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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)

by Interplay


Smooth camera. Okay voice acting.

Downs: Stoopid title; Memory suck; Cruddy graphics, combat system and interfaces; Awkward camera control; Misleading packaging and promotion.

System Reqs: P233, 32 MB RAM

It’s been a month since the GF! editors presented me with Interplay’s “Soulbringer” to review. There was nothing to go on at that time, no advance hype, no expectation for innovation, nothing. Sometimes, the titles that come to us under such cryptic circumstances are the ones that surprise us the most. Okay, I’m bluffing. That’s never really been the case in the pc gaming business. We generally know what’s supposed to be hot and what’s not long before most games hit the shops. But I’m grabbing for straws here, any straw, that will offer some handle on this game. Time’s running out, though, and before another sucker blows hard-earned sheckels on this dog, I’ve got to speak true.

 “Soulbringer” could just as easily have been called “Stinker.” Either way, you’re left with a really cruddy title for a game. At least the revised moniker says something substantive about the game.

First of all, system specifications on the box claim that players need 500 Mb free to play the game. By the time I’d loaded the works though, my machine had dropped 710 Mb to run the full version of the game. Still, I was optimistic; excellent graphics and sound have redeemed many a title. So I didn’t mind the massive, time-consuming load. It got me to thinking that, maybe, this game would be better than I expected. After all, I still didn’t know anything about it, and the supporting materials—the box, the manual, and the cd jewel case—didn’t reveal much about the game’s story or graphics.   “If it takes this much space,” I naively reasoned, “then it’s GOT to be cool!” But I’m a seasoned cynic now.

When I booted up a new game the graphics were crude and jarring. The menu-based interfaces were pretty enough and recalled what passed for sophisticated html graphics three or four years ago. Still, they were only menus. The main gaming graphics, on the other hand, were grainy and pixilated. Characters looked spindly and the action was wooden. A caption on the “Soulbringer” package boasts that the game features “A customizable and very realistic combat system that can be as simple or complex as you like.” Well, I like things simple, especially when there are games to play, and the combat system of this game is so complicated that it could pass for kabbalah. In addition, the camera control was awkward (players use the left and right mouse buttons to manipulate the look of the game) but seemed pretty smooth once I got the hang of it. The voice acting was okay, but at times it seemed as stilted as the animation.

The box also asserts “Soulbringer” offers “One of the most involving and epic scenarios ever written for an rpg adventure.” I intend to close with this idea because it suggests some redemption for this game. See, it’s pretty clear that whoever developed this game had a lot at stake; there’s nothing new to the story, but it does enthusiastically evoke Tolkien and the best of the AD&D mythologies. The writers and designers clearly loved the “Soulbringer” saga and wanted the rest of us gaming freaks to love it, too. But even the best, most enduring stories sound flat and tired if the storyteller sucks. Loading the game with less-demanding specs doesn’t improve things, either, because then players have to sacrifice sound for an improved graphics quality that doesn’t carry over to the quality of the animation.

Maybe the best way to think about “Soulbringer” is as a game worthy of some appreciation for the enthusiasm that went into its design and marketing. Then again, maybe it’s okay to state that “Soulbringer” sucks more than memory. It just sucks. End of story.

--Greg Matthews