Infinite Dunamis

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3.5
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76%
Victar says:
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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.

Pros:
  • 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
Cons:
  • 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

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