By Mento 2 Comments
|01/12/12 - Ballistic||05/12/12 - Mutant Mudds||09/12/12 - Slydris|
|02/12/12 - Band of Bugs||06/12/12 - Oniken||10/12/12 - Soulcaster|
|03/12/12 - Escape Goat||07/12/12 - Outpost Kaloki||11/12/12 - Squids|
|04/12/12 - MiniFlake||08/12/12 - Reprisal||12/12/12 - UnEpic|
December the Tenth
The source: The Indie Royale Valentine Bundle
The pre-amble: Soulcaster is a Gauntlet-inspired, sorta Tower Defense strategy game by Magical Time Bean, the same Indie developers behind the somewhat excellent Escape Goat. Soulcaster is another small-ish, 8-bit-ish fantasy yarn, but this time involving the adventures of a feeble old wizard and a trio of warrior spirits he allies with as he passes through a foreboding land of the dead. On each stage, enemies pour out of portals and mean to do the interloper harm, but by summoning the three heroes at whim he can keep the forces of darkness at bay. I don't know why I'm talking like the synopsis on the back of the box, which in this case would be an entirely hypothetical box anyway.
The playthrough: As you all know, I... wait, how could you possibly? As you probably don't know, I'm not the biggest fan of real time strategy of any kind and especially not tower defense. I'm not particularly adept at thinking on my feet; more likely I start to panic and run directly into danger because I have no idea what I'm doing. If I was in the Poseidon Adventure, I would've lasted approximately five seconds. I'd have probably died before the ship starting sinking, even. Point is, due to a mixture of personal incompetence and the undesirable level of stress involved, I can't really stand the genre and never have.
Soulcaster, though, I really liked. It's not quite the "into the breach" madness that my earlier description might have evoked, as it takes Gauntlet's cue to hide most of the danger behind a wall or a switch, ready to pounce at a moment's notice. Plenty of times enemies just show up while you're minding your own business, but often enough you'll get ample time to set up your characters to prepare, even if you're not entirely cognizant what it is you're preparing against. Which is sort of where the tower defense element comes in: You have a front-line fighter that acts as the requisite meat shield; a ranged character that's quite powerful but limited in some respects, such as being unable to shoot past walls and other characters; and an explosive ranged character that's very vulnerable and quite dangerous to have close to you but can toss their ordinance over walls and into groups. Moreover, several enemies have odd resistances that make one of the three useless against them. You do, however, have the power to summon multiple instances of the same hero if one type isn't working out.
Despite this, the game has an excellent sense of pacing and a gentle difficulty curve, so you'll get to grips with the basics - there's really not much to it, which makes it one of those wonderfully simple games that tests you by being challenging rather than obfuscating - and learn all the enemy types before you really find yourself floating down the proverbial poop brook. There's also an upgrade mechanic, which lets you either prioritize the effectiveness of one of the heroes or evenly distribute power-ups between them, and some consumables that can get you out of a bind like a big ol' panic button (which I appreciated, at least).
On the whole and as was the case with Escape Goat, it's an excellent little package that I was glued to until it was over a couple hours later. These Magical Time Bean people seem to know what they're doing.
The verdict: Well, I beat it. But guess what? It has a sequel, and I have that too. It was probably included in the same bundle, in fact. So that's good news.