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Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator - A Diamond in the Rough

Join Tony as he reviews an amazing hidden gem in Septerra Core!

I have always felt that there is something a bit disingenuous about the term “hidden gem”, primarily from the term itself becoming almost meaningless due to how overused it is nowadays. So when I begrudgingly do have to describe something as a hidden gem, I use it very sparingly for things that I am fairly sure most people never heard, or at the very least for something somewhat known that ended up flying under everyone's radar. It can be a bit of a slippery slope either way and there will always be that one person that will argue otherwise, but this is one of those times where I feel comfortable enough referring to the game I am going to cover as a hidden gem. I remember stumbling upon a copy of Septerra Core on the discount game wall at EB Games in the early 2000s and it came in a combo pack with Shogo, a rather interesting Mech FPS that I hope to cover in a future article. There were blurbs on the flip cover that boasted how Septerra Core “revolutionizes role-playing” and compared it to the likes of Final Fantasy VII, which was something that definitely had me intrigued at the time. While I knew that the game would not live up to that kind of hype and since the combo pack was the only thing that I could afford that was even remotely interesting, I bit the bullet of uncertainty and made the purchase. Needless to say, in the end the game left a good enough impression on me to make me want to revisit it all of these years later and write this article. Developed by Valkyrie Studios and published by Monolith Productions, Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator is a turn based role playing game that takes inspiration from popular console jRPGs of the era. While this does not sound like anything out of the ordinary nowadays, a console style jRPG wasn't too common on the PC at the time, at least not in the West where RPGs in the style of Fallout, Diablo and Elder Scrolls were way more popular on the platform. This is something that really made Septerra Core stand out and may have also been part of its downfall, since it had a troubled development history and didn't make much of a splash upon release.

The world of Septerra consists of 7 continents that are connected together on the Great Spine and share the power of the Core, a biocomputer that is located at the center of everything. Above it all are the Chosen, a technically advanced civilization who feel that they are the superior inhabitants on all of Septerra and quite often cause trouble for everyone on the lower Shells. The story follows Maya, a Junker that lives in the town of Oasis on the Second Shell of the Great Spine. While searching for her younger brother Tori, Maya accidentally stumbles upon a conspiracy by the Doskias, a Chosen who wants to fasttrack the start of an ancient prophecy, despite the disastrous effects it may cause to all of Septerra. With the help of her companions, Maya must travel to each Shell to warn everyone of Doskias’ plans and prevent him from prematurely fulfilling the Prophecy before any more damage is done.

Throughout the journey you will explore each of the 7 Shells and interact with all of the different civilians that inhabit each one. The towns and villages you visit are very well detailed, each with their own unique look that matches the Shell’s environment. Along the way various characters join Maya on her quest, each with their own motives as to why they want to come along, with conflict arising between party members with opposing views that results in some interesting character dynamics as the story progresses. Dialogue with NPCs can vary depending on who you have in your party, making talking to everyone in the areas you revisit worthwhile, because you never know what will be said or what events may get triggered. Everyone from your party members to the NPCs you interact with are fully voiced and the voice actors deliver good performances, giving every character their own unique personality.

The enemy encounters are in predetermined locations, much like Chrono Trigger, Earthbound and the Tales series. In combat each party member has their own Endurance Bar that is split into three sections and builds up during inactivity, the amount of sections you have filled up determines the attack power and which special abilities you can use. The combat is in real time, which makes every move important and not planning your next move accordingly may result in extra damage that could’ve been avoided. The Endurance Bar can have its advantages when utilized correctly, you can use a character with a higher speed stat to quickly use first aid items between attacks, or strategizing attacks by taking smaller pop shots on enemies while you wait for another party member’s Endurance to build up so they can deliver a more devastating blow. It is very reminiscent of the ATB system seen in other jRPGs, so those familiar with the genre should have no problem catching on to how it works.

There is also a Power Core system that acts as mana and is represented by a blue bar at the top of the screen, the Core energy is shared and the amount available depends on the Core stats of the current members in your party. The available Core power is depleted by using the special skills of each individual character, or by using Fate Cards. These cards grant you Magic type power such as healing, attack and defense spells and are collected as you progress through the game. Fate Cards can also perform various combos for stronger spells by having two party members combine different cards together, these range from stronger attacks to summons and can really turn the tables when used properly. Put this all together and you have a system that requires you to be more thoughtful when using your Core abilities, especially early on when you have a very limited amount of Core Power.

