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This robots-and-fantasy JRPG's biggest flaw is its endgame level grind
Infinite Dunamis is one of developer Exe-Create’s older JRPGs, originally released for mobile systems around 2012. This review is of the Nintendo 3DS version, which has no in-game purchases.
Infinite Dunamis strays a little from the typical fantasy setting of a Japanese RPG. It’s set in a world that has not only magic and monsters, but also fully functional robots. Robots are used both for everyday chores and as weapons of war. The initial premise is that the world’s two warring nations barely survived a robot apocalypse 15 years ago, and subsequently brokered a fragile peace for the first time in generations.
The story of Infinite Dunamis takes some time to get in motion, and the main hero’s virulent, misanthropic personality doesn’t help. The hero has a chance encounter where he reluctantly rescues a partly-robotic girl (the game never uses the word “cyborg”, but that’s what she is). Her extremely docile and naive attitude also grates, more than a little. The two become drawn into an investigation to determine whether another world war, or another robot apocalypse, could be on the horizon.
The heart and soul of Infinite Dunamis’ story is not its heavily predictable external saga of a looming war, but rather the internal development of its major characters, particularly the main hero and the half-robot girl. If not for the underlying theme of how difficult it is to break out of negative/hateful ways of thinking (hero), or passive/naive ways of thinking (robot girl), then Infinite Dunamis’ narrative would be utterly forgettable.
The battle system of Infinite Dunamis is quite similar to that of most Exe-Create games. It’s a Grandia-style, turn-based JRPG where the speed statistic determines how often the playable characters or enemies get turns.
“Gaia icons” appear in the turn order give random beneficial or harmful effects, to both players and enemies. This randomness can get very annoying, especially when a party member suddenly gets silenced, paralyzed, or KO’d.
Leveling up characters only improves their statistics. Characters’ skills and magic spells must be learned by winning battles with character-specific weapons or elemental magic rings equipped.
Learning skills from a weapon is a fairly quick process, and can be made near-instant by paying in-game gold. Continuing to grind battles with any given weapon further strengthens *that specific weapon only*, which leads to the interesting dilemma of “is it better to change weapons, or keep powering up the weapon that is currently equipped”?
The magic system also offers customization, since any one character won’t master all elemental magic in a single playthrough (barring excessive grinding). Gaining knowledge in two or more elemental schools of magic unlocks access to additional “special” magic spells, so the player must weigh options between raising proficiency in a single element or across multiple elements, for each character.
Many stronger skills and magic spells have a “wait time” to cast, or a “rebound time” after they are cast. These can be frustrating to deal with, although a handy line on the battle gauge will warn the player if the “wait time” for a skill is absurdly long. Equipping a particular weapon may eliminate the “wait time” of its specific skill… meaning that changing weapons can make a skill learned from a character’s old weapon borderline useless.
There are three difficulty settings, Easy, Normal, and Hard. Difficulty can be changed mid-game, but once altered it cannot be changed again for 20 battles. The difficulty affects both enemy statistics and combat rewards.
On Normal difficulty, Infinite Dunamis is not a total cakewalk, but not extremely challenging either… until the final boss, and this is its most glaring gameplay flaw.
In a typical Normal difficulty playthrough, completing all sidequests and not running from encounters, one’s party will likely be around level 60 upon reaching the final boss. This is (borderline?) too low to win, barring the use of powerful equipment earned from the optional battle arena. Grinding from level 60 to level 70 felt essentially required for the Normal difficulty final boss, because the statistical increases in Speed (for more turns) and HP (for sheer survival) were just THAT substantial.
Grinding ten extra levels in the final dungeon was a tedious process that took 1-2 hours. Adjusting the difficulty to Hard (for greater battle rewards) did not speed up the grind; it just made battles take forever to win, and that’s when the party didn’t get ambushed and splattered before they could get a turn.
Alternative ways to level grind do exist. There are a “dead zone” of powerful world map enemies, and an island of metal slimes, but these also have drawbacks… metal slimes are stupidly hard to kill and “dead zone” enemies are brutal. The player can also lose to the final boss to experience the “bad ending” (which in all honesty is 100% worth seeing at least once), make a save file, then load their “bad ending” save to access previously blocked areas for better equipment and more level grinding.
No matter what the player does, they’ll have to play Infinite Dunamis for the long haul to see all its endings. In addition to the level grind for the “normal ending”, the player must replay the entire game with carried-over levels and equipment if they want to earn the “true ending”.
Replaying Infinite Dunamis has some perks – there are a handful of additional story scenes, and the player gets to see various thoughts of the main characters that were hidden in the first playthrough. The carried-over levels trivialize combat in 90% of the replay, and hidden passages to treasure chests are revealed.
Then, if the player chooses to go for the “true ending” exclusive to a second playthrough… they’ll have to endure another level grind to 90+, if they want a prayer of survival against a powered-up final boss.
Finally, if the player decides to challenge an optional superboss, then they had better be ready to grind, grind, and grind some more, way past level 99!
