Aphelion 2: Wings of Omega
Xbox 360
Reviewed: 1/30/2011

What do you expect from a sequel?  This can be a challenge for a developer, as there are two avenues that one can take, and both can frequently be a problem.  Do you offer more of the same and risk letting the series get stale, or do you try and do something different and risk alienating people with the changes?  This can be even worse as Indie developers, since one failed project can spell the end of your efforts.
The team over at Lunatic Studios has chosen to go with the former for the second installment in their Aphelion series.  Those of you who are familiar with the first game are not going to find many surprises here.  There are still turn-based battles with a three-man party.  Characters still get skill points to put into upgrading their abilities as they level.  The look and feel is still reminiscent of older RPGs with sprites rather than polygonal characters.  This is probably the best way to do it, as the story is a direct continuation involving the exact same group of characters, albeit magically reduced in level at the start in typical RPG fashion.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t some changes to the game.  Skill points are now granted every three levels instead of every one.  This was likely done for players on New Game+, to make the feeling of advancement last longer.  However, it has the side-effect of making the characters feel weaker in part 2 than they did in the prequel, which feels rather perverse.  Still, it doesn’t have much of an adverse effect on actually playing the game.  The battles on the first run didn’t seem that different from Episode 1’s in terms of difficulty.  An additional party member was also introduced.  This splits the crafting skills more and provides a new set of skills, but overall the new character doesn’t really seem to have his own place, but rather is a slightly different build of one of the original characters.  The fact that he seems to be an afterthought is reinforced by the fact that there are still only 4 character portraits on each save file, nor does he show up in the various loading screens.

    Additionally, some of the annoying quirks from the original remain.  One of the more aggravating elements is the fact that there is nothing to tell you what you should be doing when you load a save.  The ability to talk to other party members, or even a “Story So Far” when the game loads, would be a huge help in this regard.   It is also rather easy to get lost in several areas, including a city that spans multiple screens with a loading screen between each one.  The loading screens feel longer than in the first game, though most of the time they still go relatively fast.  There still remains no way to cancel out of your ultimate attack if you accidentally press the button, which can result in wasting powerful attacks on weak enemies that are about to die.  Savion still moves like he’s running underwater the entire game, making getting around more tedious than it needs to be.

    That’s not to say that the game is all problems.  The game is still fun, especially for people who are nostalgic for old-school RPGs.  Those of you who miss the days when games were simpler with sprites and without 2-hour summon animations will probably have a lot of fun with this.  One notable upgrade is that there is now a teleporter system throughout the various areas of the game, allowing you to return to where you’ve been to complete side quests or simply to grind levels or fall back for supplies.  This will help any completionists who may have been aggravated by the way the first game locked you out of previous areas immediately.  New Game+ is still around as well, full of harder challenges to keep you playing if you enjoy a good grind and the feel of leveling up to ridiculous heights.

    All in all, there’s not much I can say here that I didn’t cover in the original.  Fans of the first game will still enjoy this one.  Similarly, if you didn’t enjoy the first one, there’s nothing here that’s going to change your mind.  If you haven’t played the original, I would suggest starting there before picking this up, if only for the storyline.  Still, if you find yourself longing for the “good old days” of RPGs, you could do worse than Aphelion 2 and its predecessor.  They’re not revolutionizing the genre, but they’re fun, solid titles at bargain prices.

-Andrew Foltz

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Average
Graphics Average
Sound/Music Good
Replay Value Great
The Verdict: Good