The role-playing experience has come a long way in electronic gaming history. Once upon a time, all an RPG would comprise of was gripping text and, if you were lucky, some static pictures to set the tone for what you were reading. Now, however, the role-playing game can offer some of the richest visual trimmings of any current genre. Exuberant and exaggerated characters are only overshadowed by their over the top weaponry, and well, quite often those weapons look somewhat feeble compared to the amazing magic and summon spells that can be cast upon unsuspecting enemies. While Xbox owners have had some standout RPGs appear for their platform, including Knights of the Old Republic and Morrowind, the more console-oriented Japanese RPG, such as the Final Fantasy series has been somewhat lacking. But has UK developer Climax redressed this imbalance with their promising new Xbox RPG?
Get Thee Behind Me!
Sudeki is a world torn. Many years ago, Tetsu, God of light, reigned over the land, and things were good. However, he was not happy existing alone and wished to share the world with another. From his own being sprang a brother – a darker entity to help Tetsu oversee this fledgling planet. But the darker brother, Heigou, was dissatisfied with sharing and tried to rid himself of an unwanted brother. Despairingly, Tetsu called upon the world of Sudeki for brave warriors to aid him in his struggle against Heigou. Finally, and after a long, violent struggle, Heigou was defeated by Tetsu, God of light and the four, mortal champions who answered his call to arms. Now, after many subsequent years of peace, a dark and ominous shadow is once again rising?
While a lot of modern RPGs like to set their story with cutting edge CG cutscenes, it is refreshing to see that Climax, from the outset, are trying to carve their own particular niche with Sudeki. Instead of offering the player a richly detailed CG movie as an introduction to the world, its characters, and their intriguing plight, the developers have instead opted to use a medieval style puppet show. While it initially seems a little quirky, first impressions of this sequence provide a hint as to the kind of attention to detail and originality that Climax have tried to inject into the title. Ultimately, the preparatory puppet show serves this purpose well, and it efficiently sets the scene for the upcoming adventure.
A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing?
However, the fact that Sudeki has been marketed and advertised as a role-playing game may prove detrimental to its success. Although several staple RPG elements are present throughout the game, such as summons, character levelling and side quests, its general blueprint has more in common with the action-adventure genre; primarily in that it offers a fairly linear experience. Initially placing you in the role of Tal (a swordsman), it will not take long for your party to swell in numbers to four characters. When full, your party of comrades includes two melee fighters and two projectile casters. While this may sound a little bland, each one of these characters has individual attributes and nuances that make them an integral part of your team. For instance, Tal possesses the strength to move obstacles, Ailish casts magic, Buki can climb walls, and Elco has a jetpack that allows him to fly for short periods of time. The biggest problem to overcome with Sudeki, though, is that the game presents little in the way of diversity where gameplay is concerned. When inside a room where there are large stones to be moved, Tal will naturally be the character to select for the task. If there is an unusual patch of moss growing vertically on a cliff face, then Buki can easily scale it. While some people dislike RPGs for their time absorbing puzzles, gamers may find that Sudeki is just far too straightforward. It’s rather obvious when and how to use characters for specific tasks, and these tasks are repeated several times throughout the game without much variation. That’s not to say that Sudeki isn’t fun, but many may be put off by the simplicity on offer.
Thankfully, other aspects of the game are better realized, though. The combat is engaging, and takes place entirely in real time. Tal and Buki are very enjoyable to control as they spin and twirl in lethally poetic ballets of razor sharp death. Likewise, another impressive feature is that, when controlling Elco and Ailish (the casters of the group), the perspective changes to first-person. While sounding like a fairly rudimentary choice given their alignment, it is still pleasant to see characters played out in this fashion, and the decision adds some much needed variety to the overall gameplay experience. Menu navigation during battle has also received a rather unique twist: instead of pausing the game and allowing you to peruse your equipment at leisure, the game world merely slows down. Although this initially appears to grant you far too much time, you will later discover that searching out an item not allocated for quick selection via the D-pad can be a stressful proposition.
Questions Of Questing
The vast majority of Sudeki’s game time will be spent completing quests in order to reach your ultimate goal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, quests are split into two basic types: narrative drivers, and optional quests that can be imparted to you via the numerous NPCs you’ll meet during your travels. Generally quests are simple, mainly consisting of the ?find item – deliver item’ variety. This will lead to some quizzical wandering around, but the game’s combat is always a welcome and pleasant diversion. Though it adheres to the traditional random battle convention realized in other RPGs, Sudeki tries to keep the battles in one solid world. Instead of the (now) clich?d ?glass screen shattering’ fight introduction, Sudeki closes off an area that your party is travelling through, and doesn’t grant you exit until your enemies are vanquished. Those enemies cannot be seen upon entering a particular area, nor can their numbers, and this can create some very tense, yet enjoyable, showdowns. There’s also no guarantee that a fight will occur in any given area, so you may sometimes find yourself nervously preparing for a battle that simply doesn’t transpire.
Sounds A Tad Derivative
One of Sudeki’s strongest attributes is its undeniably lush graphical appearance. The environments are beautifully drawn and show a rich diversity of influences, including European and Japanese fantasy. While those influences are blatantly apparent, no single style is overly predominant – although the Japanese feel is a little more recognizable, and this imbues Sudeki with a very stylistic game world. Environments are colourful and teeming with life, and this design ethic has also filtered down to the character models. The team you will ultimately control are all well drawn and smoothly animated, as are the game’s varied NPCs that cross paths with your party during their travels. Strangely, though, some of the more humanoid designs seem a little too caricatured and are somewhat amateurish in appearance when compared to their surroundings and fellow citizens. Sound is also subject to similar contradictions. Even though sections of the voiceover work is rather good, and lends a believable atmosphere to the game, some of the supporting vocal work can be truly terrible and over the top. You really cannot tell, character-to-character, what you will be hearing next; the lack of consistency certainly hurts the illusion. The music can be very hit and miss too. While adventuring, the game envelops you within a mystical tune that is both light and upbeat, and fits well with running through countryside on a sunny day. Yet during cutscenes, when tension should be present, the music can often be a meandering and happy riff that does nothing to convey or accentuate what’s unfolding in terms of the story. Replay value, as with most RPGs is really up to the player. If you like to complete a game in the shortest possible time, then there are a slew of side quests to accomplish – should you wish to return and play the game through for a second, more complete, time. However, if you decide that you want to see everything Sudeki has to offer on your first visit, then you will be left with little else to experience afterwards.
She’s A Pretty Mare, Sire?But Weak About The Ankles
Sudeki is, indeed, an interesting game; it definitely exhibits a great development potential that could perhaps be unlocked through a well-crafted sequel? Despite this, it’s a hard game to assess, especially seeing as how it’s largely greater than the sum of its parts. The graphics are wonderful, but small, frustrating elements seem unnecessarily awkward. The sound is well executed, but ill fitting at times. Regretfully speaking, Sudeki is flawed – mainly due to its simplistic nature, but it still manages to be endearing. Gamers who approach this expecting an in-depth RPG may well be disappointed, but if action-adventures and more lightweight RPGs appeal to your gaming sensibilities, then Sudeki will, more than likely, prove itself a worthy addition to your collection.