Overall, Infinite Dunamis is enjoyable enough to be worth playing, in spite of its flaws. It’s certainly not the only JRPG to have a bad case of “final boss level grind required” syndrome. It’s just a little hard to recommend over JRPGs without a massive endgame difficulty spike, or with stories that are greater than the sum of their narrative parts.
- Character development is the soul of the story
- Battle system is good overall, with several optional challenges, and difficulty can be changed mid-game
- 3DS version has no in-game purchases
- Everything else about the story is heavily predictable at best, trite at worst
- Level grinding is required to defeat the final boss, and ESPECIALLY required for the optional superboss
- Requires two playthroughs to earn the True Ending
A decent game, could have been much better.
When I saw Infinite Dunamis, which can be compared very much to the old Alphadia games, I was quite taken in, if nothing else by the setting, although there were some red flags of bad writing. Two kingdoms constantly at war, leading to innovation of robotics, which turned on its masters and turned a war between the two countries into a war between all of humanity and the robots.
The first warning flag I saw was when the two countries were described as a Kingdom of happiness and goodwill and fluffy bunnies and an evil Empire of doom, gloom and misery. Considering the plot is supposed to have themes of human potential, it seems rather weird that all the problems caused by humans can be traced to the evil Emperor- and maybe one other person – but certainly the entire Kingdom of Eleftheria is blameless. If you want to make a story about human potential shining through, you should start by making all humans seem fallible, rather than one side being pure from the start. And storywise, the characters take a bit to get used to. They’re not bad (except for Chelsea who I feel never changes from being sassy and a bit annoying), but they take a bit long to grow into their own. Character development should be a bit more gradual, so people don’t get burned out before getting there. Vince is my favourite, personally.
And one major pet peeve is the backtracking. The game doesn’t give you an easy method of transportation until the very end of the game. It even takes away the item that lets you teleport to a previously visited town on NG+ so you have to do it, and at one point you have to cross the entire world for a couple of fights and go back, without teleports or a good method of transportation.
The combat system is standard Kemco fare (very similar to the Asdivine series), except for the addition of Gaia Icons. These icons move across the same bar as everyone else, across the bottom, and when they reach the end, the effect is applied to whoever gets the next turn. These can be positive or negative, and is intended to represent the chaos of the world which has been destroyed by the war. While I wouldn’t want this in every game, it is an interesting mechanic and I kind of like it. Sometimes I wish the effects were less drastic as at extremes it can bring all your characters to 1 HP with a bomb, instantly kill one character, or restore your life and mana. Of course, bosses are immune to instant death.
What is also interesting is that skills are learned from weapons (just weapons in this case), and mastering the weapon lets you use it no matter the weapon, but also, you can master weapons over 100%. With each percentage point over 100 the attack power increases, so it’s possible to finish the game with a starting weapon, if you like the special stats. In fact, that is what I did for Vince – Early on he gets a Shotgun that hits all enemies on a normal attack in turn for -10% Speed. This made him incredibly powerful early on.
Estelle, the female lead, has a unique system (I believe replicated in Antiquia Lost) where she levels up by consuming crystals to pump her specific stats. She has unique methods of leveling up, and is much easier to break and get stupid levels of stats.
Like Alphadia, there are the 4 elements to raise to 99 (though lightning replaces earth for some reason) that you wear rings for and can level to 99. On top of the usual organic enemies, there are also mechanical enemies that are immune to status effects, strong against fire and air, but weak against water and thunder. These are plenty used so thunder and water are the best.
Now, the biggest problem with it is less that it’s bad, as much as it’s disappointing. You can easily see what the concept is and how it could have been amazing storywise, but as it is, it’s a pretty average game. Certain plot elements don’t show up until the end. And having to beat the game twice to get the real ending is a bad idea – The only other game that does it is Asdivine Cross, and that game does it in an amazing way that actually incorporates the NG+ into its storytelling (PLAY THAT GAME.)- In this case, the requirement is arbitrary.
The game is difficult, and has an optional boss that will easily destroy you even if you can defeat the True End final boss without problem. To beat him, you’re going to need to grind for hours and max out your stats. He’s difficult enough to compare to Bloody Maidame Curie in stat grind requirements. So that’s something to keep in mind. IF you want to beat the optional boss, you’re going to have to sink hours into it grinding capsules.
And speaking of Maidame Curie, I believe this is the first time the Maids were hinted at, being referred to as the “Receptionist’s Guild” who run the Secret Arena. A maid refers to the Guild as being run by her sister, who is not present- The first appearance of Jolie Curie as a random NPC? In any case, they appear as maids in some of the Secret Arena fights, and even use the common Unyielding Service.
So, is it a bad game? Not really. It could be better, the combat system is engaging if you don’t mind the rest of the Asdivine style combat, the fact it’s a cross between Alphadia and Asdivine in system is interesting. It’s just very slow to start off with, and it could have been much better storywise.
- Interesting concept
- Unique and interesting mechanics. Lots of them.
- Plot doesn't live up to potential
- Slow start