|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Blueside||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Upping the RPG-inspired ante, Circle of Doom also allows crafty gamers to synthesize their own weapons and items. The learning curve for this is steep, and you'll likely create plenty of useless crap before you get the hang of it. However, the satisfaction you'll feel after a successful synthesis will likely keep you coming back to this optional mini-game; turning your drab broad sword into a slick looking beast-slayer that'd make Conan jealous is an addictive incentive.
If you find that tinkering with jewels and trinkets in hopes of fashioning a prettier, more powerful sword only distracts you from collecting the heads of your demented enemies, then you can keep things simple by buying and selling gear from merchant idols located in the same safe spot as where you slumber into the dream state. You'll actually want to visit these idols frequently to unload the ridiculous amount of goodies you'll loot from the fresh field of corpses left in the wake of each battle; there should be Costco-sized shopping carts stationed at each dungeon's entrance so we'd have something to carry all the items left by our fallen foes. In a nice nod to these crazy loot drops, the developers have even included an Xbox Achievement challenging players to collect all the items scattered about after a boss battle.
Despite its extra RPG efforts, Circle of Doom is, at its heart, a dungeon-crawling, level-grinding, monster-masher. The synthesizing and skill-learning are great RPG additions to the franchise, but it seems they could have been implemented better to become a more integral part of the overall experience. As is, they serve mostly as an optional distraction from the core gameplay. Still, for genre enthusiasts it's nice to have customization options beyond the expected leveling-up of your SP and HP. As a carnage-fueled hack-and-slash orgy Circle of Doom mostly gets the job done, although the one-note gameplay can definitely grow repetitive. The linear level design doesn't do much to break this monotony either; environments are pretty, but aren't especially varied and offer very little in the way of destructible items. The character designs, on the other hand, are often breathtaking and will have you constantly anticipating what ugly horde might be lurking ahead. The musical score is hit or miss; the atmospheric stuff is appropriately mood-setting, but the cheesy rock anthems can become a bit grating.
With six characters ready for battle, there's certainly plenty of play packed into Circle of Doom. Playing through with just one hero could take upwards of twenty hours, and 4-player online co-op stretches the fantasy fun even further. If you're a fan of the tried-and-true action-RPG formula, then this one won't disappoint. However, if you've never understood the satisfaction of slogging through demon-filled dungeons or, more importantly, never stayed up until the sun creeps through the cracks of your drawn blinds in hopes of seeing "Level Up" pop-up on the screen just one more time, then this may not be your cup of mead
CCC Freelance Writer