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by THQ / Volition

sumweek09-01.jpg (4042 bytes)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 we’ve seen before? Well, let me say that I’m still hungry…

sumweek08-01.jpg (3402 bytes)It’s 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.

sumweek07-01.jpg (4259 bytes)The 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 RPG—when 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.

sumweek05-01.jpg (3002 bytes)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 you’re not in direct control of them and you can change their default attack settings, though it’s not really necessary. Although these character types are pretty familiar, they worked well together and made the game more complex.

sumweek04-01.jpg (4462 bytes)The 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.

sumweek03-01.jpg (3027 bytes)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. I’ve seen the kind of graphics this machine is capable of, and this game doesn’t 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.

sumweek02-01.jpg (3963 bytes)The 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 didn’t 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 wasn’t much that stood out and caught my attention. Grunts and swords clashing can only go so far.

sumweek01-01.jpg (4258 bytes)My final critique of the game is the fact that some of the levels really didn’t 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 weren’t 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.

sumshot054-01.jpg (4140 bytes)I know that if you’ve logged in lots of RPG hours you’re probably looking for something new and surprising as well as something which gives you lots of longevity per gaming dollar. While this game isn’t as convoluted as some other ones we might name, and it definitely isn’t 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. They’re 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 doesn’t pull through.

Monica Hafer


Ups: Cool level design; nice camera; good length; good blend of action and RPG.

Downs: Low quality graphics; a bit bland.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation 2


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