is way too boring. Another thing that gets very old kind of fast is the continuous backtracking to the different shells to pick up different weapons and key items. If I see Wind City again I just may blow up my computer, that’s how sick I am of it. While it does make the game longer and gives it a sense of progress, if you aren’t into backtracking your steps over and over and over again then I don’t think you are going to appreciate this game and all its nuances.

The sound definitely fits the futuristic environment and the fight music, while repetitive, is definitely worthwhile. A good soundtrack is most assuredly a good thing, because as it is heard throughout the game, and a bad sound track can ruin the experience. Another amazing thing was that for every word of dialogue Maya or anyone else in the party speaks, there is a recorded voice to go with it. This hasn’t happened in too many games that I’ve seen, but hopefully it’s a new trend that’ll be incorporated into more and more CRPG’s.

Visually the game was very eye catching. Not only are all the areas very well drawn with an eye towards detail, but some of them really have moods that go along with them. When you are in the graveyards of Shell 3 it’s downright creepy to go around dark corners and run into a pack of zombies. Most of the enemies have an initial model they are based on. This model does looks very good, but with only variation of color denoting various difficulty levels, it’s kind of lame. Nice to know however that a Chosen military unit from the beginning of the game will look the same as a Chosen unit at the end, except for maybe his or her fashion sense. Each and every spell also has an animation to go with it, some of which are very cool, such as the summoning of the earth demon humbaba.

Now comes the tough part for me to get through. The bugs in the first release of the game are insane. Crashes abound when I play it on my computer. A patch is in the works though, so these issues should be resolved. For as much time as Valkyrie Studios spent developing this game, and Monolith publishing it, it generally sucked that it had so many problems. In no way does this make it a bad game; in fact it’s one of the more immersive RPG’s I’ve played in a while. Not since Baldur’s Gate have I taken as much time out of my personal life to play any game of this type. With a patch (or two) I’m sure we will see the game come to a smooth final build.

Ok, here’s the hype. If you are looking for a new quest in your life, this is definitely a good idea for your next game purchase. Setting out with heroic tasks ahead of you, your journey as Maya and her compatriots will take many twists and turns. All your hard work pays off in the end when you’ve built your party up from scratch and obtained all the unique special weapons and awesome spells. When you face Doskias in the final showdown, you know you’re gonna beat him down. Well anyway, that’s my whole spiel about this fun and exciting game. I recommend it to those out there who need these heroic kinds of games, because being a hero is definitely what this game is all about.

Written By Dave (Werewolf) Montowski (While not writing for this magazine Werewolf searches madly for the reason why someone would become an editor. He believes that reason is whomsoever takes on such a task must be possessed by Satan himself.)



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