The entire game can be played using only a mouse with an adventure game style point and click mechanic. A simple left click is used to navigate characters around environments and a double click makes them run. In combat a simple click on a character with at least one section of the Endurance bar filled lets you perform an action, from there you select which item or available skill you want to use and then click which target or ally you intend to use them on. Other tasks such as talking to NPCs, picking up items, changing equipment, buying and selling items at shops are all done with a simple click. It is all very user friendly and intuitive, there is the option to use keyboard commands to perform some functions, but it's rather unnecessary and most players should be able to play through the game comfortably using only the mouse.

As well thought out as all of these game mechanics are, there are some flaws that take away from the overall experience. Enemy encounters can feel a bit drawn out due to all of the various attack animations and feel very repetitive when multiple enemies perform long attacks back to back, especially since the Endurance Bar comes to a grinding halt when any kind of action is performed. Having an option to speed up battles, or completely skip the animations would have remedied some of the tedium, especially in later parts of the game where you have to backtrack through previously visited areas. There is also a lack of explanation on how the Fate Card combo system works, while Fate combos are briefly mentioned in the instruction manual, it is something that can easily be overlooked by the player and a brief in battle tutorial would have been a better way to make the player aware of the mechanic.

The exploration also isn’t without its faults, there is often a lack of direction on where exactly you need to go and what you need to do. You can combine key items needed to complete certain objectives to progress the story, but what exactly you need to do with an item can sometimes be unclear without needing to look at a walkthrough. There are times where areas have needlessly large maps that can be confusing to navigate, making them feel more like filler to pad the game out instead of something that was more thoughtfully designed. There is also a noticeable lack of a soundtrack, while the World Map and enemy encounters have their own themes, everything else from the towns to the dungeons only have ambient sounds to fill the void. This can really be felt when exploring larger areas and can make things feel even more like a slog, especially when there is a lot of backtracking in the maze-like areas later in the game. What little soundtrack the game has is great, every Shell has their own unique World Map tune and there are several themes that play during battles, it’s just a shame that the rest of the game is borderline silent.

As I had mentioned earlier, the game had a troubled development history which may explain some of its shortcomings. Originally developed by Rabid Entertainment, (formally ICOM Simulations, before being acquired by Viacom New Media in 1993), early conception for the game started in late 1995 and after a successful video pitch to Viacom, pre-production began. Unfortunately, Viacom New Media was shut down in 1997, resulting in Rabid Entertainment having to disband in 1998 and leaving the fate of Septerra Core uncertain. The remaining members of the team would later form Valkyrie Studios and acquire the rights from Viacom, eventually finding a home at Monolith Productions for the remainder of the games development. There is a series of articles about the history of Septerra Core’s production written by game designer Brian Babendererde that goes into far more detail than I ever can, I will link at the end of the article for those who might be interested. It is a very long and informative read that gives a deep dive into the trials and tribulations of game development.

Despite all of the odds being stacked against it, Septerra Core has gained a small but strong cult following over the years. There are several fan patches available to get the game up and running on modern systems, troubleshooting for various problems can also be easily found with a quick search, so you will never be left in the dark if you happen to come across a problem getting the game running properly. I think that it is worth mentioning that there is an unofficial port for the PlayStation Vita thanks to someone in the very dedicated homebrew scene, which is what got me to revisit the world of Septerra and how I played through a good portion of the game. The port has its own set of issues, but it is very impressive that it works at all and shows the dedication of its fanbase.

Septerra Core is far from perfect, there are some game design flaws that hold it back from being a true classic, but you can tell that there was a lot of passion behind the project. While the story may not have broken any new ground, the world of Septerra is very well realized and rich in lore, and all of the characters have their own unique story arc that slowly unravels as the game progresses. The slow paced combat may draw some people away and some of the more glaring technical issues can hamper the experience, but despite all of its flaws the game still offers a lot to enjoy. It is a diamond in the rough, well worth checking out for fans of the genre and for those who enjoy playing older PC games.

As always, feel free to share your own opinions on Septerra Core, or tell me about a hidden gem of your own that you think is worth checking out by leaving a comment below and contacting me on social media.


About The Author:

Tony is a lifelong game collector, Batman fan, and enjoyer of B-movies. He is also the co-host of the podcast PlayStation Rumble, alongside fellow PlayStation enthusiasts (and sometimes adversaries) Jamie and Joshua.

Podcast Twitter: PSRumble

Podcast e-mail:

Personal Twitter: TonyGearSolid

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