RPGamer Feature - Culdcept SAGA Interview
Culdcept Saga
Developer: Omiyasoft
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: 02.05.2008

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RPGamer had the chance to sit down with Culdcept guru and Culdcept SAGA's Localization Producer, Nobu Taguchi. In this interview we learn a little about the game's background as well as even finding out how an average round might turn out. On top of this, you also find out how to progress the game's story and even how long you might expect to be sitting down and playing.

Could you first give us an introduction to the story of Culdcept Saga for those that may not have been following its development?
More than happy to! Culdcept is a series that is about 10 years old. It was an introduction to a genre blending board games and a collectable card games. Since then, many have embraced this marriage of genre with open arms. Since its inception, it has gone through many refinements and we're gearing up to ship the latest game in the series, Culdcept SAGA next week. The game story pivots on an element from the series' early days. Cards with amazing powers were created when a mighty book, called the Culdcept, was destroyed. These cards are strewn throughout the world. Those who wield and utilize the cards are called Cepters, and they have the ability to tap its power to unveil amazing effects, capable of affecting the very world they live in. Some use the power for petty reasons. Others utilize the power for the greater good and evil. This is the core element within the story line of the series, and you can experience this within Culdcept SAGA as well.

How do the gameplay elements fit in with the story elements of the game?
In Culdcept SAGA, you are introduced as a young person, who finds out their capabilities as a Cepter, and ventures out on an adventure to try and save the world. With this premise, players can venture into the game with the knowledge that, as a player, you too control the power of the Culdcept within the game. As you play the game, you will notice that the "Maps" (playing board in the game play sequence) are themed according to the environment of the story line you are in. You face opponents in the story who each have distinctive tastes and personalities, all which are reflected in their game style and "Book" (the deck of cards) set-up. So, we really have the game made so that the player can immerse themselves within the character of the game during their game matches. It is quite a unique way of blending the story with the actual game play and we are confident that the story line will help players progress, not only in the story, but in their actual skill level as well.

Will players of past Culdcept games have an advantage when playing this title?
They will have an advantage at first, since they already know the basic core concepts within the game. But an experienced player will note, there are a number of new features as well as adjusted content within, so to a certain degree everyone who plays will be "new" to this game. The great part of the game is that, as you progress through the game, you notice that you naturally are changing ways of approaching the game, and strategizing in a very incremental fashion. Hence, even if the experience in the series were to create a rift between newcomers and previous players, as players progress within the game, this experience rift will become less and everyone will be able to challenge each other in a much more balanced and fair fashion, which is what we were hoping to achieve with this title.

When it comes to movement, is there a world map or is there only game boards that players move around on?
The story mode progresses similar to reading a story book. As you pass each stage, you automatically progress to the next scene which has a Map prepared for you with your opponent. The good part of the game is that, if you feel you are under prepared, you can always go back to previous stages to re-challenge the stage and to gain additional cards to use in your current progress.

Along those same lines, are there towns and can players interact with NPCs?
Since the core mechanics of the game lies in the actual game play, we did not include elements within the game which can take away from the player, the actual game play. Yet, just making a drab looking sequence would take away from the game play itself, and hence, came up with this balance of progress within the story mode, to ensure as much satisfaction and immersion to the player, without taking them away from the core fun of the game.

How many different cards can players find throughout the game and is there a maximum amount that players can hold?
There are a total of 486 cards within the game. Each person can use up to 4 identical cards in their Book of 50 cards (this can be adjusted with match criteria when playing against other players!) Hence, the combination is limitless and is dependent on the person constructing their Book.

How quickly does the game grow in complexity? From previews and demos, a lot of players struggle to grasp the concepts. How is this handled as the game progresses?
As you go through the game, there is a progressive tutorial feature in which each player is given information throughout each level of the game. We are aware that, initially, the game may prove difficult for some players. We didn't want to just throw out a tutorial which force feeds information to players in one short instance. It was neither feasible nor user friendly. Hence, as a player plays the story mode, they will notice that the game will be giving tutorials progressively and in increments as new features are shown through the story. Also, we included a Help feature which players can go back to, giving basic information and even play hints. Once you get the basic concept, everything will click and players will notice they are playing much faster and smarter. We feel the progressive nature of the game will fit any and all players willing to indulge themselves with the game.

