Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator (PC) Review

By Athanasios 03.10.2022

Review for Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator on PC

Sometimes the existence of a video game can be painful. In the case of Battletoads the reason can be the insane challenge, while the blasphemy of something like Philips CD-I's Legend of Zelda trilogy can lead you to tears at how a beloved franchise is treated. Some would argue that the worst kind of pain is a bad game. Nope. That would be experiencing something with fantastic potential that are never met; titles that every cell of your body wants to love but will mostly be disappointed by. Enter Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator, the sole creation of Valkyrie Studios, which, back in distant 1999, tried to offer the world a made-in-the-USA Final Fantasy VII. The result is now considered some sort of an unknown, but beloved cult classic. It's easy to see why. It's a piece of software with many, many flaws, but definitely one with lots of charm as well.

Maya is a 'junker;' a scavenger who collects whatever tech the ones in the top Shell dump in her home Shell, which is called Oasis. Wait a tick, though. What is all this talk about 'Shells?' Well, Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator's planet consists of seven continents set in different altitudes, which are all connected through a biomechanical "spine" that rotates the core, generating energy that acts both as electricity for machines and mana for spellcasting. The unique structure of this hollow sphere means the ones from above can see the ones bellow, which creates a neat look when running around on the overworld map.

The ones on the top Shell are the so called 'Chosen;' the technologically advanced descendants of 'The Creator,' with the most arrogant of this arrogant lot, being a man named Doskias; the big bad cheese of the whole thing. Lord Doskias wants to artificially create a conjunction - open the core of the planet and receive its gifts. This is an event which is supposed to happen naturally in about a century, but he doesn't have the patience to wait, and his actions will create a ripple that will affect all of Septerra. As it's not the first time the Chosen have created problems for Maya, she sets on a quest to stop him; a quest that will have her travel all over the world, in all seven Shells, meeting all sorts of colourful fellows along the way.

Screenshot for Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator on PC

The best, and at the same time the worst aspect of Septerra Core is its world. It's a unique realm, with its own intricate lore and mythology, a collection of different deities, various civilizations, and many interesting characters… but sadly it takes little to no advantage of all that, explaining almost nothing, and leaving many sections feel incomplete as a result. What is the story behind this structure? What is this creature? A few more words about the people of Shell 4 please? Now, a few titbits of info will be given to you occasionally. These will be nothing more than breadcrumbs which will leave you hungry for more, but the main dish will never, ever come. The same thing continues with the main characters - the perfect moment to make some FFVII comparisons.

Sephiroth begun as a cool, powerful, scary dude with long hair and an even longer sword, but he would soon become a complex character, whose existence turned out to be the backbone of the story, and the driving force behind the main hero's quest. Septerra Core's Doskias is just a the-end-justifies-the-means tyrant, who just acts all superior and villainous… up until the very end, when he changes his attitude because… reasons. Looking at the heroes themselves, Cloud is a troubled, mysterious man, whose intriguing backstory is hidden even from his own mind, while Maya is a very likeable… well, nothing. She doesn't have any traits to talk about, and she never really changes throughout her quest, and as such is not that memorable. As for the rest of the cast, they pretty much follow the same, disappointing pattern, with their potential thrown out of the window.

Screenshot for Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator on PC

In conclusion, the premise is excellent, but it was fed to the Helgak. Despite all that grumbling, the story is remains one of the game's better parts, even with the ginormous room for improvement taken into account. As for its atmosphere it might very well be the saving grace of the whole thing. The pre-rendered 3D backgrounds show their age, the resolution is way too slow, and the fixed isometric perspective doesn't do justice to the various environments Maya and her friends will visit, but Septerra Core still looks very good, and most of all, all its different locales have character, whether that's the junkpunk Oasis or the techno-organic look of the Chosen city, and the ancient castles, forests, and dungeons of Shell 3 or the primeval, mushroom-filled (or worse) surface of the bottom Shell.

It's not perfect. Far from it. Gargantuan mazes that use the same three or four props and textures; a handful of NPCs that have been cloned, re-coloured, and used 100 times; and, finally, a tiny OST that's rarely used outside combat, with most your time spend in complete silence, or with the howling wind as your companion. Atmospheric, but it can also put you to sleep. As a whole, however, this isn't bad audio-visually. From the main character designs, and the world in its entirety, Valkyrie Studios obviously put lots of love on its creation - but yeah, there are indeed plenty of flaws. Like with everything concerning Septerra Core it's more of a "this could be so much better" kind of complain, rather than "this is garbage"

Screenshot for Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator on PC

Unfortunately, it’s the actual gameplay where most issues can be found. Playing a bit like a point-and-click adventure, Maya can occasionally find key items that can be used in specific key locations. There’s no tough puzzle to talk about here, though. No, the real challenge is usually finding where to go next. There are many moments where you simply won’t know what to do, and will have to search around, almost randomly, until you meet an NPC that will give you a tip, or until you stumble upon the location you need to go to, or where an item is hidden, just by sheer luck. This is one of those games that will quickly make you search for a walkthrough. Oh, and don’t go traveling around blindly. That’s out of the question, because of what is, without a single doubt, the absolute worst thing about Septerra Core: combat.

