It’s said that if something is usable that it will go unnoticed, but that if it is unusable then it will be noticed quite fast. And for the most part this is true; often, you have to specifically look at things with a focus on usability to identify good usability. Here I wanted to examine some great ways that Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is usable– either compared to the original game, or just on its own.
Inventory Management Simplified
One of the worst parts of any RPG is inventory management. Nothing quite makes me giddy like going to pick up an item only to see the words,”Inventory Full” pop up on screen accompanied by an,”EH!” sound. Gratefully, OSL made this a smaller part of the game. The game automatically sorts your bag into various categories: food, seeds, potions, materials, mandragora, equipment, and misc; which just helps make things more seamless. They also made it so that you can now carry 9 of each type of mandragora and seed while only taking up 1 inventory slot. This allowed you to have greater flexibility when either growing food or crafting. Moreover, they added in a large chest that you can store 118 items in. (Once you beat the game, each character can access everyone else’s chests, which is a nice touch.)
You can also easily assign abilities to a very large number of hotkeys. To do this you merely need to press L1 to open up the abilities menu, and then follow the onscreen instructions. For instance, you have one button devoted to hotkeys (⚫ by default, but I changed it to ▲ because it’s closer to ⬛ , the normal melee button). ▲, ↑+▲, ↓+▲, ←/→+▲ are all default hotkeys, leaving you with four options. Most games would dust their hands off and call it a day. But not OSL. OSL gives you the ability to hotkey to all sorts of combinations, like ↓↘→+▲/ ⬛ (otherwise known as quarter circle forward), ↑↓+▲/⬛ , etc. You can even assign something to ↓+▲ on the d-pad and then something else to ↓+▲ on the analog stick. Moreover, you can have moves set to different inputs in mid-air than on the ground. It is a brilliant system. So brilliant that I hate saying that it’d be nice if it offered some more options, like the ability to use R2 and L2 as hotkey buttons, especially since the game does not take advantage of the triggers. If you don’t like having all these complex inputs, then that is fine too, because you can cast any of your abilities from the abilities menu.
I’d honestly love to see more games take advantage of this sort of thing. To be fair, a 3D RPG, like Diablo or Dragon Age, just wouldn’t get the same impact from these sorts of setups, since directions work differently in 2D games. However, it would still be nice to give players the option to equip more skills in favor of a more complex control scheme if that is what they so desire; let the player decide how much complexity and skill they want involved in their own playstyle. You do it with abilities and player builds, so let’s open up the control scheme in a similar manner.
Misc. Usability Features
The above features were just some of the major additions to the game, but there were many other smaller additions that made the experience shine. Below are some, but surely not all, of the small usability tweaks added into this game.
- Mid-mission cafe; so that you don’t have to complete a level to actually be able to make meals, which increase your level (they also made it so that you only need ingredients for the mid-mission cafe and only use money for the post mission cafe, which separates the two nicely into discreet categories).
- Eating at the mid-mission cafe was also made easier because you can use ingredients in your pack AND ingredients in your storage chest.
- When enemies spawn, a little marker shows up on the left or right side of the screen to indicate which side they are closer to. This marker will list the enemy name and their level.
- Allowing the player to easily release phozons in order to grow plants.
- Allowing the player to mass eat foods, or mass plant seeds
- The latter of which would show you the total number of phozons needed to grow the crop you planned to sow.
Playing this game, you could easily tell that making the game more usable was a redoubled effort for the team. While there were successes and failures, it was refreshing to see improvements to some of the systems that truly made the game a more fluid experience.