NEC, bless their souls for trying to get something new on the market. Even if it does bite off two very popular games, it manages to create a game that may not be an audible or graphical masterpiece but a game that is so damn fun that it’s hard to put down. You’ve just got to have the time and the patience for such a game. Looking past the shoddy graphics and serviceable sound you’ll find that deep down this game has the stuffing that makes for a good game. Even if it does look like it could be a GBA title.
There is a story involved here, a goddess named Culdra has this vicious cycle of life where people battle it out with the use of cards, these people are called Cepters. Once a Cepter wins over all he gains the powers of Culdra and creates the world anew. Sounds like a wacky process if you ask me. One Cepter Geminigh looks to stop this cycle and keep Culdra’s powers for his own. This is where you come in, a nameless Cepter who has to find and defeat Geminigh with the help of a sage staff named Goligan. It’s confusing, it’s a bit dry at times, and it’s not the epic tales you can find in Magic the Gathering books these days but it does give you a sense of purpose as you play the game.
Those of you out there who have played Monopoly will feel pretty right at home here. Same goes for those on the Magic the Gathering side of the board. As you progress through the game each stage has you battling it our on a board like that of Monopoly. On each map there is a castle, think of this as passing go. There are also a couple of forts that must be passed on each lap of the board before you can head back for the castle. Once you make it to the castle after a lap on the board you are given some cash/magic points and sent on your merry way for another lap. The magic points/money you acquire are used to place monsters on the field and to upgrade the land that they lay on. This is where things get a little tricky.
As you make your way around the board you can lay down monsters that you draw from your book/deck. Every turn you draw a new card and when the deck is exhausted all your discarded cards are returned to your hand so you will always have a fighting chance. On the board there are four elemental types, air, fire, water, and wood/earth, each area is usually in a straight line but more often than not you’ll find them spread out throughout the playing field. As you make your way around the map you can place monsters on unoccupied parcels of land. Once you place a monster it is there to stay, unless your opponent comes along and beats the stuffing out of it. If you place a monster on a land with it’s own element then it will receive a power bonus as you level up the land.
When powering up the land you must spend magic points, depending on how much you level up the land will determine the magical toll one must pay should they land there and lose in a duel or decide not to fight at all. When dueling the person who is invading your land selects a monster from his hand to play, if he has no monsters then he is forced to pay the toll. Once a monster is selected they go head to head in this cheesy little Yu-Gi-Oh esque battles sequence. From here it gives a short display of each creature’s strengths. After this you get to select a card that will boost the attack of your monster or do some direct damage to the other characters monster or even steal the equipment card. After equip cards are designated then the adjustments are made to each monster’s strength and HP.
Once battle begins you must pay attention to the strength of your monster, and the hit points of your monster. If the strength of the attacking monster is higher than the defending monsters HP then your monster will lose the duel and your opponent will take your land and all the money that has been spent on it will be added to his total score. Of course there are a number of X factors in battle too. Some monsters have special abilities, like first strike ability so even on the defensive they have the upper hand.
The main goal of each board is to reach a certain amount of possession points over the board. This is gained by collecting lands and raising their levels and collecting tolls from other players. Another way to gain some extra magical points real quick is to buy symbols, but this aspect was a really confusing one so I avoided it altogether since I liked hanging on to my money so I could pay tolls. Once the goal has been reached for the stage you’ve got to hustle back to the castle in order to claim victory. So if you’re within about 200 points or so of winning then make your move for the castle because the bonus for passing the goal will put you over the limit.
For the most part this crazy mish-mash of games comes out and plays pretty good. There are a few gripes I have. First off, the graphics and sound. For the most part it’s pretty disappointing. Graphics are a 2-D sprite affair and they don’t even look that good. Music is pretty bland and forgetful, so it’s hardly worth mentioning. The game is also notoriously difficult at times and that could just be due to bad luck and strategy on my part. But one of the early stages I had to retry four times before winning. This battle was against two people, and they had a bad habit of picking solely on me the entire battle. Not quite the fun time I was expecting. Also I wish NEC had put in a save function that can be used during battle, this game can be quite the time eater with battles lasting as long as a hour at a time.
If you really are bored with all the other games out there these days then be sure to give Culdcept a try. It’s a surprisingly fun and good game that shouldn’t be ignored but of course knowing NEC they didn’t print a lot of copies of this so be sure to check up on Ebay or some mom and pop shop and maybe you’ll luck out and find a copy.
While the graphics and sound aren't much to look at, Culdcept is still a new and interesting game.