Good day to you, my lovelies. First and foremost allow me to introduce to you a new segment here at The Nerd Mentality. Today will be our first entry into ‘The Dig’, where we will excavate something from our collective gaming pasts and attempt to achieve three major goals. First, we intend to provide a simple review of how it plays. Second we will talk about whether or not it still holds up. And Third? We’re going to make a few of you, and ourselves, feel a little aged. My goal here is to explore what makes a game have real long term lasting power, as well as maybe share something you haven’t played before.
Let’s take a look at what we have for you today: Strap yourself in for a blast from your PC past with this Point and Click RPG, Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator.
My first impressions aren’t bad. The game is presented as an isometric sort of top down/birds eye view of the landscape as you point and click to get your heroes to move. Every single conversation in the game is voiced, and while the animations for the character portraits are far from high-def they don’t look too bad. Keep in mind, when we look at graphics from ten or more years ago, we usually won’t use words like good and great, but instead phrases like “not bad” and “could be worse” The point being, the human characters do not look terribly alien; however, they are teetering on the edge of that uncanny valley where human-like faces start to look creepy. See for yourself…
To contrast, let’s look at what else was out in 1999 when Septerra Core came out. That year Final Fantasy 8 came out and looked pretty good, with its three dimensional human looking characters and whatnot. At least the characters looked like people, and not anthropomorphic pinatas(I’m lookin’ at you FF7). The art style looks a bit more like high resolution sprites, like Diablo 2, which came out the following year. Diablo II had an isometric bird’s eye view similar to Septerra Core; unlike Diablo 2, however, Septerra Core’s ‘camera’ is much closer to the ground. Here you can see more detail on your character; with the trade off being that while you see less of the world around you. You do get a good look at your characters, whose interactions drive the story.
Our plot here is the right combination of familiar and different. The familiar is easy to spot: a race of human aristocrats, imperials calling themselves the Chosen, are fighting with each other. Our hero (who lost her family the last time the Chosen fought each other) is from one of the lower countries that routinely get caught in the crossfire. What’s different is that each continent of this world is a floating island in the sky, and are referred to as shells. The Chosen live on the outermost shell, and their egos seem to generate the proper hubris from being placed at the literal top of the world. Your adventures take you to the different continents/shells, meeting new people from this strange alien world along the way.
The game plays quite a bit like a point-and-click adventure that had a hard and fast crush on a western RPG. As you run your party around a dangerous area, if you are caught in an enemy’s line of sight, you will all jump into the nearest usable open space to duke it out in a quasi-turn-based fashion. Once there, each party member fills an action bar; and each action bar has three levels. Your stronger skills require that action bar to fill up more, while weaker skills require less action bar to perform. This offers a risk versus reward kind of battle where you can choose to bide your time and hit hard, or snap off multiple quick attacks. Some skills even affect multiple enemies based on where they are standing. For example, early on in the game you get a party member who shoots a laser beam. If that laser passes through multiple enemies they all take damage.
All of this is controlled with the mouse, by the way; there are very few keyboard shortcuts. When you talk to townsfolk, you can choose dialogue from all of your party members, including Runner, the robot dog, whose dialogue often consists of “Bark bark.” This can occasionally open new options for you, or earn you special key items. They key items might give you flashbacks to games much like ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’. You might find a person looking for a given object and be able to unlock additional content, or key items may combine with other objects in a way that solves a puzzle.
In terms of raw gameplay, it’s a fun take on the RPG formula. In a time before Final Fantasy got voice acting, this game tried it’s best to tell you a story of a sci-fi world that defies physics as we know it with an easy to pick up combat system. Run around the new area, talk to everyone, eventually fight some stuff, and use the money you earn while adventuring to buy and sell gear to better your characters. The presentation here, however, is a little on the weak side. There isn’t a single score of music that I could recognize from the game. While it’s all very ambient and achieves it’s goals, nothing about the soundtrack sticks out.
Does it hold up?
I’d say Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator holds up over all. The graphics are little aged and hard to look at if the oldest game you’ve played was on the Playstation 2. Having said that, the voice acting isn’t bad, and each voice fits their portraits very well. There are, however, only a small handful of character models for all the unnamed townsfolk who just pallet swap colors so they <sarcasm> can look totally different </sarcasm>. Play Septerra Core for the story and the interesting new angle on the turn based RPG battle system. Everything is easily digestible and the game takes steps to make you have a little background with the characters so you can start picking your favorites as soon as you start collecting them.
Septerra even runs on current machines, believe it or not, though it does have a few odd issues (totally expectedfrom a seventeen year old game). Sometimes the timing between bits of dialogue are cut short, and the next character starts talking before the first finishes a sentence. I also have reason to believe that I have had entire sequences of pre-rendered videos fail to play, as I remember seeing them when I was a kid, and have even seen screen caps on the interwebs. Beyond that, there seems to be no compatibility issues. The game is available on Steam and worth a couple bucks if you’re looking for a weird and different western style RPG.