Culdcept: Revolt Review
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Developer: Omiya Soft, JAMSWORKS Co, Ltd.
Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
Board games have found a resurgence in the past few years. Recently, so long as you can find a crew to get together, new board games have joined the old staples like Monopoly and Scrabble to entertain groups in the evenings. Some have even been ported onto home consoles, allowing you to play with others across the world.
Twenty years ago, Culdcept tried to push the limits of console board gaming. Merging a property owning board game with Magic: The Gathering style summonings to protect your lands, Culdcept tries to do things that would be nearly impossible to keep track of in a traditional tabletop game. While there is a story that has a bit more meat on it than previous entries in the series, the new Culdecept: Revolt is similar to others in the series, where you truly come for the gameplay. Culdcept: Revolt has a story campaign, single-player versus AI, local wireless multiplayer, and online modes.
The core of the game revolves around gaining Magic. There are two counts for the magic. One is your currently available magic points, which are gained via tolls paid on your owned lands, doing laps of the board, or using cards that help you get more. The other is your Total Magic, which represents the full value of everything you own on the board plus your available magic. The goal of the game revolves around boosting your Total Magic until you reach a specified number, then reaching one of the board's gates before someone else does. The game allows up to four people or AI to be playing at any one time.
Summoned creatures act much like a living Monopoly hotel. They may have special features like first strike, but they protect your land. When an opponent lands on your space, they can choose to pay a toll to be there or summon their own creature to take you on. Both sides can play special cards to make their creatures stronger. If they can take you down, they take over your space. Leveling up the land increases the creature's power, as well as the toll incurred for landing on an enemy's space. There are many more bonuses to add up, like creating a chain of your own squares or putting the proper elemental character on a space. There are also some specialized spots on the board that can help or hurt you if you land on them.
Your creatures, status effect cards, and enhancements are represented by a deck of cards. You start with a basic deck, but can purchase extra randomized packs with the experience you gain from a battle. As you develop a collection, you can create several different decks to test and try in battle. A good chunk of gameplay is actually comparing and contrasting card decks, and creating a satisfying powerhouse collection of cards that you can mow through your opponents with.
The game itself is simple, but just crazy enough to not be playable in physical form. At the very least, it'd be hard to find a group of diehards to get together that collect the cards and have a variety of boards available. Culdcept works very well how it is created, but it does present itself as a board/card game through and through. Most of the game is spent looking at the board and rolling dice. If your Minotaur attacks the lowly goblin, you get to see two cards come together with a cool little animation that pokes holes or slices through the loser, but you aren't going to see high-tech animations. The game isn't looking to impress the graphics hounds of the world; it's here for those who like a little imagination and a lot of strategy.
While there is strategy in knowing what to place where and when to sacrifice your available magic points to strengthen a creature, the game does boil down to luck at times. You can choose which direction to take your lap around the board, but you still have to hit all the gates to get the bonus, and you do still have to rely upon the luck of the dice to land where you need to. When your hand is full of stat boosters or you want to level a land up, it's terrible to land on an opposing creature, and vice versa. Even in the introductory levels, I had some times I wondered if I would win thanks to my terrible rolls. Certain cards can even be played to force a particular roll, giving you the chance to land on a clear space or force an enemy to land on your big baddie, but it's hard to find the perfect time to use them.
The enemy AI in the game is interesting. Sometimes it felt like they had a strategy, and others they played haphazardly. The rounds are entertaining, but you need to have patience to play this game. Much like a real board game, human or AI opponents take physical time to complete their turns. In a particular round with two opposing AI, I found myself getting frustrated simply watching them take two or three seconds for every single move. When a turn consists of picking a direction, choosing to roll or play a card, doing that action, moving, playing another card, watching the battle where another card can get played, it can get tedious, especially if they are attacking each other. There's a "suggested moves" AI as well, a yellow flashing arrow you can turn off if you decide, that offers you a "best" option, but straight out following that, the game might as well play itself.
After getting through the first chapter of the game, Culdcept opens up, allowing the aforementioned local and online multiplayer, where the game will truly shine. There's only so much an enemy AI can do with preset deck ideas, so going against flesh and blood enemies will let you see strategies you wouldn't otherwise see in game. As I said earlier, the story is interesting and serviceable, but the gameplay is what you come for. I didn't get to play online for two core reasons: being I had a preview copy, there wasn't really a community established. Secondly, my 3DS has decided to give up the ghost. It's not registering the unit as "open." Hopefully, a quick repair of the unit can get me back on the road and I can give you a better review of the multiplayer at a later date. Local multiplayer is bound to be better than any of the previous console releases, given that you have your own screen you can hide if the need arises.
Culdcept: Revolt does exactly what it sets out to do, and does an amazing job of merging a board game with a collectible card game. Cards and rules are simple enough to follow, but varied enough for you to craft your own strategy. The game relies on luck, and you have to have a lot of patience to truly get into the game. If you can get a crew of people together for some local multiplayer, I can see Culdcept: Revolt being a great addition to traditional game nights. Hopefully the online community can take off and really allow the game to flourish. This unique hybrid offers a great alternative for imaginative strategists to really shine.
-Wonderful hybrid of physical genres that in unattainable otherwise
-3DS is the ideal place to play such a title
-Will rely on a strong online community or others owning it to make or break the title for many