Long before the times of huge, sprawling real-time RPGs, a simpler form of role playing game took form in Japan. Back then a turn-based battle system and dynamic story were crucial elements in building a great RPG. They eventually found their way into the US market to wide acclaim: Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and others. For the longest time, this style of RPG was almost the only way they were made. That is, until the market became flooded with MMOs and open world real-time RPGs such as Elder Scrolls, Fable and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Lost Odyssey attempted to lead the way in reviving the slowly dying turn-based play style. In the years since, the traditional RPG has made a bit of a comeback, especially in Japan. Lost Odyssey helped to prove that these types of games still had merit and were enjoyable to play.
You play as Kaim Argonar, a 1000 year old immortal who has no recollection of his past. You start off being the only survivor from a meteor strike and are sent on a journey to investigate how it happened. Along the way you enlist the help of other immortals to aid you in your quest. Before long, you realize your quest has been in vain. As the memories of the immortals start to return, they learn they have been betrayed and must seek revenge.
Lost Odyssey uses the Unreal 3 engine to deliver some stunning visuals both during gameplay and in the many cut scenes that you will encounter. The characters are rendered brilliantly, pushing this story-driven game in a direction that only a RPG can deliver. Cut scenes flood the gameplay experience; you will spend about as much time watching them as you will be playing the actual game — which is not necessarily a bad thing.
The biggest gripe is all the load times that you encounter. Loading from area to area is a given, but some load times before battles and between cut scenes are horrendous and dramatically slows the pace. You would think that with four discs this would not be an issue, but it still is.
The sound design is something that will rival many RPGs of its kind. The classical piano music really sets the tone for Lost Odyssey and creates a powerful atmosphere. The voice talent is less inspiring. There are some voice actors who really nail their parts, but others just do not cut it and are really boring. Kaim’s actor seems boring but that is who Kaim is at the beginning. As the game moves on, you see a different Kaim and you can tell by how his voice changes. However, you do not get this from most of the characters. There are plenty of one-liners from Jansen, who also pulls off the comic relief in Lost Odyssey. Love him or hate him, he will make you laugh on more than one occasion.
As I stated earlier, Lost Odyssey is a traditional RPG with turn-based gameplay. Lost Odyssey puts its own spin on things and makes strategy a key function of the game. Not only are you allowed up to five characters in your party at once but you are able to select your formation, which adds offensive and defensive elements to your strategy. The front line is normally your tank characters, while the back line is primarily your mages. While characters in the back may still be directly attacked, the damage on them is limited as long as they have people in front of them. The same goes for your enemies as well. They will have a formation that makes certain creatures harder to hit so you will have to take out the front first and work your way back.
When characters die in battle you have plenty of items to revive them and regenerate health and magic, but you only have to do this for your mortal party members. When an immortal dies, they are automatically revived a few turns later, helping to save items. Of course, if you need them right away, you will revive them, but that is just something that I have found helpful.
Lost Odyssey throws in a ring building system that allows you to create rings with different abilities that are completely interchangeable pending the situation. The rings can do anything from increase your attack power to allow the use of black magic. There are also many items and upgrades throughout the game that will increase different stats. There are a decent amount of side-quests as well, which will keep you busy for some time as long as you are thorough in your run through.
What is also intriguing is that your immortal characters do not learn new skills as they level up. Instead, they earn new abilities through skill linking off of a non-immortal character. You set a skill link of the skill you wish to learn and after a couple of battles you are able to use the ability as long as you have an open slot available for it.
Even though the game is four discs, do not think that you are getting 100 hours of gameplay out of Lost Odyssey. The bulk of each disc is in the numerous cut scenes that you will encounter. Only expect to receive a 30-40 hour experience that will include many interesting battles, characters, and plot twists.
Lost Odyssey is definitely one of the better RPGs on the early Xbox 360. It is right up there with the likes of Mass Effect and Oblivion while being entirely different. If you are a fan of traditional RPGs, or are new to the way turn based RPGs work, Lost Odyssey will definitely open your eyes to just how enjoyable they can be once again.