Culdcept Saga ReviewWow! That Wendigo ripped that Weretiger Card a new one!
Do you love Mario Kart, but lose it at the thought of getting slammed with a Blue Shell after staying on top of the pack for 90% of the race? Well then, stay away from Culdcept Saga! Maybe that's a little unfair, as many board games ultimately decide the winner by chance, but Culdcept Saga seems to roll the dice for choosing the game's winner a little too often.
Culdcept Saga is the Japanese lovechild between a trading card game and the classic Monopoly board game. The object of a match is to obtain a predetermined amount of territory points with your custom deck of 50 cards on the board game styled map and to finish a lap around the level before your opponent. Territory is claimed by dropping a monster card onto the spaces you land on after the "dice" is rolled. If another player lands on a space that is occupied by your monster, the card battling mechanics kick in resulting in a monster fight for the territory. There are many unique rules that have a radical effect on the outcome of the battle, such as the elemental colors of the territory spaces, item cards, spell cards and a myriad of other factors.
Once you get started, the game does a fairly decent job explaining how the board game portion of Culdcept Saga works, but the strategies regarding the card portion of the game changes wildly with each new opponent. The boards might introduce a new element with each new battle you take on, such as element-free gray spaces, but you will have to memorize the abilities for many of the monsters if you want to make a dent in your foe's territory. For a game that can take hours to finish a single match, I'd expect an expanded tutorial mode to explain the different card abilities, strengths, strategies and so on. From what I've noticed, it doesn't matter if you choose the majority of the monsters in your deck to match a single element, or if you try to compose a balanced deck- I choose to create a solid yellow "Air" type monster deck, not because their beasts were more effective, but because I liked the monsters designs. Apparently, picking your favorite creatures from the "Neutral," "Water," "Fire" and "Earth" groups is an effective strategy when luck is on your side.
The basic rules of Culdcept Sage work, but there's way too much left to chance for you to feel like your strategically chosen deck of cards or your monster placement choices were the deciding factor for winning or losing a match. Rolling high numbers so you finish more laps of the board and drawing the cards you need play a much larger role in deciding the victor. It can be infuriating to play for hours against the computer with a massive surplus of territory points, only to lose to the AI because it squeaked by with the minimum and rolled three "10's" in a row to lap my character.
I believe that the game's development was much more focused on the rules and gameplay than the presentation. The story is presented with expressionless character models and text dialogue accompanied by drawings to show the current emotion of the talking person. It feels awkward and primitive on the Xbox 360, not to mention the story's context establishing scenes only play one single time. If you repeatedly fail a board, you risk forgetting why your character is dueling the other opponent in the first place. The game's visual saving grace is the beautifully illustrated battle cards. If the art for the monster cards was sold online, I'm certain that we'd all have "that friend" with the giant elephant-like Leveler or brutish Yellow Ogre print on their wall. While the card art is pretty, but "combat" is anything but. If a Lizard Man card is set against an Armored Dragon, a pair of holes will appear through the Dragon's card implying arrow damage, while an hourglass-held-to-sunlight effect burns through the Lizard Man card in return. The only time you actually see the monsters in the third dimension is when they are placed on your territory; although the Skeletons, Mothmen and Tornados just stand in place flexing like advanced Monopoly pieces.
I'll give Culdcept Saga credit for trying to make a videogame board game with an interesting fantasy theme that joins two popular geek tabletop genres. If you're got the patience and the time to sit down for a 75-25 split between luck and skill, give Culdcept Saga a try. It's not that it's a bad game as much as Culdcept Saga caters to a niche audience that would gladly give an entire afternoon to rolling twenty-sided dice and collecting mana for their next card combo attack- It's not for everyone, but at least the monsters are appealing!
-Arnold B. Carreiro
Developed by OmiyaSoft & Jamsworks
Published by Bandai Namco Games
ESRB: T for Teen
The Arnold B. Carreiro Rating System
A - Awesome! Why haven't you bought this yet? Go! GameStop doensn't close for another 2 hours!
B - Great game! It'll be something fun to play for a good while. It's better than most games, but shy of perfection for some reason. You should check it out!
C - Meh. It's not a BAD game, nor is it good. Enjoyment may be limited to a certain audience though. Perhaps some aspects of the title are great while others are bogged down by bad design/gameplay/etc.
D - Not too great... Too much of the game lacks polish to be appreciated to the general gaming public, but there might be enough here for someone to enjoy. Maybe...
F - A complete train wreck. Vampire Rain is the last "F" game I've ever played. The bargain bin is too good for an "F" game.