New to the indie marketplace is Aphelion: Episode One: Graves of Earth, a sci-fi turn based RPG with many traditional roots to the PSOne era. Like all those games you are the hero against overwhelming odds and must fight in an attack then wait format. Aphelion has a lot of minor annoyances for me that do not hinder the gaming experience as a whole but need to be pointed out nevertheless.
Aphelion has an incredibly deep back story and beautiful presentation. I couldn’t help but feel like I was playing a Mass Effect and Star Ocean hybrid. The story of Aphelion starts with Private Savion Mercate of the Eriet Peacekeeping Force on a rescue mission to save Ambassador Andelen from the crimson army. He is paired up with his friend Ashley and encounters new team members along his journey through space. The story has enough to hold onto you for its 5 + hours with its plot twists and interesting characters. The developer put as much as possible in Aphelion as I especially liked the side story’s that are hidden throughout the game.
Aphelion is on par with most Xbox Live Arcade games when it comes to graphics and sound. The animations moving in the background makes everything look fantastic. For example, in the beginning of the game you see rain falling, crimson flying across the screen, and destruction of the environment that make appreciate the dedication that was put into the game. The only flaw I noticed with animation is how Savion moves around the screen, he runs in a way that makes him seem like he is half walking half running. This is no means a broken mechanic because you don’t walk into objects that aren’t there or move in the direction you didn’t mean to. It is a minor annoyance, since you can see how beautiful the game plays around you and it makes you wonder what happened here.
The sound and soundtrack are incredible that makes you feel like there is a new standard being set for indie games. Not many indie games give into too much time and quality when it comes to sound, but that is where you get the attention and emotions of the gamer into the game. Aphelion has the right sci-fi feeling soundtrack that fits perfectly for the atmosphere it dwells in. The sound at times has a few hiccups, especially when performing an attack on an enemy, you notice right after the attack has been performed you hear the noise it suppose to make. Overall I dare say I have not heard a better soundtrack in an Indie game.
The interparty dialog between characters is good and quite humorous. The pacing at time felt rushed but that is to be expected on a short game. A minor problem I encountered with the dialog is that it sometimes it gets confusing who is talking. For example, say a character is speaking then once you press A to continue the other person’s name appears over the last one talking. This isn’t something major but it can be solved with a picture of the person talking or alternates their names from left to right.
The battle system starts once you run into a random encounter which as times seems frequent when trying to explore. You have a party of up to 3 in a battle whereas you view the health, shields, energy, turn order, and break gauge. Speaking of the break gauge this is a nice feature yet kind of broken. Every time a player or opponent is hit, the break gauge increases, then all party members unleash a massive attack. This can sometimes be over abused and not exactly balanced correctly because even if one of the characters have just had their turn they can still join in on the attack. This does not ruin the battles as a whole, it just makes you feel more powerful than you should at times.
Aphelion has a robust leveling system that resembles Mass Effect’s allocated skill points. You are given a skill point every time you level and you can put the point to either 3 skills or into passive abilities to increase your stats for yourself or the party. The passive abilities may seem like they aren’t doing much as first because of the small percentage of a bonus it adds but continuing distributing the points increases your stats efficiently.
When you finish the game you will still have skills and abilities that have not been purchased. This further increases your replay-ability because you have the option to start a new game+ on a higher difficulty if you choose. Once you start the new game+ you keep all your levels and items from the previous game. There are plenty of items to find and craft in Aphelion that will definitely satisfy the loot fix gamers out there. The ability to craft items requires you to have a certain items to make new ones. You can find these items scattered around the places you go or after defeating enemies in combat.
Aphelion: Episode One: Graves of Earth has the potential to be the best of the best when it comes to RPGs in general. I highly anticipate the following episode and hopefully the developers have fine tuned this near perfect game. The game offers so much content that includes: crafting, fun leveling, fast paced combat, hidden bosses, and side stories, it makes it a must buy for any gamer. Even with the minor setbacks it has, there is no better way to spend your 240 :MSPoints: on Aphelion.
More information on Aphelion can be found on the Marketplace as well as the trial and full versions of the game.