In theory, battle mechanics are quite interesting. The typical ATB gauge is segmented into three parts, with each level providing stronger abilities than the previous one. That’s a pretty neat concept, as it forces you to weigh on your options, and think how to prioritise enemies, and which skill to use each time. Spellcasting follows a pretty unique concept as well, as you draw power from a shared pool, and do your magic using a ‘Fate Card,’ or by combining them in various ways to create a more costly, but also more potent spell. In practice, however, these weren’t implemented very well. You need at least 15 hours to receive more skills and magic cards, which means that you are mostly stuck with simple attacks for a great deal of the journey.

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Sure, after that time things do get more varied and thus fun, but the biggest problem here lies in how slow everything is. Picture this: Maya comes close to an enemy. This has her party, and the enemies slowly jump at a nearby area. The endurance gauge starts filling. An enemy attacks… and then one more… and then another one. You use some level-1 attacks, barely scratching the opposition. You decide to wait and use one of them stronger attacks. Enemies will (very slowly) attack you, again and again. Ready to attack? You hit harder… and occasionally miss, which is annoying to say the least. By now you’ve spent a minute or more. In a simple, random encounter, where everything, from you jumping to your enemy to strike, to the strikes themselves being a tad faster than a slug.

Guess what? You have more than 10 more battles waiting for you (at best), and just in this small region. Simply put encountering enemies will have players scream “nooooooooo!!!. Later levels are gargantuan maps, which in turn are boring to traverse, as they all follow the same “flick X number or levers,” or “find key item Y” repetitive formula. Did you make a wrong turn, and decided to return to a previous region? Say hello to your resurrected foes! There are a lot of things that would have to change for Septerra Core to be a better experience, but the most important of all is surely balance. The speed of units, weapon and spell damage, prices, map sizes. Everything is in some dire need of rebalancing. Even the game’s length itself. There just isn’t any real reason for this to be an epic 40-60 hour adventure.

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In the end, this was a clear victim of its production values. It’s a measly $1,5M project that tried to achieve what FFVII had done so with Square and Sony’s much deeper pockets, and with only two programmers that crafted the developing tools, and a bunch of artists and writers that did the rest. It’s essentially an RPG Maker-like product, and one that was not adequately tested. Why make excuses, though. Fallout didn’t have a big budget either, but it made good use of it, and produced a flawed masterpiece, but a masterpiece nonetheless. Septerra Core on the other hand, is just flawed. It just isn’t a good game. Correct? Not exactly. Yes, it’s problematic, but there’s a reason it’s sort of a cult classic. Nostalgia is the one to blame… but only partly.

This has some sort of a special magic that draws you in. Is it its atmosphere? It’s unique world? How it looks? The voice-acting? The writing? It’s hard to explain why, but there’s something about it that makes you keep on playing. You’ll persevere, brave through the repetitive mazes and slow enemy encounters, just so you can get closer to the end. That’s not the mind of a completionist speaking either, as this critic is far from that. ‘Immersion’ is probably the only word that can describe this aforementioned magic. Players will feel a part of this world, although they won’t learn much about it; they’ll get attached to the main characters, even though they’ll rarely talk with them about anything; they’ll want to explore every nook and cranny, despite the world being somewhat empty. You’ll feel disappointment on every step of the way from the wasted potential, but there’s a small chance that you’ll also fall in love with Septerra.

Cult classics are a weird bunch man…

Screenshot for Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Many of the few souls that played this attempt at a western JRPG back in the day will speak about a flawless, but unknown gem. That’s nostalgia speaking, however. Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator is undoubtedly deeply flawed. It’s not buggy or anything, just an unbalanced, repetitive, somewhat empty, and most of all, 50+ hour-long experience that’s aggravatingly slow, and which doesn’t ever realise its massive potential. In a weird way, this also has a very strong atmosphere, an intriguing world, and is strangely immersive. Thankfully it’s dirt cheap nowadays, so if interested you can check it out with just a handful of coins.

Developer

Valkyrie Studios

Publisher

Monolith Productions

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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