X3F hands-on: Culdcept Saga
Culdcept Saga is, for lack of a better term, an interesting game. To describe it quickly, you really only need two words: Monopoly and Magic (as in Magic: The Gathering). Now that's oversimplifying it, but by now you're already either incredibly intrigued or thoroughly disgusted. For those of you in the first camp, please read on for a brief dissection of the new demo on Xbox Live Marketplace. The rest of you can either read on for your own edification or move on to something more pleasing.
At its heart, Culdcept Saga is a board game. The object is to collect a certain amount of points, called TG. You earn TG by capturing land, raising the level of your captured lands, summoning monsters, and using your cards effectively. At the beginning of your turn, you draw a card, cast a spell if you want, and then roll the dice. Similar to Monopoly, you can claim territories. In order to claim a territory, you must summon a creature to guard it. To summon a creature, you must use a creature card and pay a certain amount of "magic" which should really be labeled "gold" for the purposes of the game. It's even abbreviated with a "g," so let's just refer to it as gold, mkay? Each territory is aligned with a certain element, as are the creatures, so ideally you want to match fire monsters with red territories, etc. When you hit certain points on the map, you're awarded more gold. Again, sort of like passing "GO" in Monopoly. Once the total value of your lands, various monsters, and pocketbook reaches a predetermined limit (in the demo it's 4000), you win. And that's the basic game.
Of course, it gets a little more complicated than that. Your opponents are also gunning for land and creatures, so your bound to stop on territories that aren't up for grabs. In these situations, you can either fork over the required toll (which is dependent on the "level" of the territory and other bonuses) or you can fight the creature that guards said territory. To fight, you pick a creature card (and pay the cost of the card) and watch the antics ensue. Optimally, you'll want to pick a creature that's stronger than the one you're fighting. There are special modifier cards that will boost abilities or deal damage to other monsters though, so a weaker monster can still win a fight if you play your cards right (oof!). If you win the fight, you get out of paying the toll and you claim the territory as your own, with your victorious creature now standing guard. If you lose, you pay the toll and your creature is lost.
Beyond the combat, you can also upgrade your territories, which increases the tolls that opponents must pay and also any bonuses awarded to the creature assigned to the territory. There are other territory options, like exchanging creatures, moving creatures, or even changing the elemental alignment of the territory. So, for the right price, you can turn a yellow territory that you own into a blue one, giving a nice stat buff to your blue ogre. Finally, there are spells that you cast at the beginning of each turn. These cards directly affect you, your opponents, or the various creatures in play. Some deal damage to creatures (or heal them) while others might force your opponents to roll a 1 on the next turn (perfect for making an opponent walk smack into your angry minotaur).
Of course, the game isn't without its problems, though really the "problems" boil down to taste. First of all, to say the presentation is simplistic is being very generous. The game's PS2 roots are definitely apparent, but there are some stylistic choices that hamper the experience further. For instance, the monster battles take place between two cards ... literally. You'll see two cards on either side of the screen swinging swords at one another. It's a bit odd, especially considering there are fully rendered creatures on the actual game board. Still, it's a $40 game, and it's not a deal breaker if this is the sort of game you find interesting. One thing that is annoying on a gameplay front is that the battles can end in a draw. Basically, each monster makes one attack (as far as we can tell) and that's it. In one instance, our monster would have won the fight if the battle simply alternated. Instead, the battle ended in a draw, resulting in our avatar paying a toll but not losing his creature. Weak.
If it all sounds crazy and complicated, it is. At least at first. However, like Magic or Monopoly, you'll get into the flow of gameplay before too long. All in all, the game is surprisingly fun and actually pretty addicting. I found myself wishing the demo kept going after the one match available in the demo. If you enjoy card games or board games, definitely give Culdcept Saga a try.
Reader Comments (Page 1 of 1)
12-04-2007 @ 4:39PM
On that topic, I think Monopoly XBLA could make for a fun and engaging title.
...except when you get those jerks that never want to trade and just delay the game inevitably!
12-04-2007 @ 8:22PM
Monopoly, Scrabble, and Risk would all be guaranteed top sellers on XBLA. Somebody is losing money every day those games aren't on Live.
12-05-2007 @ 1:33AM
Hell, if Uno can sell well, I wouldn't be surprised if Monopoly or Risk wouldn't do spectacular. I would in fact buy Risk if it were made available.
12-04-2007 @ 4:46PM
I downloaded and tried it today.
Me: former M:tG player and a current Legends of Norrath (EQ and EQ2 based online card game) as well as a rabid risk/monopoly/Settlers of Catan player.
The game sucked. The graphics were downright ugly in a few spots....your avatar had "jaggies" in some instances! The gameplay feels like it will come down to simply gathering the most powerful cards and hoping luck is on your side. Give me strategies other that the basic one please.
