The RPG seems to be a dying breed these days. If it's not MMORPG, there just doesn't seem to be much interest. Sure the FINAL FANTASY series does well, and KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC made a stir, but it just seems the massive amount of time and energy doesn't seem to pay off in this genre unless people are paying you monthly.
But if there are no RPGs, surely there has to be demand for those few ones that make it to market, right? Microsoft tests that theory with SUDEKI, its latest offering for the Xbox. SUDEKI does some parts really well, it's a beautiful game to look at, and I particularly thought the combat engine of the game worked well. But the problem with the game is just that the story doesn't really do much to excite, in fact, it can be kind of dull.
Tal, Ailish, Elco and Buki; these are the four names you'll see a lot. The sad part is, you never really grow to care about them and in fact, they never seem to grow beyond being much more than a name and a set of polygons. There just isn't that much character growth, unlike a lot of other RPGs. If the character doesn't grow, generally the story doesn't get more interesting either.
The combat in the game is where it really stands out, and it is best when the whole team is working together. You have a pair of people who are shooters and a pair of people who fight with melee attacks. The melee attacks have a simple combo system that ends up working really well and letting you feel like a complete badass as you destroy wave after wave of enemies attacking you. Who would've thought random encounters between towns in a console RPG could be this much fun?
There are also some really cool spells that you can use called skill strikes. Of course, there is also the creatively named the spirit attack. These have to be charged up, and when they are, kiss your opponents good bye.
Besides the innovative combat, the game is pretty much the typical console RPG. Go to town, talk to people in town, find items in town, upgrade weapons, go to new location across terrain, fight random battles, get to new location, accomplish objective, go to town, wash, rinse, repeat. This isn't so bad a formula, but it seems that there is no real reason to do it all because the exposition is weak.
That's the big drawback as you don't really ever grow to care about the characters. The exposition moments seem like what you have to get through to fight bigger battles. The battles are fun and the story isn't, I'm still shaking my head after typing that.
That said, there is a good framework here for a future game. I just would like to see some more focus on the actual story and the characters. I'm a sucker for an epic story that sweeps me into 20 peoples' life and battle against an evil empire. This game doesn't even have an ending, rather it abruptly stops when you beat the final boss.
The graphics in the game are actually pretty good. The game is really colorful and I actually appreciate that, many RPGs seem to forget that color is good. The worlds are well created as well and there are few complaints about the look of SUDEKI. The score is good as well, but as with any game with voice-overs, there always ends up to be some weak points. Outside of that, the sound package works well too, and technically, SUDEKI is impressive.
But it still boils down to that story. Sure the battles are fun, the graphics are pretty, and the sound good, but it's like going through the motions without some great motive. Most people who are only casual RPG might want to rent.