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Aphelion Episode Two: Wings of Omega (Xbox 360) artwork

Aphelion Episode Two: Wings of Omega (Xbox 360) review

"One step forward, two steps back..."

Aphelion Episode Two: Wings of Omega (Xbox 360) image

Aphelion Episode Two: Wings of Omega (Aphelion 2 henceforth) resumes more than just the journey of the blue-haired teen Savion and his friends. It also continues the duology's spree of disappointment. Not long after initiating the game, you'll breathe a heavy sigh as you realize you can't import your characters from the first episode. That's not how episodic adventures are supposed to work. Instead, Aphelion 2's heroes revert to level five and forget all of their skills and spells.

After the initial cutscene, you enter a few turn-based battles and your worries start to subside. Developer Lunatic Studios left Aphelion's combat system alone, rather than needlessly tweaking it. At first, this decision seems like a blessing. You blast through scores of Earthling soldiers, mercenaries and crimson (sentient, alien robots), rarely breaking a sweat. Unlike in the previous episode, you seldom run afoul of scuffles that last several minutes thanks to enemies that possess a lot of hit points and overpowered defense.

Unfortunately, Aphelion 2's nerfing affects more than its standard goons. Particularly, every required boss demands only a rudimentary RPG strategy: spam your strongest techniques, use a "limit break" when its meter is full and recover your HP and shields as needed. I'm not exaggerating when I say this tactic works on everyone. At two different points, you face Episode One's skull-crushing final boss, and even he easily falls victim to this brainless plan.

Aphelion Episode Two: Wings of Omega (Xbox 360) image

Challenging boss encounters could have provided a necessary break from the tedium of slaying low level toadies. You see, Aphelion 2 lacks variety where its bestiary is concerned. When you enter a dungeon, the first three or four sections pit you against the same one- or two-enemy parties, typically consisting of no more than three creatures. Additionally, some of those bouts only feature one type of foe. More than any other misstep, Aphelion 2's lack of diverse enemies transforms this breezy RPG into a full-blown trudge. Although my own playthrough lasted a mere eight hours, I ended my time with Aphelion 2 feeling like I had completed a full-length roleplaying game (and not a good one, at that).

This isn't to say that Aphelion 2 doesn't offer a single difficult altercation, though, as a couple of side quests present fair challenges: a colosseum packed with optional bosses and a secret mission given to you by a crimson messenger. However, in order to complete these quests, you must play through most of the campaign. The latter side event isn't available until the end of the storyline, and both missions are impossible unless you spend a ridiculous amount of time grinding, farming and crafting new equipment. You're better off devoting that time to an RPG that doesn't hide its best content while forcing you to slog through a tiresome campaign.

When an RPG showcases ho-hum combat, the best you can hope for is an entertaining tale to take your mind off the tedium. Once again, Aphelion 2 disappoints by boasting a story that's almost acceptable, but ultimately ineffective. Subplots from the previous episode sprout up and fail to develop in any meaningful way. They then return to the back burner so that the new party member, Delith, can grow. This new recruit is a brilliant scientist who realizes, to his horror, that his megalomaniacal partner aims to weaponize Delith's invention: efficiently terraforming nanomachines. Delith was aware that his brainchild could cause calamity, but helmed the project anyway. He thus spends the rest of the story wallowing in regret.

Aphelion Episode Two: Wings of Omega (Xbox 360) image

Meanwhile, the loner Dirk builds a genuine friendship with his allies, Ashley maintains her cliched role as a the protagonist's childhood friend/wanna-be girlfriend, and Rita wants to kill some dude from her past. These arcs rise only slightly and fall without so much as a whisper. Then, just before you enter the final dungeon, a long cutscene presents halfhearted denouements to these conflicts. I don't expect a short RPG like Aphelion 2 to tell a gripping, human story, but dialogue sequences should justify their existence by being amusing or memorable. Sadly, Aphelion 2's chatty moments exude neither of those traits.

With a forgettable plot and boring action, there's little effective content left to buoy Aphelion 2. Unlike its predecessor, the new episode sports more than three areas to explore. However, that's a standard quality that I expect of any appreciable role-playing experience. The game also features a revamped skill system that cuts out its throwaway skills. Unfortunately, it's still a paper thin function and doesn't emphasize character customization as it should. Each warrior only receives eight different categories to boost, with each one bolstering various statistics. The skill screen still doesn't allow for divergent builds or true customization, however, and the feature feels tacked on because of it. In the end, Savion is still a fighter, Dirk remains a thief, Ashley's always a healer, etc.

Aphelion Episode Two: Wings of Omega (Xbox 360) image

Aphelion Episode Two: Wings of Omega may take pride in two bits of content, though. One of them is a teleporter system that allows you to fast travel to previously visited dungeons. The other is a segment where you control a tank. Granted, you don't get to crush anything or stir up any mayhem, but the tank does engage in random encounters and boasts impressive firepower. Outside of those positives, Aphelion 2 is a step back from its antecedent. The first episode was dull, but challenging enough that it wasn't awful. Aphelion 2, on the other hand, is a thoroughly vapid, regrettable experience.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (September 16, 2017)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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