Breaking the World

This is a post about why I stopped playing Lost Sphear. It contains plot spoilers for the first few hours of the game. They are behind the cut. You have been warned.

I wanted to like Lost Sphear. I considered I Am Setsuna to be underrated, with much of the criticism levied against it unfair, so I had plenty of benefit of the doubt to give Lost Sphear. And at first, I really did enjoy it! Like I Am Setsuna, Lost Sphear has beautiful visuals and music. I immediately found its world comforting, its characters likable, and its storytelling compelling. The initial group of characters, their relationships, and their role in their town are well established and feel real enough to invest in.

But after a few hours, the story started going in strange directions that felt less grounded and less plausible.

There were a few minor frustrations that I was able to deal with, like a party member getting suddenly and forcibly removed in a contrived way. As these accumulated, they thinned my patience - but then something significantly weirder happened.

At this point in the plot, my party wanted to talk to some prisoners but was not allowed into the prison. They discussed the problem, but had trouble coming up with any ideas. However, one of my party members happened to be from ancient times, and he mentioned that it’s a shame that “night” doesn’t seem to exist in this era, because cover of darkness would make it easier to sneak in to the prison.

This was, in a word, jarring. Endless day is a big deal that should have huge, sweeping, global implications. It’s not something that should just be casually mentioned a few hours into the game as part of figuring out a minor story goal.

The exposition that followed made it clear that the day has lasted so long that even the term “night” is forgotten. There’s like one historian (conveniently nearby, of course) investigating the crazy idea that there used to be “loss of light”. It’s clear that this world has been without night for a long time - generations, at least.

Yet nothing else in the game so far has indicated that this is a world full of people who’ve never known night. Towns have lamps and torches and lights everywhere, just like normal. (Including around the prison, so nighttime wouldn’t even make it easy to sneak in.) It’s true that the player has only experienced daytime so far, but that’s a normal thing in games like this - there’s been nothing at all hinting that the in-world day/night cycle has been disrupted.

This feels like a huge lost opportunity. If there’d been hints along the way–no artificial light sources, prominent blackout curtains in every bedroom, cryptic comments about the timing of events and activities, etc.–this sudden reveal would snap everything into place. It’d be a subversion of the fact that time doesn’t really pass in most games like these.

So my party met up with the historian, choosing to hide the fact that we had someone with us who had actually experienced night, and learned that there was apparently some kind of elemental tower (also conveniently nearby) that was hypothesized to be the source of time (whatever that means) which had apparently stopped working right around when nighttime stopped happening. Therefore, my party decided to go fix the time tower so the world would experience nighttime again so we could sneak into the prison to talk to the prisoners.

If I’d been jarred before, now I was broken clean out of the game’s world. Restoring night to a world that has been without it for generations is huge. It’s not something a few people should casually decide to do in pursuit of a mundane objective. Especially when it’s not at all clear that it would actually make the objective achievable, and especially when the problem has many more reasonable solutions (such as asking their high-ranking military friend to get them access).

But that’s what happened. I walked my party over to the tower, pressed a button to fix it, and the world plunged into darkness.

I walked around the darkened world map in a shocked daze. I had trouble believing that I’d just casually done this huge world-changing thing that should by all rights send the entire global society into panicked chaos, all because my party wanted it to be dark so they could try to sneak into a prison to talk to some people and couldn’t think of a different solution. This was literally the first thing they’d tried or even discussed.

While I was walking, it became light again, and I realized that there must now be a day/night cycle and I’d now have to wait until nightfall again in order to go try to sneak into the prison.

That was finally too much and I had to step away from the game. I assumed I’d come back later, but it’s been days now and I don’t think I’m going to. This chain of events means the setting no longer feels like a world and the characters no longer feel like people. I can no longer invest in them or the story, and to me that’s death for an RPG.