Lost Odyssey is a special game. While it doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table, it’s an exemplary RPG made by experienced developers and talented artists. Much praise has been given to the Thousands Years of Dreams, and they’re indeed beautiful, but I’m in love with the rest of the package as well. It really feels like peering into an alternate universe where Final Fantasy stuck to its turn-based origins and confidently sallied forth into the seventh generation of consoles with its head held high.
Also, Gongora is peak camp and you won’t convince me otherwise.
I never owned a Microsoft console growing up, so Lost Odyssey is a game I’ve been eyeing since its release over 15 years ago. After all these years, I’m happy to report it fulfilled my somewhat dangerous expectations. Diving into it felt like encountering a new Final Fantasy circa 1997-2000, complete with technical panache, fresh battle mechanics, a new score by Nobuo Uematsu, and a compelling narrative hook of playing as immortals journeying with some familially connected mortals. The way this premise translates into character building is one of the ways Lost Odyssey stands out from its kin with confident creativity.
While it fulfilled these expectations, it didn’t exceed them. When talking with the panel, we kept coming back to the ways Lost Odyssey fell short of fully executing its promise of a mature and extravagantly produced traditional JRPG. Crucial character threads are underdeveloped, the battle system doesn’t require players to fully engage with it outside of the most challenging end-game content, and the story told in the game’s scenes fails to naturally meld with the beautifully written “A Thousand Years of Dreams” short story collectibles.
Despite these numerous quibbles, Lost Odyssey earns my badge of excellence for having so many ideas and almost getting them all right. You can spot some cracks in its armor, but it’s still expert craftsmanship led by a few industry legends.
Lost Odyssey is an odd game. I usually mean that in a good way; this time, though, it doesn’t quite work.
To be clear, Lost Odyssey has a remarkable premise. Exploring the depths of immortals who have lived for 1000 years? Their regrets, their joys, their fears, and their failures? What about the consequences of their actions, seen many generations later? Yes, yes thank you very much.
But Lost Odyssey fails to come even close to plumbing the depths of that premise. There are moments here and there, sure, but the main narrative relies on silly cliché. It seems like they wanted to make it “adult,” but instead presented a narrative that a pre-teen might find mature, but surely, no actual adult would find it interesting. No doubt, the “A Thousand Year of Dreams” sequences are brilliant, but ultimately, they only serve to show how shallow and juvenile the main narrative is.
If I had fun playing the rest of the game, this all might be okay, but I didn’t. The dungeons are sometimes inoffensive, and often interminable and frustrating. The combat has some neat ideas, but they ultimately boil down to constantly flipping equipment, and otherwise having very little strategy.
If nothing else, Lost Odyssey provides an interesting glimpse of what the genre could have become if developers had more interest in turn-based RPGs a little over a decade ago. Too bad the game itself isn’t interesting.