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by THQ

It's time to put on a pot of coffee. Put the pop on ice; grab a pizza and take the phone off the hook because a new role-playing game has arrived for the computer to take you away from your daily routine.

Summoner is a port from the Playstation II. The PC version was the first one in development, but it was temporarily abandoned in favor of the PS2 version in order for the game to be ready at launch. There was no need to get worried--there is much fun to be had with a unique fighting system and in depth story with some added goodness specific to the PC platform.

The story begins with farmer Joseph who has a "gift" to summon various creatures with the help of special rings that initiates his quest--turns out this "gift" is responsible for the destruction of a village! Thrust into an adventure to save his land from the Emperor of Orenia, Joseph will meet A LOT of people. And in order to complete everything Summoner has to offer, you'll need to talk to all of them. As with a majority of role playing games, various characters will join your party. Summoner has taken some of the more popular aspects of RPGs--like Diablo--to create a unique hybrid that is extremely engrossing to play. And not unike Diablo, there will be plenty of items that can be found (and sold) to some merchant on the way. Also, not every item in universal; there will be some that can only be used by Joseph. The use of skill points is another RPG convention used here--whenever a character increases a level you can choose what points you'd like where, but you cannot put more points into an attribute than what your current level is. Saving can be done at anytime in the game and it is recommended to save often! Considering the multitude of tasks you have to partake in, it would be a bummer to have to do them all over if you die.

What makes this game stand out is it's intuitive battle system. When approaching an enemy you click the left mouse button to begin your attack--once an attack is started you will be prompted with a little chain icon above the character and if performed correctly a chain move will occur. This can be repeated as many times as you can correctly click the right mouse button. You can also use ALT, CAPS, SHIFT, and CTRL to use specific chain moves. There are only four moves allotted to the chain attacks at one time which can be changed at any time by going to the character screen. Each character has unique chain moves and as the character progresses they will learn new chain moves. The battles are extremely different than some RPGs in the way that you cannot just hack at a creature. There is a delay in the attacks to give a more traditional turn-based hybrid that combine with spells that can be cast.

The characters are designed well and there's a wealth of non-playable characters in the towns and other environments. There are a few glitches in some of the cut scenes involving characters and the graphics overall are a bit lower than expected. Textures are sometimes a bit quirky--by having a plane that is fractured and placing textures along as the characters progress makes the ground appear as it were stretching and twisting around you. These problems take away nothing from the game itself, but they definitely could use some more work.

Normally when I hear the sound of a baby crying I usually cringe in fear, especially when I am engrossed into a good story. Babies are but one thing that will make your ears sing. Running water will get louder or softer depending on the distance between you and the source. Other little sounds along the way just heighten the experience. The music is nice and doesn't distract from the mood that is trying to be put across and remains in the background where it is supposed to be.

One of the biggest potential killers of games can be the interface. If the game is to difficult to maneuver around or even see everything your character will be dead in the water before you know it. Summoner does its best to make sure that the interface helps instead of hinders, beginning with the camera angle which has been a constant source of grief for gamers since the inclusion of the third person perspective. The camera in Summoner gives the control back to the gamer. You have the option to rotate the camera 360 degrees around the character as well as the option to zoom in or out depending on your preferences. A nice addition is whenever there is something to do such as search a barrel for items, it will flash in order to let you know. The layout of the HUD is clean and compact, not wasting any space with trivial things that you will not need. There are hotkeys that will bring up various windows with arrows on them to cycle through the various screens. The map is typical in that it will not let you know what is up ahead, just where you have been.

Not wanting to just port over the game itself, THQ decided to introduce a multiplayer function not in the PS2 version, so there are some extra goodies for the PC owners out there. Multiplayer allows up to four people to play cooperatively, building up your characters as you steal the occasional item from another. While this is a nice addition it's the single player story that makes this game shine.

With a ton of RPG's out there for the PC market it is becoming increasingly difficult to find one that is worthy of the time and effort--Summoner is worth the time and effort. The characters are well written and there's a vast amount of quests to complete. The minor problems of Summoner are not ones that affect the game in any significant way. In Summoner, story is king--long live the king!

Jake Carder   (07/24/2001)

Snapshot

Ups: Good fighting system; in-depth story; cooperative multiplayer.

Downs: Graphical shortcomings.

Platform: PC

 


1995-2001
GamesFirst! Magazine