You are currently viewing an archival version of GF!

Click here to return to the current GamesFirst! website.

Questions? Suggestions? Comments?
Contact us at:

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

by THQ

We, as reviewers, often wonder if companies ever read our feedback and attempt to keep our positive as well as negative feedback in mind when they set out to design and program. In some cases, you can tell that a company has taken its critics to heart, and the sequel that surfaces is a vastly superior game where you can tell special attention was given to fixing issues found in the first installment. Because I was the reviewer for the first Summoner, I decided to revisit my own comments and see if any of the issues that I had addressed had been fixed in this latest installment. Although THQ was quick to say that much of what fans had a problem with in the first game had been fixed, after playing Summoner II, there are only a few problems that seem to have been addressed, and not, oddly enough, the ones I see as being major deal-breakers for creating a great gaming experience.

I’ll take a moment and outline the plot, for those of you just joining this videogaming experience. Summoner II is an RPG/action-adventure game that is formed around a "party-driven combat system." In this installment, you are the Queen of Halassar and must fulfill your destiny, as foretold in the Book of the Prophets, by becoming the Godess Laharah, healing the Tree of Eleh, and vanquishing evil from your land. You are able to transform yourself into other creatures, or "summon" them, to aid you in your quest. Besides that addition to the RPG experience, you are able to travel with not only your standard RPG crew (warriors, monks, etc.) but also with some unique new party members (such as an automaton with energy weapons and a metallic exoskeleton). You will need to use both fighting and magic skills to survive your adventure (covering around roughly 30 "exotic" locales).

Let’s take a moment to cover the things that I see as positive elements in the game. Summoner II is a lengthy game and you won’t have to worry about buying it and beating it in two seconds flat. There are plenty of optional quests to pursue that are interesting and gratifying as well as the main quest. And just as the first game had great locations, this one does not disappoint. They also improved the interactivity with these environments over the first installment. Each of the characters has easily distinguishable characteristics and a unique "feel" in gameplay. The music and sound effects are solid. A nice feature that is included is the ability to choose specific characters to use for side adventures (you are in control of the party configurations as well), and they are able to go into Solo and stealth mode. One of the peeves I had from the first game was fixed: the ability to select any NPC and not have the game sort out for you ahead of time who you needed to talk to. And a final necessity for an RPG game, Summoner II has the ability to save at any time in your game.

There are several negative aspects of this game that really bring its star total down. The first issue is related to camera and movement and keypads. These aren’t always problematic. Movement is generally fluid, and the camera is successful (as long as you are controlling it), but during battles, certain elements of the environment block your view of the fight. It was interesting to me that some items were anticipated as problematic and are imbued with the invisibility feature so we could see through them, but others (like the edges of an environment) aren’t. Also, although you can pivot and turn the camera view while you are in the middle of melee, your movement is left analog, your camera is right analog (which you must control, because the automatic camera shift takes soooo long to re-orient) and your attack, instead of being the X button is the square, and so it is difficult (nigh impossible) to turn, look, and attack at the same time. This may sound too picky, but believe me, during a fight every second counts.

The second issue I have with this game is with its graphics. I couldn’t really put my finger on what was wrong specifically (not an issue with draw-in like the last one, didn’t really have a lot of polygon problems) until a fellow reviewer commented on the games likeness to computer ports. I hadn’t thought about it this way, but it does look more like a Morrowind than a game designed specifically for the console. No offense to PC graphics, but in the past they have been recognizably different than those of the console. With all the nifty accomplishments in graphics that are possible, it’s odd not to have the eye candy that is available, especially for the locations that are present in this game.

My final and most serious complaint is about combat variations. There is only one main attack that comes from pushing the square repeatedly (the "hack, hack, downward slash" move) and although each character eventually gets a "special attack" (which is a multiple button combo) it still is extremely limp. There are bow attacks, but on the whole the combat, which is what is attempting to catapult the game into the "action" part of and action/adventure RPG, is limited in its viability. I love the trend in gaming to meld action and RPG genres, but companies need to push the boundaries, not just rest on their proverbial last-game laurels. Combat is the key. And speaking of combat issues, enemy AI on this game is not so stellar either.

This game is not one that I would rush out and buy. Its not that the game is really bad; it is solid in many of the RPG elements that most gamers require. It just falls down wholly in the action category and fails to attain the necessary evolution from its predecessor to keep competing with the other titles that are available today. Rent this game, by all means, but save your pennies and see if the next installment really delivers what the fans want.

Monica Hafer   (01/07/2003)


Ups: Length; solid plot.

Downs: Graphics; limited combat variations.

Platform: PlayStation 2