|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Omiya Soft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 5, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The layout of the game boards changes with every new challenge. That's nice because it makes every encounter feel fresh. However, the game boards will always be divided up into Regular Land Types and Special Land Types. Regular Land Types are elemental land tiles that have a characteristic that may be beneficial to specific summoned creatures. These land types are categorized by the attributes of Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Neutral, or Multi-Attribute. Special Land Types are characterized by improvements.
There are thirteen Special Land Types including Castles, Temples, Fortune Tellers, Forts, Bridges, Fountains, Shrines, Warps, and Morphing Spaces. All of these structures and improvements have special attributes that will either aid or hinder your advance. If you land in a fort or a castle you'll be able to make terrain modifications to any tile you own so long as you have enough gold. This essentially changes the character of the board on the fly. No two games will ever be the same.
There are so many possible combinations and permutations that this game affords that it is impossible to list them all. Just know that it is beneficial to summon creatures of a specific elemental alignment to the appropriate tile. Putting friendly creatures next to each other will give you strength bonuses, and constantly improving and reinforcing your lands whenever you can afford to will bring you success. There really is a lot more strategy to be found in this title, but you'll have to discover the finer points on your own.
Other than the very good single player mode, there is also Versus and Online play. That means you can play against friends in your living room or take them on via Xbox LIVE with their full complement of Books. Versus mode and online play are virtually identical with the exception that winning online matches will actually give you points that will be put toward the LIVE leader boards.
Whether Online or in Versus mode, your friends can come over with a memory card unit that has all of their created Cepters, Books, and maps. You'll then be able to play on any unlocked map with the game rules and parameters that you decide. Multiplayer battles are fully customizable and as a result feel quite different then the single player campaign. One interesting difference is the ability to make alliances with your friends before the match begins. By forming an alliance you'll actually be able to win by combining your magic totals with that of your teammates'. If any of you should land on another allies' territory you won't have to pay the toll. This co-op aspect makes for a lot of fun, and acts as a good handicap for more advanced players.
The graphics in this title are quite good. Everything looks amazingly shiny and crisp. The hand drawn card art work is pretty special. A lot of effort went in to making Culdcept SAGA look great. The voiceover work on the other hand is bad. However, the ridiculously stilted and unnatural line delivery may actually appeal to hardcore fans of the genre. For me it seems unpolished and silly. The music is pleasant though and you will probably find yourself whistling the tunes around the house.
The controls are very straightforward. In fact, there are only a few buttons you'll have to press. There is a bit of a learning curve to in-game menu navigation, however. Moreover, the incessant confirmation screens during every turn are enough to drive you crazy. "Yes, I want to use that spell!" "Of course I want to summon the blue ogre; that's why I selected it!" Other than these small technical issues, the game plays smoothly.
Culdcept SAGA is a unique card collection board game that will appeal to more gamers than just the usual suspects. However, if you typically hate this kind of game, then Culdcept SAGA will not convert you. For the rest of you, it is a game that is full of depth, strategy, and appeal. The multiplayer features really add to the title and the prospect of downloadable content should keep us playing for a long time to come.
CCC Lead Contributor / News Director