Will there be side quests for players to complete or are there any unlockables to be found?
We do not have any side quests to the initial story line, but we do have a number of unlockables within the game in the form of cards, Book covers, and character avatar customizations. We strongly urge those, even veterans of the game, to play through the story mode of the game. We even more strongly urge players to try and play the story mode twice. Who knows - maybe they will find some neat "Easter Eggs" in there.

On average, how long will it take players to complete the game?
It really depends on the player's level of strategy and Book construction. I would say a person who constructs and strategizes well can finish the story mode through in 10 to 15 or so hours (personally, I took about 15 hours to complete the game). For another who does not strategize at all and just constructs their Books randomly, it may be a bit more of a challenge. Of course, a lot of people will want to go back to past stages and try to win more cards in battle. Many people we met over the last year who were fans of the previous Culdcept games told us they invested hundreds of hours in the game. And, with the inclusion of online game play, the amount of time players can spend in the game is endless since every match can be different.

Could you please walk us through a single generic turn for the player and enemy?
No problem! Let's start with your (player) turn. First, you are given an opportunity to either, roll the die or to select a Magic card to use (Magic cards can affect various areas within the game play). If you opt to use your Magic card, after you use it, you are then prompted to roll the die. Once you roll the die, you move your avatar across the board (sometimes, you have a choice in direction of movement). After you move, you will land on a square where you are then greeted with multiple choices depending on the square you landed on, your played Creature on the Map (you place your Creatures on empty land to occupy them) that you may have passed during the movement, and Magic effects. After you make your strategic choice, the turn moves to the next character and proceeds as explained. Of course, this is a really truncated explanation and when you actually get to play the game, you will see there is much more depth in the game in the form of battles, tolls and additional spells. I invite all those interested to give it a shot. I can guarantee that those interested in RPG, strategy games, board games, CCGs, puzzles etc. will all be addicted by the amazing depth and balance of the game.

Can players level characters up, cards, anything else?
There is no real "level up" in the sense that the game is not your standard fare RPG. Unlike RPGs, progression does not equal to strength. Instead, you will notice that the level up will not only come in way of getting new cards to use, but more so in the sense that as a player, you yourself are now thinking more in way of thinking, planning, strategizing in the game to make yourself beat your opponent. So, in a strange way to word it, playing the game doesn't really level your character up. Rather you, as a player, are leveling up as you play the game.

How much character customization will players have at their finger tips?
Initially, you have only basic components to work with. You can set hair style, hair color and skin tones in the beginning. As you progress through the game, you can unlock various avatar parts, such as head gear and outfits. There is quite an extensive array of parts to unlock and some are very challenging to acquire. As such, character customization is another form of showing of how much you have accomplished within the game. Also, as a hint, play through the story mode at least once through. That will open a greater option for those who would like to customize their character more than the standard fare.

How is the online feature of the game implemented?
The online feature is separate from the story mode, and plays like a CCG tournament in itself. Players can challenge other players throughout the country via Xbox LIVE by setting up matches with different criteria. The good thing about the LIVE feature is that players, regardless of whether they win or lose, will earn cards in competition, and then use those exact cards gained in the story mode or other LIVE matches. Hence, no matter how you play the game, whether offline or online, everyone will gain something to add to their inventory to help them gain further ground against opponents of all types. We're hoping that everyone will give LIVE play a chance and also hope that local players will come together to have some down right fun competitions against each other on single console as well (we have a card betting feature just to get more people in offline competitions as well, enjoy!).

RPGamer would like to thank Nobu Taguchi for taking time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions for us, Kit Ellis for setting this all up, and Namco Bandai Games for deciding to localize Culdcept SAGA. The game will be releasing in North America on February 5, 2008 at a suggested retail price of $39.99.

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