“The Niche Franchise Opens Its Doors Just Enough For Newcomers.“
Culdcept Revolt is as niche as it comes. Part Monopoly with the board game aspects, part Magic: The Gathering with creature summoning and battling, this twenty year old franchise hasn’t set the western sales charts on fire, but has always been something the east has appreciated, debuting on the Sega Saturn in Japan in 1997. Peeling away the niche aspect to Culdcept, the one thing that would keep most players away was the severely skewed RNG in favor of the CPU, as well as the lack of a proper and thorough enough tutorial to get players better versed with the gameplay mechanics. With these two aspects finally sorted out, does Culdcept Revolt finally open its self to a larger audience? For the most part, yes.
Having an actual fully fleshed tutorial this go around will definitely help those new to the franchise get better comfortable with most of the gameplay mechanics. I came into the franchise with the vastly underappreciated Culdcept Saga on the Xbox 360, the second franchise release in the US, where it took 20+ hours for me to understand even a fifth of the mechanics, thanks to its lackluster first board and introductory tools. Now with a tutorial that explains the fundamentals in an easy to digest manner, players will be able to sink their teeth into the meat of the Culdcept gameplay a lot faster.
Each stage has a set goal that the Cepters (those who wield the power to use the cards) must reach in order for them to win. It can be 8000 G, it can be the most G in 20 rounds; the road to completing these goals are paved with tactical decisions that sometimes requires you to think ahead three moves or so.
In another move to help lower the difficulty for brand new players is a system that points out the most recommended moves for each turn, both before the dice role and after. This is almost a godsend, even for the more advance players, as they can further educate themselves with what might be a more profitable move for them. This can be turned off in the settings menu in game at any point during your turn, so it’s not a permanent “cheat”.
The adjustment to the RNG also blows the doors wide open for more entertainment and less infuriating moments. In previous installments, the number of times the CPU would coincidentally roll one number higher to pass your level 5 land, or the number of times players would somehow always land into the CPU’s territory, was beyond absurd, and often spoiled the fun with the game. This happened in both the PS2 game Culdcept and the 360 version, Culdcept Saga. With Culdcept Revolt, it’s almost as if it’s a leveled playing field, where dice rolls on both ends don’t always send Cepters into high toll lands, or always favor the CPU. In conjunction with the tutorial, Culdcept Revolt is the most inviting of the three stateside releases. When you lose a game, when things go wrong for you, it’s finally more on the players end than the CPU, and that’s a massive and positive change that’s been a long time coming.
The whole hook to the Culdcept franchise has been, and always will be, the gameplay. Every other aspect to the franchise has always suffered from mediocrity, and Revolt is no different. While the translation to the 3DS didn’t severely diminish the visual quality in a significant way, it’s still a ho-hum looking game, with at least some occasionally slick looking cards to add to your deck. The audio is just as plain Jane; little voice acting, serviceable sound effects and completely forgettable music.
There’s a storyline that feels more fleshed out than previous incarnations, however it’s nothing spectacular, or even memorable. You play as someone who has lost their memory, who so happens to be a powerful Cepter, who slowly remembers how to use his powers, yet doesn’t regain much of his memory through his journey. As mentioned ad nauseam, the gameplay is the one thing that’s focused upon.
New to the series stateside is the method of unlocking new cards. Instead of being awarded random cards after battle, currency is awarded for either defeating your adversaries, losing to them, or forfeiting the match. As players progress through the game, new packs are unlocked to purchase, which range from just items and spell packs, to packs based on elements. The means of which cards are unlocked overall have sped up tremendously, and being afforded the opportunity to pay for specific elemental card packs, or a pack of just spells, helps fill the players deck out a bit faster, duplicates notwithstanding. Said duplicates can even be sold to the same person that sells packs, offering another route to making some money.
Developer Omiya soft worked the Culdcept franchise into the dual screen 3DS with commendable success; there was a Nintendo DS release years ago that was sadly not ported over. The top screen has the gameplay, which looks decent enough in 3D, and the bottom screen features the players avatars card set, as well as the ability to see the list of cards the opponent Cepters are wielding (by name only, not by full stats), how much currency is in the players possession, and other bits of information. It’s a helpful addition to be able to view the list of cards the opposition has ready to play, with long term investments meaning a better understanding and recollection of what each card does.
Returning from Culdcept Saga is an online multiplayer mode. Sadly though, for such a niche title, and one that may never get a large enough following, finding players to play takes a long, long time. When you do find a game, the match plays out more quickly than against the slow motion CPU, with no lag or drop outs. When you get a chance to connect with others, it’s an enjoyable time that will still take a good portion of your evening (an average offline 1v1 Culdcept battle is, at bare minimum, 25 minutes). I just wish there were more players out there so that it didn’t take nearly as much time as it takes to play a game, to find one.
I have gone on about how the gameplay is the selling point, yet have gone over everything but the gameplay its self. Even after 300+ hours between all the games released in the US, it’s still not the easiest thing to breakdown and discuss. Cepters take their battles onto a giant board, featuring different colored tiles, special rules tiles and so on, all depending on the map chosen. The start of each turn gives the Cepter a chance to use spell cards, which vary in potency, from “Holy Word” cards that allow the current turn of the selected Cepter to roll a set number on the dice, to paralyzing a creature on the board from attacking when invaded. After the dice roll, depending on where the Cepter lands, most of the strategy begins.
Empty lands can be claimed by a card monster of the same or differing element, and summoning nearly every single one of them has a summon cast charge. Same element gives bonuses to that monster, while card monsters placed on a differing element can hold that space until it’s swapped for a similar element, or just left as is to collect tolls. Toll collecting is a major contributing factor to winning most matches; the more land occupied by the players card creatures, the more points they accumulate. These lands can have their level raised up to level five, which raises the toll exponentially for any Cepter that happens to land on it.
If an opposing Cepter does land on a tile occupied by the player, they have the option of using a creature card to battle that monster on the tile. These battles revolve around creature SP and HP; SP is how hard they can hit, and HP is the amount of health they have, and the latter can be boosted by the number of player owned tiles under the same element. During battles, items can be used that either provide offensive bonuses to invading creatures, or a defensive boost to ward off the invasion.
In all honesty, explaining the nuances of Culdcept’s gameplay is both daunting, and off-putting. There’s layers upon layers of depth to each battle, to placing creatures, to utilizing spells, and so on. I could spend over two thousand words explaining things in better detail, but I still wouldn’t scratch the surface, and it would likely turn people off.
And this is why Culdcept Revolt is a hard sell, even with some of the quality of life improvements. It’s not that the game its self is deplorable – it’s the exact opposite. It’s an experience that has yet to be properly replicated, and next to impossible to properly break down without writing a novel. I can sit here and praise how much more user friendly and less CPU RNG skewed developer Omiya soft has made the franchise, and how it blends together the feeling of playing Monopoly meets Magic: The Gathering in such a commendable manner, but the only way anyone would really get a firm grasp of the game to watch some YouTube clips of the gameplay, and/or just taking the plunge and giving it a try if it seems like something you would warm up to over time.
Culdcept Revolt may have a completely forgettable audio and video suite, with a storyline that has no hook to it whatsoever, but it’s the gameplay that’s so satisfying and so addicting, once you take the time to learn the intricacies. With a fleshed out tutorial, in game pointers that can be turned off, and an RNG that’s finally been addressed, Culdcept Revolt is easily one of my favorite titles of 2017, and one you should give a try, so long as you come in with patience and an open mind.
When you think about the number of exceedingly high quality titles that have been released this year, that’s some major praise I’ve dropped there.