Orphen: Scion of Sorcery
Does the term "launch game" send shivers down your back? Does it instantly conjure up thoughts of video game garbage? I would love to tell you that you are wrong, but I can't. Orphen: Scion of Sorcery, a launch game, is an adventure/RPG that looks beautiful but falls painfully short.
Does anyone remember the game Dark Savior for the Sega Saturn? Dark Savior seamlessly blended RPG elements with real-time traps and high adventure. Orphen tries to do the same thing, but just can't put it together. A hybrid game, Orphen follows the adventures of Orphen (of course), his young friends Magnus and Cleo, and the other unfortunate souls who are stranded on Chaos Island. Do you time travel? Yes. Do you fight monsters? Yes. Are you annoyed senseless by the characters' interaction? Yes, but since I had to write this review, you could at least read it.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
As I booted up Orphen, I was treated to a first-class animated intro. In it, we are introduced to Orphen, our hero; Magnus, his young apprentice; and Cleo, Orphen's self-proclaimed partner. Our three adventurers are walking through town when they are accosted by Volcan and his younger brother Dortin. Volcan owes Orphen money from a past debt, and the only way for Orphen to get his money back is to accompany Volcan and Dortin to a far-off land. In typical and predictable fashion, Volcan books passage on the wrong vessel and soon our group is in the middle of a storm with a particularly large sea monster trying to destroy the ship. The battle between Orphen and the sea serpent is extremely cool. This part of the game is the best, hands down, and why the game makers decided not to continue in this vein is beyond me. If this three-minute battle laid the foundation for this game, it would be a must buy ' alas, 15 minutes into the game you have seen the best part.
As our adventure continues, Orphen and either Magnus or Cleo (you select) are dumped on Chaos Island and thrust into a boring adventure that involves helping out the other shipwrecked dregs who managed to swim to shore. I chose Magnus and we subsequently ran into Sephy, who is on Chaos Island because her fiancé died there after his attempts at fortune hunting. Is she there to find the elusive magical item that was her fiancé's undoing? Is she there to die, so that she may rest eternally with her one true love? Did I care? No. Why? Because Orphen lacks an essential element ' character development. The reason we don't care about the plight of Sephy or any of the other characters is because there is no depth in their makeup. Who cares about paper-thin heroes and their problems? It is not because we are heartless or unsympathetic ' it's merely because the game makers haven' given us enough information to identify with the characters or their plight. Games like Final Fantasy VII were excellent because of involved character development and our ability to relate to and empathize with the characters.
Orphen has two main modes: battle mode and story mode. Battle mode enables you to fight monsters using all your acquired abilities ' projectile attacks, elemental attacks, sword attack, and defensive magic if you so choose. As a battle starts you can press a button to choose an attack, and in some cases hold down the button for longer periods in an attempt to build up more power for your attack. Example: Pressing the button for the "Hand of Pyro" (fireball attack) will launch a single shot at an enemy, but holding down the same button for a couple of seconds will power up the attack and a group of fireballs will be shot. This is an effective way to take on multiple enemies or really large monsters (e.g. the aforementioned sea serpent). Pressing the elemental attack once will shoot lightning, but holding it down long enough will call forth an elemental spirit who will do much greater damage. Of course, this all depends on whether or not you were hit by an enemy while powering up. If you are hit, you lose your big attack and must start over. On the plus side, sometimes during a battle you can target objects in range (barrels, chandeliers) and if you are good enough you can shoot one of those items which might cause massive amounts of damage to your enemy (i.e.. barrels explode, chandeliers fall).
The second mode is story mode, similar to a third-person shooter. However, you cannot use any of your battle magic in this mode, only your sword and the generic white magic ball that shoots. I cannot understand why the game makers did not enhance the story mode like they had the battle mode, or allow the player to switch between the two modes. In story mode Orphen often says to his compatriots, "This looks dangerous, catch up with me later." Why would the strongest of the party willingly leave his young friends alone in a spooky, monster-infested dungeon unless he wanted them to be eaten? Hmmmm. Anyway, as Orphen runs around a la Lara Croft, real-time traps are put in his way. You know the traps: swinging pendulums, rolling spiky balls, etc. The problem with this is Orphen's jumping ability. Orphen can jump 14 feet straight up, but only five feet across ' and this does not change throughout the entire game. The control for jumping is quirky and unrealistic. For example, when Orphen falls into a giant hole 100 feet deep, he sustains no damage ' no twisted ankles, ruptured spleens, etc.; he just starts over. In contrast, if Orphen falls 10 inches off a pier into the water, he is injured and you must heal him. Examples like this beg the question, 'Why was the consistency in Orphen routinely ignored?'?
Unfortunately, there are other problems with this game. There is no way to determine Orphen's health while running around. I might fall into the water and take damage, but I can't tell how much damage. Do I need to use the emerald incense which heals 10 health points, or do I use the blue incense which heals 30? I don't know. There is no way to tell if I am at full strength or barely clinging to life, which makes this shoddy game even more frustrating. If you take a hit in battle, a series of blue crystal-shaped items pop up on the screen for 1/80th of a nanosecond indicating how much life you have left. So what should you do if you're about to die? Take some incense? No. All you have to do is press pause and shift around your magic if you want to. When you unpause, Orphen is fully healed while the monster he was fighting is at the same heath level. What were these people thinking?
On a final note, I honestly believe you watch the cut scenes almost as much as you play the game. There are a ton of them, and they get tiresome quickly.
Here is where the game shines. Orphen looks good, with both animated and polygon cut scenes. Monsters look mean and nasty, and effects from magic and explosions live up to the power of the PS2. Environments were obviously not given as much attention as battle, but they too look better then average. I experienced no lag even when my party was fighting eight different monsters and everything was moving at the same time. As far as audio goes, the action noises were average and the voice acting was painful. Between Magnus' whining and Cleo's crabbiness, I didn't know who deserved to be hit with the Hand of Pyro first (sadly, the game wouldn't let me).
Lack of character development, consistency, good voice acting, and any sort of entertainment makes Orphen an abysmal experience. It has decent graphics and is nice to look at, but it certainly isn't any fun to play. The only reason it gets a 65 is the graphics; otherwise I would have scored it in the 40s as it is truly that terrible. At best, this is a rental ' don't waste your money buying it.