Summoner - Review

Most Launch Titles Are Not Successful

By: Robert McClung

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 8
   Music/Sound 3
   Originality 4
   Plot 6
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 3
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

15-25 hours



   Initially, the release of Sony's newest console, the PlayStation2, was devoid of RPGs. To alleviate this problem, Volition created an RPG, Summoner, as one of the its launch titles. For RPGamers who where were not financially secure enough to buy a PS2, a PC version was released five months later, which is the version I have played. Was one of the first forays for the new system in the RPG realm be successful?

   Upon installing the game on the computer, the full install taking some 1.5 gigabytes of space, and starting the game up, the RPGamer is enveloped in the story of Joseph, a young man with an born with a summoning ability. Joseph is the only character that has any sort of good characterization. The other people who join the party only join because of some sort of hidden agenda. Why is it hidden? Because they don't tell you! Joseph's companions rarely ever speak, and when they do, it is completely by surprise. The lack of emotion put forth by every character shows (or, doesn't show) does not allow any emotional attachment towards any single person in the game. The lack of character development makes the plot a whole lot less desireable to follow.

Demona at your service!
The demonic look of one of Joseph's companions  

   Despite the awful character development, the story is quite good. It details a young man, named Joseph, and his summoning ability. He accidentally burned down his village and consequently shunned his powers. Now he must use his powers to stop a war. It is an effective story, but without fully developed characters, it is not utilized to its full potential.

   Battles tend to be annoying and repetitive. To initiate a battle, click on an opponent. Yes, that's it. Each character proceeds to do what is selected in the AI option, such as using physical attacks, magic attacks, or healing. Blocking and missing with physical attacks is commonplace, making every battle last a long time. The only thing that can be controlled is spell casting. To have a character cast a spell, just open the spell menu. If a character is casting a spell and gets hit before a certain point of the spell casting sequence, then the spell is nullified. However, AP is still taken away. Most enemies pose at best a mediocre challenge. The bosses are basically the same as the normal enemies, but they damage your characters more with each swipe. The battle system depends heavily on AI, but the AI is not very smart. It is a good thing that the characters regenerate automatically, though it is very slow, during and after the battle.

   The score of Summoner sounds like it was composed by a kid with a toy keyboard. Any music actually heard sounds more like a smattering of sound effects than anything else. And on the subject of sounds, most sound like they were used many times before, as if several companies were using the same sound effects CD. The effects for walking are off constantly. Voice acting is horrible, each character is again devoid of any emotion. Full use of the volume controls in the game is recommended.

Very pretty but not very effective  

   Everything needed for equipment, items, and status is located in the submenu. It is a well designed menu. On each character's status window, the amount of of experience needed to gain the next level is shown, as well as a character's proficiency in certain skills. Accompanying each level up are several skill points. These can be allocated to different skills, allowing customization of the characters. The AI for each character can also be set on this screen. The inventory screen allows the equipping the characters and shows what items you currently have. The quest journal screen shows what quests that have yet to be completed. It is extremely difficult to quickly cast a spell. For instance, a character is on the brink of death and he or she desperately needs a healing spell. By the time you flip through the menu, find the spell, and select who needs it, he or she is already dead. In all, the menus, with the exception of the magic menu, are well-laid out and are not confuaing.

   Summoner has some forty-plus sidequests, but no alternate endings. A second playthrough will yield nothing else special. On an average run through, expect to spend only fifteen to twenty hours, even with the numerous side quests. The first run through may take longer, but not much. Most of the time will be spent waiting for the game to load. Some levels, depending on the speed of the computer, can take upwards of minute to load! Most parts of the game are also too tedious and boring to run through again.

The game looks the same as most RPGs made for the PC in the past year. The characters are plain and featureless, and the lips do not sync with the voice acting. Some backgrounds look like they were cut out from paper and scribbled on. Most of the coloring looks like a palette of paints was thrown on the floor and mixed together.

Because of the horrible character development, battle system, and sounds, Summoner is overall a frustrating gaming experience. If you have an interest in purchasing the game, do yourself a favor and wait for it to lower in price some. When you pop it into the PS2 or install it on the PC, you will understand why.

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