Culdcept Saga - 360 - Review

Take one part monopoly and one part trading card game, like Magic: The Gathering. Mix both ingredients together, shake well and cook at 350 degrees for one hour. The results are the Culdcept series, which has been released on several legacy platforms over the past several years. Now Xbox 360 owners get the chance to experience this unique combination with Culdcept Saga, the newest entry in the series.

Personally I have to admit that I have never played a Culdcept game before I played Saga on the 360. I was a big fan of Magic: The Gathering years ago and played my fair share of Monopoly as well. In fact, I had been looking for some type of trading card video game to play when I jumped at the chance to review Culdcept Saga. What I experienced is a unique game that might not have the mass appeal of other big 360 games but will please fans looking for something out of the ordinary.

The basic premise of the game is rather simple; it’s a board game where you use cards. The board game “part” centers upon you having to take control over territory on the game map. Each square you see on the map is a territory that you or your opponent can control. Once you take control of the territory then you can collect a toll from your opponent when they land on your territory. However you’re not done just taking over property, Culdcept Saga lets you “level up” the territory you control to increase the toll to collect. This is very similar to Monopoly, where you can purchase buildings for your property to increase the value. There are four primary territory pieces in the game; Fire, Water, Earth and Wind.

 

The card portion of the game should be almost instantly familiar to anyone that has played a Trading Card Game (TCG) already. All of the characters you control are summoned from the Culdcept cards you possess in your deck, called books in the game. Each creature has a specific casting cost, called Magic Power; you must pay before you can summon the creature to the map. There are over 500 cards in the game which vary by Creatures, Spells and Items. The deck size is limited to 50 cards but you can have 16 different books/decks.

 

Each creature card in the game can be based upon one or a combination of several different attributes. The creatures are broken down into Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Neutral and sometimes a combination of multiple attributes. Each land type can play a big role by enhancing the creatures that you use during combat. Placing creatures on land with a matching attributes will result in “Land Effect” that will increase the hit points of your creature. Besides the casting cost and attribute each creature also has a level for strength (ST), Hit Points (HP) and Maximum Hit Points (MHP).

 

The Strength rating shows you just how powerful of an attack the creature has during combat. Maximum Hit Points and regular Hit Points might be similar but you should always pay close attention to the HP score. Once your HP counter reaches zero your creature is defeated. All of these ratings can be changed based upon the attributes of the land or a spell or item card that you can use to enhance or weaken a creature.

Once you have summoned a creature to the map, that creature will take control of that particular territory if the territory is currently unoccupied. Combat usually occurs when you invade/land on a territory occupied by another player. At that time you can decide if you want to fight the opponent’s creature to take possession of the territory or just pay the toll cost for the territory. The player invading will always attack first unless the opponent has an attribute or spell they can use to give them first attack. However, since this is still a TCG at heart, you really can never know what cards your opponent might have in their hands. Rushing head first into battle might be a costly decision even if your creature has a higher ST and HP rating. All it takes is one good item or spell to wipe out the advantage of your massive beast. 

 

With all of these options what we end up with is a promising mixture of trading card/board game that will probably please some and upset others. The number of cards and the variety of those cards is very impressive. I found myself constantly tweaking my deck after the end of each battle trying to find the right combination of creatures, items and spells. Getting a new card would always cause me to second guess my current deck even if I only had a 1 in 50 chance of using that card in the game. Yet the board game structure is where the game feels flat at times.

Instead of you trying to beat your opponents by reducing their total hits points, the Culdcept winner is the player that collects the most Magic Power. Each battle has a certain Total Magic score that must be reached by a player in order to win the game. Magic Power is obtained by collecting toll from the land(s) you control and passing forts and castles on the board. The castle is the starting point and each time you go past the castle you gain additional Magic Power points. The castle points earned will vary depending on the number of lands you control and the level of each land. Forts can be considered miniature castles that provide you with a smaller influx of Magic Power points once you passed them.

Having to collect the highest Total Magic points is where the game really bogs down into a game of attrition and patience. This wasn’t a game where you jumped in with a great deck and finished a match in about 10 minutes. Instead this felt like those almost endless Monopoly sessions I played where eventually everyone just got tired and gave up. One person was usually winning but the game really wasn’t over because other players still had property and the chance to collect more rent money. Culdcept Saga felt exactly the same after about 30 to 45 minutes with no winner. Your opponent might be ahead but you know you have more property and some strong cards left in your deck. Instead of going for the kill you have to sit back and wait, round after round after round until you’re mercifully declared the winner.

As I mentioned earlier Culdcept Saga is one of those games that some will spread the love for everyone to hear, while others will quickly switch to another game. I must admit that I find myself clearly in the middle, wanting to love the game while at the same time wanting to curse it for some inexcusable long matches. Sure the game lets you suspend and save the battle to resume later on but even then you could still come back to the same long session. Yet the Xbox 360 is sorely lacking in games such as Culdcept Saga which is what makes the game even more unique. This isn’t the typical first-person shooter that we see everyday for the 360. We get a unique title that doesn’t achieve perfection or complete greatness. Instead we get a solid title that will challenge you and keep you playing for a long time.

Review Scoring Details for Culdecept Saga

Gameplay: 7.8
The combination of board game and TCG is really a unique experience that works well. The strategy and tactics involved in editing your deck can get very addictive at times. If only the board game elements could be sped up to keep the game moving along.

Graphics: 8.2
Visually the paintings on the cards range from breathtaking to just acceptable. The character models used on the game board are very simplistic 3D models that will probably remind you of something from an original Xbox game instead of a 360 game. The cut scenes before the battles look decent, with the typical Japanese RPG looking characters you’ve seen a hundred times already.

Sound: 7.2
Musically you will hear the same battle themes used repetitively during the game. The voice acting is the typical overblown Japanese RPG fare you might expect but nothing completely repulsive. 

Concept: 8.0
Culdcept Saga is a great idea of merging two gaming platforms into one innovative experience. I think if the game could focus less on the board game elements it would help in speeding up the gameplay.

Multiplayer: 8.5
Thankfully the multiplayer portion lets you customize many of the options that bog down the single-player mode. You can play in a local match in Versus mode using a memory card or play online via Xbox Live. There is even a Blind Matches mode on Xbox Live where you battle using a randomly generated deck.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
If you have never played a TCG before I can imagine the game could be confusing at first. The game does a decent job of explaining rules but some of the more advance features seem to lack a detailed explanation.

Overall: 7.9
Even though I was critical of the time it takes to play some of the battles, Culdcept Saga is still a fascinating and interesting game. It won’t cause a new generation of gamers to rise up and create a revolution in gaming. Instead Culdcept Saga will please the audience that knows what to expect from the game. Take the game in small bites should keep you coming back for more.

Good

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