Indie Reviews - Soulcaster

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Groov - September 14, 2010
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Title: Soulcaster
Developer: MagicalTimeBean
Price: 240 ($3.00) Microsoft points


Soulcaster is a unique blend of tower defense and role-playing. Typically when the words "tower defense" are used to describe a game, I try to stay away from it. However, Soulcaster takes these genres and puts them together with unique gameplay features, a moderately lengthy main story, great 16-bit styled graphics, and great music.

Soulcaster puts the player in the role of the titular Soulcaster, who has found himself in the corrupted land of Avericia. The story is pretty standard fantasy fare; the Soulcaster must fight against the Shadowmaster's minions with the aid of three souls (Shaedu, Aeox, and Bloodfire). There are various areas where the story is explained in slightly more depth, but this is largely inconsequential. The story does fit the overall style of the entire game, and serves its purpose fairly well, which is more than expected of most indie games.

As the game begins, you will be introduced to the first soul. Souls--of which there are three--are the basis of the entire game. Each of these three souls can be summoned at any time, depending on the amount of soul orbs in the player's inventory (with the maximum being five). For example, at the beginning of the game the player will have three soul orbs, and a single soul. That soul could be placed three times, while later in the game the player might have all three souls and five soul orbs, and therefore able to place more souls.

As enemies generate out of pre-set spawn points, the game can get hectic very fast on later levels. Correct soul placement is imperative, and some enemies will even have vulnerabilities against one soul or another. Additionally, each soul has their own specific weaknesses and strengths, so the game becomes very strategic, especially towards the end of the game. There is hardly ever a dull moment during combat, and this makes Soulcaster incredibly fun.

Strategic placement of souls is imperative, especially in later levels.
Strategic placement of souls is imperative, especially in later levels.

There is a level of complexity beyond the combat. There is a shopkeeper who sells upgrades for each soul, as well as health potions (when Soulcaster's health falls to zero it results in a game over), Scrolls of Ruin (which causes every enemy onscreen to be severely damaged), and additional soul orbs (there are only two available, and they are the most expensive items in the game). The inclusion of this leveling system is great, and gives the game an addictive quality beyond the already enjoyable gameplay.

Soulcaster does have one minor flaw; its save system. Instead of having a traditional save system, the game resorts to a password based save system that is accessible in the pause menu. What this does open up is the possibility for secret passwords (such as JUSTIN BAILEY), although these don't really serve much of a purpose beyond cool little Easter eggs. While it is possible to quick load a password, this is more cumbersome than it could have been; it would have been better to implement a quick save feature, instead of adding that extra step.

 At about an hour and half in length, Soulcaster is well worth the 240 point price.
 At about an hour and half in length, Soulcaster is well worth the 240 point price.

The game has a surprisingly good soundtrack, ranging from fantasy songs with sweeping arpeggios, to even a rock song for the shopkeeper's theme (which, despite being out of place, is pretty awesome). Soulcaster's soundtrack isn't something that I would include in my iTunes library, but the songs fit the mood and theme of the game, creating a very appealing environment (coupled with the gameplay and graphical style).

The first 240 point game that I've reviewed for this little experiment, Soulcaster is one of the best games on the entire marketplace. The game offers moderate length for the price (the game is about an hour and a half long, and has a second "hard mode"), has a fantastic style complemented by the fantasy setting, graphics, and music, and is a refreshing take on tower defense. This is one game that is well worth the 240 price tag it carries.