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Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator (PC) artwork

Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator (PC) review


"It's just one of those games..."

Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator promises familiarity with a touch of nuanced newness. This isn't your standard fantasy-themed RPG, but an imaginative sci-fi piece that offers impressive lore inspired by various mythologies and faiths, not to mention an inventive world. Rather than a standard planet, Septerra consists of a planetary core with a spine that connects it to airborne continents called "world shells." Each shell holds its own distinct environment and theme, including a desert wasteland with towns made of harvested garbage, an anarcho-capitalist playground, and a jungle made entirely of fungi.

Then there's you: a blue-haired teenager left orphaned after a siege on your hometown. At a glance, Maya may as well be any other RPG hero out for revenge. However, she takes a different course throughout the campaign. You often hear her acknowledging that she would love nothing more than to embark on a vindictive odyssey, only snuff out that desire in favor of serving the greater good and save Septerra. You see, the world shell above hers houses The Chosen, a religious order who see themselves as God's people hovering over the unwashed masses of the lower shells. As it turns out, one of them is a megalomaniac whose plans for supremacy put Septerra in danger. Big surprise! The thing is this antagonist isn't your average nut job after power for power's sake. He actually believes he is on the righteous course and that his actions are ordained by The Creator.

Septerra rolls that way, reworking old RPG trappings just enough so that they don't feel tired when you encounter them. For instance, here there be romantic subplots. One revolves around a warrior begging higher powers to save his fatally wounded sweetheart. They eventually do, except now she's no longer human. Rather than feeding us another side story with a Hollywood ending, this game shows us that sometimes it's better to move on than cling to a nonexistent relationship. More than anything, stories like these reinforce the notion that Septerra's writers weren't content with merely filling out romance elements for the sake of catering to a key demographic. As a result, the game's narrative comes off as fresh and natural.

No, this isn't a hugely story-centered game. Cutscenes play out as you would expect, but they're kept brief enough that they don't detract from Septerra's interactivity. In other words, this title provides less of a "playable novel" experience and more of an interactive campaign with the occasional flit of storytelling.

So naturally, you would think that this game aged perfectly by leaving you alone and letting you play, rather than thrusting you into a cinematic hellscape. Unfortunately, this is "one of those games..."

It's one of those games that didn't age well. That's apparent the instant you launch it in 2022 instead of 1999 and witness its grainy CGI coupled with visual options that don't allow you to set resolution at all. You're stuck gawking at a screen that looks awkward on 1080 monitors.

Let's be real: it's not only the visuals that feel archaic. Play control also gives away the piece's age, where you solely use a mouse to guide you party. Because of this, you often see your character struggle to pass through doorways, sometimes running back and forth because their pathfinding skills are laughable. It doesn't help that the run function tends to glitch now and then. Sometimes the Shift key doesn't allow you to run, and other occasions you run without even touching it.

This is one of those games that can't be bothered to guide its players effectively. Most RPGs from this era came with in-game journals that allowed you to keep track of where you needed to go to advance the storyline. This one frequently ends a plot beat without giving you even a clue regarding your next move. Worse, you often have to guess your way to the next story event or travel from one world shell to another, chatting with random people in numerous towns until someone hits you with a juicy hint. I recall one section concluding with an epic battle, while offering no insight into the party's agenda afterward. You would have no way to knowing you needed to go to a shell you haven't been to in a while and liberate a city, a quest line you start by entering a mountain range absolutely no one mentions and talking to a girl who hasn't been a key character for hours.

Oh, and you don't just talk to her, either. You have to say just the right thing to trigger the next campaign event.

Honestly, this issue doesn't start off too pesky because of the early campaign's linearity. The first half of the plot guides you easily from one locale to another, only stymieing you with the occasional point-and-click adventure-style item puzzle. However, you eventually acquire an airship, and that's when the supporting cast pretty much refuses to hold your hand, or even drop subtle hints.

Throughout your quest, you bump into preset battles that smack very much of Final Fantasy's ATB system. Each combatant waits until a meter fills up before they can execute a command, with the main exception in this outing being that meters feature three individual segments. Each section of the meter comes with its own elevated attacks and abilities that dish out additional punishment, nail multiple targets, or slap debuffs on the opposition. Sadly, combat sounds enticing until you realize that each battle consumes more time than your average RPG altercation. You spend most of your time either waiting for meters to fill up or for combat animations to cease.

Pair that with the campaign's later dungeons and you've got one of those games that drags heavily in the closing acts. After you receive an airship, dungeons take on more elaborate designs. At first, these detailed layouts present a welcome change of pace. However, as you progress it becomes clear that the game is only interested in thrusting you into winding switch mazes, where the main objective each time is to hunt for levers to throw so you can open doors or toggle bridges. No, switch mazes are not inherently irksome. However, when half of your campaign consists of them, they become tedious and repetitive. Also bear in mind that some levels break down into further sub-dungeons. For instance, the penultimate stage offers four elemental temples, each one pretty much acting as a level in itself. That's four switch mazes for the price of one!

Let's exacerbate things, shall we? Some later dungeons require you to return to previous locales and plow all the way through them again. You get no shortcuts or instant jumps to relevant places, and all of the foes present are the same level they were the last time you visited. You now have to trudge through miles of pissants just to get to a stage worthy of your time--AND THEN YOU HAVE TO WALK THE WHOLE WAY BACK OUT. You don't have an escape spell or anything like that, either. Hell, one part requires you to plunge into the depths of a mold forest you already completed, search a previously charted mining camp for a new entrance with only the vaguest clues where you might find it, then blow through another dungeon just so you can crawl the whole way back out.

Look, I'm ranting a bit here, but Septerra isn't a terrible game. It's a competent RPG that falls prey to too many strenuous factors that kill its pacing and variety, leading to an arduous, draggy affair through bloated locations that you struggle to locate thanks to poor guidance. I still appreciate this title because it oozes creativity, but it's held back by being "one of those games" that succumbs to a bevy of concepts that didn't age well. I still think it's a shame it didn't spawn sequels, because then I could've referred to this one as "humble beginnings." Itseemed like a big deal at one time, like so many others that looked larger than life upon release. Nowadays, I suppose it's just one of those games...


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (July 28, 2022)

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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