David Yun (Xbox Live Gamertag - Vawce): (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2008-05-10 10:58:45
Culdcept SAGA - Rank D/A
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
How can a game be given a simultaneous grade of D and A? Culdcept isn't just a niche product, it's a crack in a fissure in a niche. The D is for, y'know, sane people. The mainstream gamer who sticks to titles like Madden, Grand Theft Auto, and Guitar Hero can safely remain oblivious about Culdcept. It's not for them. The A is for my fellow obsessive compulsive nerdcore gangsters - the kind that regular geeks scorn as cultural extremists.
Culdcept is the combination of Monopoly and Magic: the Gathering. Yes, seriously. You roll a die to race around the board and claim squares by dropping creatures on them. You collect mana whenever you "Pass Go", which is used to cast spells and to improve your territories, just like Monopoly houses and hotels. If you land on a property your opponent controls, you're forced to either pay "rent" mana or drop your own creature in an effort to seize it for yourself.
That's it in a nutshell. I could elaborate on the strategic and tactical complexity of the card system and the subtleties of the board itself, but that would start turning into a FAQ or strategy guide. Suffice it to say, fans of the genre will not be disappointed by the vast array of options and depth of play. Culdcept is chock full of the kind of rules mongering where the outcome of matches sways on the interaction between the smallest details.
Culdcept requires a significant effort to learn its intricacies. The scant tutorial barely scratches the surface. Even if you do know what you're doing, your starting deck of cards is so weak that it's possible to lose the very first fight several times. You'll need to master the skill of building balanced, efficient decks with the resources available to you, and to make sharp, informed decisions in the game itself.
Culdcept will not impress the casual observer. The visuals are utterly unimpressive; they remind me of GameCube graphics. The gameplay proceeds at a snail's pace, rendering every die throw, board movement, and card battle. If you're playing against multiple A.I. opponents, you can't even skip their battles. Games with several combatants can take hours, and there's no way to suspend an online match.
Those drawbacks should not at all daunt the nerdcore board/card gamer. Culdcept is all about the gameplay. If the idea of meticulously assembling a deck of cards that interact with efficiency and synergy intrigues you, give Culdcept a try. If the thought of taking that lovingly crafted deck and conquering a rules laden game board excites you, look no further. I'll see you online.