A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Septerra Core – Impression


Welcome to the world of Septerra Core. This planet is strangely built to allow for seven world layers that orbit a core. Every hundred years or so, these layers align properly to allow a beam of light to strike the core. When this happens, and if people are paying attention, someone can go to the core and receive the Gift of the Creator: the Kingdom of Heaven.

This game was whipped up by Valkyrie Studios and distributed by (the now defunct) Interplay Productions (responsible for Fallout, Baldur’s Gate, and a variety of other RPGs for the computer gaming market). I’d purchased Septerra Core a long time ago as part of a collection of games and I actually purchased the collection because I was interested specifically in this game. An interesting note is that you can still find the Septerra Core website.

Anyways, down to the mechanics of the game. I really enjoyed the turn-based combat (kind of like the Active Time Battle system in older Final Fantasy games) where each character had a different speed and took different amounts of time to charge up. You’re given a three part bar (per person) and each part of the bar represents a different level of power. The first segment represents some of the weaker attacks available to that character, the second segment represents more powerful attacks, and the third segment is where you’re charged up enough to perform the most powerful attacks that character has at their disposal.

Each character also contributes to the party’s available “core power” or effectively a mana pool that the whole party can tap into to perform special attacks. For example, Maya gets access to a piece of equipment early in the game called “Grenade” which allows her to perform an area attack upon enemies. Using such an attack consumes a small amount of the party’s available core energy. It’s the blue bar at the top of the screen during combat. Speaking of characters, there are nine people you can have in your group, of which you use three at a time and Maya (the blue haired girl) is always in your party (except in rare circumstances). The other characters are necessary to solve certain puzzles and everyone gains experience at the same time, they just level at a different rate. For example, Selena the Chosen swordmistress ended the game at level 62 or something whereas Led, the army mechanic daughter of a general, was level 28 or so. They had the same amount of experience points, just different levels. I thought that was interesting. The characters are: Maya (uses a gun), Grubb (mechanic who uses a staff), Runner (robot dog built by Grubb), Corgan (Wind City guardsman), Selena (Chosen swordmistress in love with the main bad guy), Led (uses a big wrench), Lobo (former cyborg soldier of Jinam), Araym (bounty hunter demolitions expert), and Badu (Underlost warrior who wields dual knives).

Further, the game has a magic system built around tarot cards. These tarot cards are specific to the world of Septerra Core in that they use the legendary figures of Marduk, Gemma, Kyra, and Dogos to perform special things. In fact, you can combine cards with your three characters and perform special spells and so forth. From giving your whole party protection from damage to casting massive fire strikes, the card combinations are versatile enough to provide a wide variety of combat options. You can even summon the famous Marduk to bring a beating to your enemies. Pretty cool.

The game is built like an adventure game (Monkey Island is a great example) with a very capable and intense combat engine. There are a great number of key items in the game that allow you to solve puzzles and bypass obstacles. Something that kind of annoyed me closer to the end of the game were the massive mazes that lead to only a key that would allow me to access the next maze that led to another key that led me to another maze… and so on.

I originally set out to beat it several years back and made considerable progress, however I hit one dungeon (the catacombs full of undead on World Shell 3) that just pissed me off so much with all the switches and I got lost and so I just put the game away and forgot about it for a while. This time, I was so into getting the story done (finally) that I cheated. Yup, I cheated to beat this game in a reasonable amount of time (still took over a week to beat). Lots of walking can’t be avoided, but the fights would last only a few seconds (if I felt like not fighting). Oh, yeah… lots of fighting in this game since everything respawns when you leave a screen. That can be rather annoying, but you can run around some fights like in Chrono Trigger.

Overall, I enjoyed the game, but I’m not a big fan of switch mazes (mazes that rely on switches to change the layout). I mean, they’re cool, but when they get really big (like they do later in the game), well, I’m stuck staring at a map for 10 minutes trying to figure out where I need to go and how to get there. Oh! There’s not much of a tutorial for this 11 year old game, so I didn’t realize that TAB pulled up the area map until about halfway through the game! *laughs*

The graphics have DEFINITELY held up and the game still works on a Vista laptop with a minimum of fuss. It even alt-tabs flawlessly. The cutscenes hold up pretty well too. I was rather dissatisfied with the ending because I felt it was too short for the length of the game. Oh well. I appreciated in the credits where they say that if they left anyone out, it was an accident and they’d buy them a pony to make it all better. Ah the good old days, back when game developers had a sense of humor and did it for the love of creation instead of a love of money.

Anyways, I finished this game today (after playing it off and on for a week with a walkthrough and cheat codes) and felt that it warranted a place here. It’s definitely a unique game and I challenge anyone to find a combat system or storyline like it.

Until next time, remember that the full body tattoos of Kyra are temporary and will go away in a few weeks. I’m looking at you Maya.

– Elorfin

P.S. All screen captures courtesy of the Valkyrie Studios Septerra Core website I linked above. More screens can be found there.

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