12-04-2007 @ 6:27PM
That's so weird. You'd fit so well into my group of friends based on the games you'd describe, except that we're all Culdcept addicts (the PS2 version). We're all Magic vets (playing since Revised) and board game freaks (Catan, War of the Ring, Ra, Ticket to Ride, Peurto Rico).
This game isn't about graphics, and I can't believe you'd dismiss it because of that. The game is about deep strategy, collecting and the fine tuning your deck. With almost 500 cards in the full game, there are tons of different combos to use, and many different deck archtypes to design. Like I said in another post, I won a tournament in the PS2 version using a deck with no creatures at all.
Sure, there's an element of luck to it, but only slightly more than Magic. You tune your deck, balancing casting costs with power levels, creatures vs. spells vs. equipment, etc, and optimize your chances of drawing the cards you need, just like in Magic. The dice add an additional luck element of course, but even your roll (or the roll of others) can be controlled with your cards.
As a Magic vet, it's a shame that you can't see how much of a treasure this game is. And as a 360 owner, it's a shame that you can't acknowledge how lucky we are to have it, because it REALLY should have come out on the PS3.
12-04-2007 @ 5:16PM
This review def makes me sad. I was hoping we were at least getting a new card game for the xbox/360, even if there were no story. I wasn't even considering a board game with a slight card twist :(
I'll give the demo a shot still, but I have a hard time seeing why I would ever pick this one up for real (unless it shows up on half.com for lik $3).
Maybe next time my anti-social card game brothers . . .
12-04-2007 @ 6:02PM
I’ll give the demo a shot when I get the chance. It does sound interesting.
Is it me, or does this seem more appropriate for an XBLA game? I thought it was from the screenshots.
12-04-2007 @ 6:18PM
This is a worthy successor to the PS2 version, and to be honest, I bought my 360 because MS secured the exclusive. 80% of the people that play this game will hate it, much like the PS2 version, but those that like are pretty dedicated.
The demo doesn't really show you how grand the game is, as the brunt of the game is played in multiplayer. Sure, the demo has a multiplayer feature, but it only offers 4 basic pre-constructed decks to play. There are over 400 cards to collect in the full version, and you can trade cards with your friends, etc., and build decks with tons of different strategies. Hell, I have even won a tournament with an entirely creatureless deck.
Don't judge it by the graphics, it's not meant to shine in that category. The gameplay is deep and immersive once you get into it, and the number of card combonations are endless. If you like strategic, multi-player games with a hardcore collection element to them, this is for you.
12-04-2007 @ 9:00PM
In regards to your earlier response: I am properly chastised.
I didn't mean to dismiss it merely for the graphics and I'm sorry that I came across as that. It may be very fun and I do admit that I'll try it a second time. I simply don't like the way the game plays and feels. I do see the appeal, but I can fault it for graphics, some game play elements that really bother me, and even price. I do know that I haven't seen whats in the full game, but I feel that I'd get more "bang" for my gaming buck by playing Legends of Norrath.
That being said, I think if I saw it at 20 dollars, I'd be more interested.
Sorry to upset you earlier...live and learn?
12-04-2007 @ 9:23PM
This looks very similar to the PS2 version.
That is, this looks great. While the visuals are lacking, the depth and variety of cards and strategies are the core of the game. "Magic meets Monopoly" is about right. There is a CCG element to it, and there is a board game element to it.
All I need to know is if multiplayer is added on Live, and I'm set.
12-04-2007 @ 10:15PM
I've actually been thinking about this game a lot more than I figured I would after playing the demo. I'm pretty sure I'll pick it up, maybe I'll get to play some of you guys online :).
12-04-2007 @ 10:42PM
Sorry, dude. Didn't mean to come off as an ass. Some of us Culdcept fans are pretty fanatical about the game. Considering I bought my 360 for Culdcept Saga, you could probably consider me one of them. :)
12-04-2007 @ 11:28PM
I played they game, and though I only played for a short period of time, I was hooked. I used to play Magic and a few other CCGs and I really liked the way this one plays. Yeah, theirs a bit of luck involved, but that allows for a sort of underdog feel, where you haven't lost till the game is over. I am now phenomenally interested in this game and the sounds of a DS game also intriuge me.
12-05-2007 @ 9:21AM
After playing, I def could see how this could be fun. Monopoly meets magic is rediculously spot on. It no longer has to be $3, I would be happy with $10 or so. Hopefully since its cheap, people will get it for christmas, hate it, and pop it up for cheap on the olllllllll internets. Fingers crossed.
12-05-2007 @ 10:17AM
Captain Obvious said...
This game = right up my alley.
Now if only Wizards would release MTGO for the XBLA....