Now, there are combos available from particular timings of attacks, and there’s also a certain degree of strategy in terms of how you deal with multiple opponents, difficult foes or combinations of both. All the same, it’s still tempting to dismiss Odin Sphere as a simple hack and slash effort with RPG trimmings. Don’t.
The more you play, the clearer it becomes how important those trimmings are. Basically, you need to get your head around three game systems. First, every enemy slain releases energy, and it’s this energy that powers your magical attacks and levels up your magic weapon. However, you can also plant seeds on the battlefield, and these seeds will suck up the same energy, then grow into plants and bear fruit. This sacrifice is worthwhile, because the fruit, whether a juicy ‘napple’ or a rather bizarre instant sheep, can be converted into a handy health pack.
Secondly, the game has a rather convoluted system of materials and ingredients through which you can brew potions, either boosting health or defences or sending out waves of venom or napalm with which to thrash the hostile hordes. Finally, another slightly odd cooking system enables you to turn raw food into power-ups. All these systems are vital, because as the fighting gets more difficult, merely buying power-ups from the various shops won’t cover your needs. Farming, brewing and cooking aren’t options, but genuine survival skills.
Luckily, you’ll get plenty of time to master them, because Odin Sphere mirrors proper RPGs in terms of its complex narrative and sheer length. Make no mistake, this is proper saga material (as in long-running myths, not the stuff of holidays for the recently retired). It’s absolutely huge. Gwendolyn turns out to be only the first of five heroes, each of whom has their own story arc, their own magic weapons and attacks and their own adventure. Cleverly, each story intersects, building up a magnificent whole that’s a truly epic tale of vaguely Norse fantasy, taking in war, throne-room conspiracies, family melodrama and the odd spot of romance. This proves to be Odin Sphere’s killer feature. Yes, you may find the gameplay repetitive at times. True, there will be some impossible choke points of difficulty at times (though they usually crop up because you’re insufficiently prepared). All the same, the characters and the twists and turns in the story will always keep you coming back for more.