January 3, 2001
After the delay of THQ's Summoner to January 2001 RPG fans are only left with one choice on Playstation 2, Activision's Orphen: Scion of Sorcery. This game, developed by Lunar creators Kadokawa Shoten, is a very Japanese styled RPG with a lot of anime graphics and cut-scenes. Orphen: Scion of Sorcery is actually based on the Japanese anime movie of the same name although I can't say that I have even heard of it. Those of you who have seen and liked the movie should enjoy this game, in theory at least.
The story is as follows. Orphen, who is the main character, was dropped off at the Tower of Fangs as a baby. This tower was inhabited by mages who brought Orphen up to be a great sorcerer. Yet Orphen detested the magic which required too much training and hard work. When he has grown up Orphen and his young student, Magnus, end up on a ship after Orphen decides to follow a get rich quick scheme. However the two of them, plus Vulkin and Dortin who tag along, end up on the wrong ship with a bunch of people who are all on separate quests. The ship is attacked by hideous sea monsters which Orphen, with his magical powers, has to battle to prove his worth. Sure enough everyone becomes shipwrecked on Chaos Island where they all continue on separate quests resulting in battles with evil forces and monsters.
After watching the intro for almost 10 minutes it was onto the game. Well should I say you manage to sit there while you meet all the characters? Exploring the ship (where you start off) results in a cut scene every minute or so, none of which can be skipped. Unfortunately this occurs through the entire game. Walk a few paces, watch a cut scene, walk a few paces, cut scene, battle monsters, cut scene, walk a few paces, cut scene etc. It becomes tiresome after only a few minutes play. These cut scenes wouldn't be so bad if they were actually interesting, but they're not. The characters are annoying and more often then not drivel on with little relevance to the plot in the game. "Oh I'm scared", "I don't wanna be here" type comments are unnecessary and a waste of time.
It doesn't take long to find yourself in a battle with some mysterious creatures. Fortunately you have several weapons, spells and shields at your disposal. Even so the battles are very confusing, tiring and at times very repetitive. Hitting your opponents seems more like a game of chance then skill. The other annoying thing is that if you are in a group while battling monsters your comrades just stand there while you do all the attacking. Why can't developers have a look at some of the great RPG's such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest and steal some of their battle techniques. Fortunately, the level design in Orphen is quite good. The game sees you progressing from one room to the next however the puzzles to be solved are quite intricate in their design. Another good point in the game is the number of weapons and items that can be collected, mainly from treasure chests littered around the levels. The vibration in the Dual Shock 2 is also put to good use during the game.
There is no doubt that the graphics are one of the highlights of the game. While never pushing the Playstation 2, the backgrounds are nice and varied as you explore the different areas. The battles, although not the best as mentioned above, are quite good graphically with all the monsters generated in 3D. Magic spells are also well animated while the monsters are varied. The one disappointment with the graphics is the cut scenes. They can be quite jerky in parts. Not what you would expect from the latest DVD system.
Orphen: Scion Of Sorcery is really let down in the sound department. Yes, the music is adequate, good even, and the sound effects acceptable. It's the voice acting that is terrible. If you ever thought that Resident Evil, Sonic Adventure or Ridge Racer V were bad, you were wrong. This game is worse then all three put together. Orphen: Scion Of Sorcery sounds like it was voiced by 5 year olds with nothing else to do. Just wait until you hear some of the lines from Magnus and Cleo. Unfortunately the lip-synching is just as abysmal as the voice acting.
If you are looking for a RPG on Playstation 2 then this is your only choice at the moment. The problem is that the game isn't that great. That said, if you are a fan of the movie then Orphen: Scion Of Sorcery may be a bit more enticing. Unfortunately, this game isn't a patch on classic RPG's such as Square's Final Fantasy, Sega's Phantasy Star or Enix's Dragon Quest series'. Orphen could have been a lot better, but having said that it could have been a lot worse as well. Very average.