What do you do when your company is the maker of the world’s leading motorcycle simulation? Well you make the natural leap into the RPG realm of course, at least if you’re British developer Climax that is. Known primarily for its Moto GP series, the developer was commissioned by Microsoft to develop an Xbox-exclusive RPG. That RPG has arrived and it’s pretty much what you would expect from a developer that has decided to leave its comfort zone.
Xbox RPG fans are placed in an awkward position because their choices reside on such opposite extremes. On the one end of the spectrum lies Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, quite possibly the best traditional console RPG ever made. Meanwhile, the scale tips heavily towards the opposite end with stinkers such as Black Stone: Magic & Steel and Metal Dungeon. So it comes as no surprise that someone would eventually develop an RPG that lingers in the middle ground. Climax’s Sudeki does just that. It has an abundance of great ideas but it never does quite pull them all together.
When booted up, Sudeki greets gamers with an oddly told, yet intriguing opening sequence. Told completely in rhyme, players learn about the tale of two brothers and how they came to fight over the world. Nothing here is abundantly clear, but as the game progresses players are given more insight to the fight and struggle between good and bad. Things start off quite nicely with a flyby of the first town, leading into the introduction of the lead character as he runs into the three other leads. Initially players can only control Tal but they’re quickly introduced to the other three characters that round out of the cast. Calling them cliché would be too nice, let’s just say that they were exactly what you would expect from an RPG that supplies you with only four characters. There’s the fighter, the offensive magician the weaker fighter, and a character that specializes in ranged attacks. Basically you have the foundation of the original Final Fantasy NES game, but with less variety because you’re saddled with four pre-determined characters. Some more customization or at least more playable characters would have helped to remedy the situation.
Perhaps Sudeki’s most unique gameplay element comes in non-combative situations. Each of the four characters has a special ability that can be used when traveling around and about. Tal can move blocks with his strength, Ailish can enter first person mode and remove obstacles with her magic, Buki can climb up walls in order to help the team and Elco can fly for short amounts of time. Players can change between the characters at any time and will often be called upon to use these abilities in order to progress in the game. It’s nice to see that some developers are thinking beyond the combative schemes of RPGs and are starting to implement new ways to solve puzzles and problems.Combat is pretty impressive at first, but it quickly becomes cluttered and overwhelming. Instead of utilizing a turn-based combat system, Sudeki employs a hack’n’slash approach. There are two attack buttons, a defense button, some evasive manuevers and a clear out move which knocks down multiple attackers. Combat takes place in real-time and players need to time their attacks accordingly in order to pull off more devastating attacks. Execution of this combat system works well at times, but is generally sloppy most of the time. When linking up combos, the last hit is usually some extravagant maneuver that sends your character wayward for a period of time, leaving you open to attack. Selecting spells becomes a task because there’s no way to pause the game while choosing commands. Pressing the Y button slows time down while you’re sifting through the menus, but by the time you find what you’re looking for you’ve probably already sustained some damage. How do you cure this? Simple, do what Tales of Symphonia does and allow for multiple players. Sure, most people like to play RPGs by themselves, but there are a lot of people who like to play them in the company of others. Since they’re already sharing the experience with another person, why not let them partake in it as well?
There’s nothing more annoying than a horrible camera system and Sudeki takes the gold when it comes to bad cinematography. I never realized until now just how important a good camera system was, even in a slow-paced game such as an RPG. It’s horrifically slow and has some real troubles tracking and following the action. Essentially I developed motion sickness because of the game’s vantage point. From the player’s perspective they observe different planes operating at different speeds. The camera swings slowly behind the on-screen player as he moves and rotates, causing horrible bouts of motion sickness. Compounding this is the game’s painfully erratic frame rate. The constant change in speed and pace leads to a pretty nauseating experience. It’s the kind of motion sickness that you used to get when your weary-armed uncle used to force you to watch home videos he shot with a handheld camera. It’s really difficult to explain, but play the game for five minutes and you begin to comprehend what I’m saying.
When you’re not vomiting, you’re probably noticing the game’s graphical deficiencies. From a visual standpoint Sudeki is pretty much a letdown. Being that it was an Xbox exclusive, we were expecting the game to take advantage of the advanced hardware architecture. With the exception of some neat lighting and particle effects, it looks like a pretty basic PlayStation 2 title. Actually there are PlayStation 2 RPGs that look far better than this. Titles such as Final Fantasy X and Champions of Norrath put this effort to shame. Oddly enough the game always manages to run at a less than stellar frame rate too, leading to the aforementioned headaches.
My favorite part of Sudeki is the musical score that accompanies the action. It has that old time epic feel to it that really gets the medieval blood pumping. What’s nice about the music is that the developers found a way to crossfade the tracks into one another. That way the music changes seamlessly as you enter one area and leave another. It serves as a great way to distinguish between different areas and lands. The dialogue doesn’t fare so well though. Most of the delivery is pretty stilted and the accents are all over the place. If I had to use a word for it that word would be ‘passable,’ simply passable.
If you decide to stick with it, Sudeki will provide you with about 20 hours of decent RPG gaming. You can add a couple of hours to that tally if you feel inclined to complete the game’s numerous side quests. Pick up Sudeki if you’re really desperate for an Xbox RPG, but be careful, it won’t fulfill that void in your heart that’s anxiously awaiting the arrival of Fable.
Sudeki is the game that was supposed to tide the Xbox owners over until the eventual release of Fable. Often hyped and filled to the brim with potential, Climaxâ€™s latest effort is one massive headache. Literally.
Rating: 6.7 Mediocre
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.
It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.
It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.
When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."
As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.
When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.
Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile