Culdcept Saga is not your typical game. In fact, a game like this goes against the fasted paced, pick-up-and-play attitude that all next gen games deliver. But if you managed to take the time to crack this game’s tough shell, there is an enjoyable experience to be had – although the gameplay is flawed.
Mixing in elements from classic board games like Monopoly and Carcassonne, Culdcept Saga is a geeky, turn based dice-roller. If this game’s review score was based solely on intimidation factor, then it would have achieved a near perfect rating. Just browsing through the game’s printed instruction manual will manifest a headache. Don’t expect to find any comfort by using the game’s built-in tutorial screens, either. But if you take the time to read through, what seems like thousands of pages, you should have a basic understanding of what to expect before you jump into the main quest. Luckily, the first part of the first stage should get players up to speed. Both the in-game and printed instruction manuals will make you wonder why you bought a game this complicated, but the actual gameplay is a lot easier than it looks. If you browse the instructions, you should be able to figure everything out within 20 minutes.
But herein lays one of the game’s problems. Today’s gamers do not want to take the time to learn a game with lengthy explanations. But if a gamer mixed patience with dedication, battles will provide a good amount of entertainment value.
Just like Monopoly, the player circles around a gameboard through the roll of a die, taking over property and gaining points for traveling a full rotation around the board. Each square that you stop on can be controlled by dropping a creature card on it. If your opponent then lands on this square, a battle will ensue with the winner taking all. The goal of the game is to reach a set amount of points before your opponent(s). Each square that you acquire, take over, and defend all wield points. But like a game of Advance Wars, the environment, as well as special attacks and elemental attributes all have a hand in determining the winner. Think of a deeper rock-paper-scissor game.
The gameplay concept is quite fun, but there are some rather big hindrances. First, each battle can take anywhere from 2-5 hours to complete. No matter what type of gamer you are, this is just way too long for a battle. The first level that I played took me about 2 hours to play through, only to lose at the end, forcing me to restart from the beginning. This first impression alone almost made me drive to Gamestop for an immediate trade-in. Secondly, luck has a rather big part in determining the winner. Like any Mario Party game, the computer always seems to get the perfect roll of the die just when they need it most, causing questionable head scratches. And finally, you are able to see your opponent’s cards during their turn. Even though you cannot truly plan ahead because of this, you can still take many precautionary steps when considering your turn.
This game may be on the 360, but it has the presentation of an early PS2 title. The lack of textures, customization, and battle animations place this game’s visual style deep within the boring category. Follow this up with a terribly written story line and Resident Evil 1 quality voice acting, and you have yourself one lackluster presentation. The game’s musical score is decent enough, but always changes at the most inappropriate times. Initially, this random changing music made me wonder if I did something wrong or if something drastic was going to happen to fit the mood of the gameplay. Having the music change whenever it wants is distracting.
There are many settings and gameplay options when playing multiplayer over Xbox Live, but there is no option to swap cards with friends. You do, however, receive cards if you are the victor of a battle. Again, the player should expect each battle to last hours, and if one person decides to quit midway through, you are S-O-L.
The biggest point that I want to get across is that Culdcept Saga is an enjoyable game. In fact, it is one of the very few card based games that I actually like. But the lack of presentation and sometime questionable AI force me to drop points in this game’s review score. Big kudos must be given to this game as even non-card game player can enjoy this game…that is if time is spent with the learning curve. There are 1000 gamer points to achieve, but the vast majority of them won’t be unlocked until many hours are put in. But as tally mark on the positive side, this game retails for about $40.
If you ever wanted to play Monopoly with a new twist, have a passion for board games, and like a slower paced game, the Culdcept Saga will definitely fill your plate.