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Culdcept Saga Review

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Developer: Omiya Soft Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: February 5, 2008 Also On: None

If the Monopoly man played Magic the Gathering, his board game might have made been more like Culdcept Saga. Omiya Soft released Culdcept on the PlayStation 2 a few years ago, and Culdcept Saga is essentially a revision of that. While the final product is genuinely entertaining with practice and patience, Culdcept Saga is certainly difficult to pick up and learn.

Culdcept Saga mixes several complicated board game and strategy elements with collective card game battles and property management. Moving around the board is done by rolling a die, and on almost any spot on the board you can place a monster card down to “defend” that territory. If the colored spot is the same as the card’s element color, the monster gains some special bonuses in battle like extra health or elemental territory bonuses. Every territory has a level, and the level can be raised with points that are earned by winning other territories, collecting money from opponents landing in your territory, or passing checkpoints and then passing “Go” for a big bonus. Battle is usually concluded after a certain number of these magic points are collected and the winning player lands on the “Go” point for the last time.

Landing on an enemy territory (or vice versa) results in a monster battle. These battles require you to defend your territory with the monster occupying it if you are attacked, so placing strong monsters in key locations on the map is obviously a smart thing to do. In fact, clumping up groups of similarly-colored spots raises the value of the properties (just like Monopoly), so this is important for winning battles and for keeping property. Attacking an enemy property is fun, because you get to attack first and attempt to take over rather than defend. Using item cards that are drawn while circling the map help win battles; there are weapons and defense items that help boost health and attack stats for the card you use.

The mechanics get a lot deeper, especially when considering some of the trickiest of the 500+ cards in the game. This is where Culdcept Saga really turns away casual gamers. Some of the battles and random events on the board will really infuriate players who do not know what they are doing, and there really are not any tutorials that appropriately lay out all of the game’s bells and whistles. Using some territory powers and other special abilities for your cards can be difficult because the instructions on the card are not properly defined in an easy way.

There is a lot of flexibility in Culdcept Saga’s deck building. After each battle cards are awarded, and a lot of decks can be created and saved. This is perfect for mixing it up and creating a deck for any situation. There are a lot of elements but there are also a lot of items and other cards that help create some truly creative decks. One flaw I found occasionally in battle, though, was that the cards being drawn were often the same type over and over again. I would very frequently get items and not monsters, so I could not own any more territories for quite a while. When I say that the cards would be similar for several turns, I mean that one time I drew almost every single item card in my deck before a single monster came up. This is just ridiculous, and should not happen in an Xbox 360 game.

Culdcept Saga also looks like a first-generation Xbox game in high-definition. The character models are very plain and lacking of any intricate detail, and some of the textures are actually pretty blurry and dull. The map backgrounds utilize low-grade 2D animations and otherwise basic details, and the board spaces are pretty bland as well. The card art is alright, and I actually liked the fact that attacks were animated in some kind of way. I just wish that the monsters were actually recreated on the screen for battle, I think the lack of that is inexcusable. The Xbox 360 is capable of so much more, and I do not care if Culdcept Saga is a bargain $39.99 title. It could really use a lot more detail. The soundtrack is basic and somewhat repetitive, and the voice acting is also pretty bad.

The game offers online play where custom decks can be used in battle, but the matches are pretty standard and unexciting anyway. Overall the game is fun to play if you put the time and effort into learning all of its tricks, but I could not find the interest and could only recommend Culdcept Saga to a very small niche. Magic the Gathering fans might be interested in something like this, but even they would quickly tire of the card mechanics that would be very simple if they were easily understandable without further exploration of manuals and FAQs. Although there really is not anything sticking out in a really bad way, Culdcept Saga is a game that probably will not appeal to a lot of people.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 5.5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 6.3
Written by Cliff Review Guide