Considering this website focuses upon RPGs, it would not be a stretch to imagine that most of our readers have never played a Culdcept series title. In Japan, the series has seen several iterations, but North America has only seen the light of the self-titled Culdcept for the PlayStation 2 in 2003. Traditionally more strategy/card/board game than RPG, the Culdcept series has rarely included many, if any, RPG elements. Culdcept Saga is the second title in the series to come to North America and is an attempt to modify its already-established strategy board-game gameplay with some basic RPG elements.
"..the Culdcept is a magical book so powerful that it can either destroy or save the entire world."
So, what exactly is the Culdcept? Apparently, the Culdcept is a magical book so powerful that it can either destroy or save the entire world. Special individuals called Cepters fight for control of the Culdcept by battling each other with "books" of 50 pre-chosen magical cards. The main character, who remains unnamed, is one of many individuals who was born a Cepter. This main character must face off against opposing Cepters for the ultimate control of the Culdcept, thus deciding the fate of the world.
As the story doesn't seem deep or robust, the most heavily-marketed feature of the title is its gameplay. There are many places where attempts have been made to add alternatives to combat, but the fairly complicated combat system remains the main selling point of the game. Battles are turn-based, taking place on a tiled game board similar to that of Monopoly. If a player moves onto an unoccupied, colored tile, they have the option of summoning a creature from their hand. Once summoned, the creature exact a 'rent' upon any opposing character unlucky enough to land on that tile, unless that character chooses to fight back. By summoning a creature of their own, the opposing character can battle against the creature guarding the tile. The victor wins possession of said tile and the loser is forced to pay the toll. Ultimately, gameplay is comparable to monopoly with combat occurring whenever players encounter each other at their controlled tiles.
Tiles on the game board are labeled as one of four elements, each represented by a different color: blue, red, yellow, or green. Creatures are naturally aligned to certain elements and gain benefits from guarding tiles which share similar alignments. Also, tiles can have their elements changed and leveled, all affecting the ultimate cost of the toll.
Aurally and visually, the quality leaves something to be desired given the standards set by other games of the same genre and platform. Though battles are beautifully rendered, the out-of-combat in-game visuals are plain and very simply animated. The audio, while decent by most standards, seems to be implemented as little more than background music during combat. While both aspects in comparison to past platform endeavors are not horrible, the obvious focus of the title was gameplay, not audio and visuals.
The game's multiplayer offerings really bring Culdcept Saga beyond the PlayStation 2 title. Culdcept Saga seamlessly integrates within the Xbox Live community afeaturing a multiplayer experience for up to 4 players. Additionally, players will be able to customize their personal avatar and wager cards on the eventual outcome of the game.
Culdcept Saga is not a game that will appeal to everyone. That said, it is a game that will most certainly appeal to many fans of collectible card-based gaming. The multiplayer offerings create a community environment that almost perfectly adapted for collectible card games. Culdcept Saga is scheduled to be released in North America on February 5, 2008.