Culdcept Saga

Review

posted 3/3/2008 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: 360
Culdcept SAGA is the type of game that will frustrate you, send you intro fits of rage and make you cry ... and that's all before you beat the first level. With its steep learning curve, slow-paced action and mind-numbingly complex set of rules, Culdcept SAGA is not going to appeal to everybody. But if you're a fan of slow moving board games or card-based battles, then this brand new game from Namco Bandai may be worth checking out.

Culdcept SAGA began its life on the Sega Saturn, which is where it gained a cult following and eventually found its way on the PlayStation, Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2 (not to mention an announced, although unreleased, game for the Nintendo DS). Along the way the gameplay (and the basic look) has stayed the same, which is good since despite its relatively low sales this is one of the most interesting adventure/role-playing games on the market.

Now on the Xbox 360, Culdcept SAGA takes all of the elements that fans of the series have fallen in love with and added a few new wrinkles, not to mention a fun online component and the ability to patch the game when problems arise. While this game is still as intimidating as ever, those who have been intrigued by this strange adventure game can now pick up the most complete version of the game yet, all for a slightly lower than usual price tag (expect to pick this game up for $40 instead of the usual $60).

So what is Culdcept SAGA? In a nutshell it's the combination of Monopoly (the good Parker Brothers Monopoly, not the bad Ma Bell kind) and Magic: The Gathering, a fusion that doesn't sound as delicious as it actually is. Basically the game is played on a small board, each player takes turns throwing a die, traveling around the board, putting down monsters on the various property and fighting for control of the board. At first it's an overly complex mishmash of weird rules and crazy cards. But don't worry, all it takes is a few losses and you'll figure out just what you're doing and how to beat the poor computer up.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves; it's important to understand that unless you're a master Cepter, the chances are good that you're going to lose the first few times. Yes this is frustrating, but before long you are starting to figure out the intricacies involved in playing this game. Every time you land on a plot of land you're going to ask yourself if you should lay down a monster card. And if you do, what kind of monster will it be? You will also need to figure out how you want to use your money. Should you pay to upgrade the land (which will give you more points and get you closer to winning), or should you save up the money for when you actually need it? The first few minutes of this game are a chaotic mess that will likely send you into the kind of rage that will make you hate this game. But stick with it, because after you've gotten the hang of the fundamentals, Culdcept SAGA ends up turning into an incredible game that is worth checking out.

For the most part you will notice that I've avoided actually explaining how the game works, and trust me I'm doing that on purpose. While I could spend the next few paragraphs explaining the ins and outs of plotting a successful round of Culdcept SAGA, the truth is that all that's going to do is turn everybody off. It's not that the game isn't fun (because let me tell you, the game is a blast), but this isn't an easy game to explain to those who have never seen it before. And besides, you basically know what you're getting when I compare it to Monopoly and Magic: The Gathering, this is a deep card combat game that requires you to spend a lot of time traveling around a board. Now don't get me wrong, when I say that this game is the combination of those two long-running franchises I'm not playing coy, I'm serious, this game is exactly like you blended those two things together, baked it in the oven and decided to sell it at your local farmer's market. Heck, you even get gold when you pass go (but don't worry, there's no jail you have to worry about).

The battles themselves (when they actually do occur) are your basic card fighting fare. That is, two cards go into battle and each player gets to choose some sort of card that will augment (effect) the card in one way or another. Once both players have done this you can put the control down and watch the cards duke it out. But don't get too excited, because the game's combat visuals leave a lot to be desired. At most you'll see a sword pop up on the screen and take a swing or fire engulf your enemy's card, neither of which is all that exciting of effects.
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