Well fellow RPGers, THQ has
brought us a tale of demons and darkness to whet our appetites for new games on the PS2.
Summoner is the story of Joseph, a boy who was born with the mark of power and who, with
the aid of magical rings, can summon demonic allies. He called one as a child to help save
his village, but the demon was too strong for him to control and it destroyed everyone he
loved as well as the attacking troops. A wanderer named Yago attempted to take the young
boy under his wing, but Joseph denied his birthright by throwing his ring down a well and
fleeing to another village. Years later, trouble has come looking for Joseph, and he must
now journey to find Yago once more. He will be joined by friends along the way, but in the
end, it is up to him to defeat the inhuman evil that is now threatening to destroy his
universe. That said, how does Summoner stack up to what weve seen before? Well, let
me say that Im still hungry
Its hard to look at any
RPG without thinking back to that powerhouse series we all know and love, Final Fantasy.
But I wanted to try and give this game a fair review on its own merit first before
comparing it to another. There are several very positive aspects about this game that the
designers and programmers should be proud of.
first thing that I was pleased with is the movement in this game. The characters moved
smoothly, were extremely responsive, and were able to move quickly (which is something
that peeves me to no end in a bad RPGwhen it takes twelve hours to get three feet!).
I was also happy to note that as the party grew larger, there were no lagging characters
to inhibit group movement. The camera was also something that the programmers did well,
with a fluid three hundred sixty degree view that could pan in and out from the characters
with ease. The only thing I could have wished for was the ability to adjust the altitude
in some of the city screens to allow better forward visuals.
There are four major characters (two men and two women) and each has unique
skills which are needed in different parts of the game. There is Joseph the Summoner,
Rosalind the Spellcaster, Flece the Thief, and Jekhar the Warrior. Each character is able
to act independently when youre not in direct control of them and you can change
their default attack settings, though its not really necessary. Although these
character types are pretty familiar, they worked well together and made the game more
interface screens were easy to read and easy to flip through, even in stressful
situations. The way in which characters attack and cast spells took no time at all to
master and the actual battle protocols were pretty simple. And some of the level designs
were really inspired. But probably best of all, the plot was intelligible and interesting.
So where does this game fall down? The most obvious place is in the graphics.
This game had one of the worst draw-in problems I have seen in a while. This
was especially true in the outdoor scenes and while moving through some of the more
panoramic city-scapes. Even the cinema screens were pixilated, not to mention full of
ragged polygons. Ive seen the kind of graphics this machine is capable of, and this
game doesnt even come close to pushing the limits. The level design would have made
certain sections of the game pretty fabulous if the graphics could have supported them,
but as it was, all I could do was look at my screen and say, "Darnit, they were so
close!" There were some really beautiful colors at work, and every once in a while,
an object or part of a person jumped out at me because it was smooth and well rendered,
but overall, this game really could have used a visual boost.
music in Summoner was well done, but there was very little variation throughout. I could
hear the soundtrack stopping and cycling over and I wanted to either not notice it, or to
be really blown away by how great the music was and not care. I just didnt feel that
the music was used to its full potential in adding emotion or tension to the game. The
sound effects were nicely done, although again, there wasnt much that stood out and
caught my attention. Grunts and swords clashing can only go so far.
My final critique of the game is the fact that some of the levels really
didnt have all that much interactivity. There were people to talk to, of course, but
many of them had no purpose in furthering the plotline and werent really all that
humorous to make talking to them worthwhile (the closest to humor were the sewer workers).
Because characters who have vital information have exclamation points over their heads, it
makes the other people fairly useless. The designers could have used the time and effort
that was devoted to these extras to further augment necessary characters or background.
And speaking of the background, there were tons of doors and shops that could have been
something, but weren't. I was hoping for more possibilities and places to go, but was
disappointed more often than not.
I know that if youve logged in lots of RPG hours youre probably
looking for something new and surprising as well as something which gives you lots of
longevity per gaming dollar. While this game isnt as convoluted as some other ones
we might name, and it definitely isnt big in the eye-candy department, this game
does something that I hope catches on in other RPGs. I liked the fact that Summoner tried
to meld the action game with the RPG. Theyre not quite there yet, but I applaud the
attempt to make this type of game work. The actual requirements from the human side need
to be increased during battle (rather than requiring only four moves) and perhaps adding
some character abilities like jumping and grappling would help. I think that this game is
a good one to rent if only to see the movement and camera at work, but as far as knocking
my role-playing booties off, this game just doesnt pull through.