|Its been a month since the GF! editors presented me with
Interplays 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,
Im bluffing. Thats never really been the case in the pc gaming business. We
generally know whats supposed to be hot and whats not long before most games
hit the shops. But Im grabbing for straws here, any straw, that will offer some
handle on this game. Times running out, though, and before another sucker blows
hard-earned sheckels on this dog, Ive got to speak true.
Soulbringer could just as easily have been called Stinker. Either way, youre 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 Id 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 didnt 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 didnt know anything about it, and the supporting materialsthe box, the manual, and the cd jewel casedidnt reveal much about the games story or graphics. If it takes this much space, I naively reasoned, then its GOT to be cool! But Im 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, its pretty clear that whoever developed this game had a lot at stake; theres 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 doesnt improve things, either, because then players have to sacrifice sound for an improved graphics quality that doesnt 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 its okay to state that Soulbringer sucks more than memory. It just sucks. End of story.