Culdcept Revolt for the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS handheld systems is the newest entry into the Culdcept franchise, and marks the series' 20th anniversary. The first entry came out way back in 1997 for the Sega Saturn, and was followed by expansions and sequels, most notably Namco Bandai's 2006 X-Box 360 release Culdcept Saga, which introduced easily accessible online multiplayer to the series.
Now, with Culdcept Revolt, players can once again get their Monopoly and Magic the Gathering-inspired hybrid game fix–now on the go!
The story in Culdcept Revolt is, as the name implies, about revolution. Awakening as a player-named amnesiac, you'll discover a city in the iron grip of an evil despot hellbent on destroying or employing all cepters (aka, those who can cast magical cards to do battle and acquire magic points). You soon discover that you are one such cepter, and are rescued by a renegade group called the Free Bats. The choice is your character's–will you lead them to freedom, or strike your own path?
Culdcept, like many of it's strategy/card game counterparts, is an interesting mix of approachable rules and endlessly complex strategy. Culdcept Revolt combats the complication inherent in it's gameplay by featuring an ever-present guiding hand in the single-player that can be toggled on or off, which suggests the best option for each turn. It's fairly effective against the computer, but more experienced players will spot risks with high rewards that the computer guide avoids. In spite of this helpful learning tool, however, it directs rather than explains, and players not used to reading the included e-manual will find themselves trounced for the first half-dozen games they play. For players less likely to dig into the e-help, and also unwilling to tackle multiple games before getting the gist of how to win, there's a strong online following for the game series, and help, strategies, and card combinations (even for this newest iteration) are in no short supply.
The basic concept of the gameplay centers around your character–a card-wielding magician known as a "cepter"–walking around various gameboards, each of which are made up of colored blocks signifying the elements of air, fire, earth, and water. Each turn, your cepter draws a card, and can play a spell, then move via a dice roll, and then cast a creature card (if on an empty square) to gain ownership over it. In lieu of casting a creature card, your cepter can also choose to fortify an already-controlled land, which increases the amount of magic power, or "G", you get from passing the next gate (which are none-ownable squares scattered across the board). The goal of each match, which is always against one or more opponents, is to reach a certain level of magic points, and then pass any gate. You can only change direction at crossroads on a board (if that particular board has one), and you can never turn around and travel the exact opposite way you came.
Magic points are tracked in two ways: one is the amount that you have spend on-hand (think of this like your wallet), and the other is the total points you've earned and control during the match (this is like equity). Casting creature cards, spell cards, item cards (which enhance creatures during battle), and fortifying lands costs magic points from your on-hand amount, but not from your total points. However, losing magic points to tolls (which occur when you land on an enemy-controlled square, and either don't win it, or don't battle for it), subtracts from both your magic point counts. Likewise, if you hit a toll you can't pay, you have to sell lands you control until you have enough to pay the debt, lowering your equity. If you sell them all and still don't have enough, then you are sent back to the starting land gate with only your initial magic points amount (which is enough to cast a spell and creature, give or take).
Combat in Culdcept Revolt takes place when you cast a creature spell on an enemy's spot, they cast one on yours, or either of you move a creature to an oppontent's adjacent location (which can be done instead of casting a creature card or fortifying). Combat takes some getting used to, as there are many factors that buff or debuff a creature's basic stats, which are just "ST" (attack power) and "HP" (health points). First, fortifying a land increases that defending creature's stats, and they also receive a bonus if they are on a land type matching their own element type. In addition, controlling multiple lands of the same element can further increase your creature's stats. These levels move with a creature, so if you move them to attack an adjacent space (assuming it's the same element), then their strength and toll fee (which also increases with fortification) moves with them; however, fortifications stay with the land after a creature there is defeated, so strong enemies can steal your hard work. There are also spells that can be cast to strengthen or weaken a target creature's stats, but many of them are removed if a creature relocates.
In addition to all of those buffs that can be affected prior to combat, there are also items that can be cast during combat, one per fighting player. These are typically weapons or armor, and boost either or both ST and HP. These cards are hidden until battle starts, and can also contain special effects, such as allowing the creature to attack first, or half received non-spell damage. There are also spells that can be cast as items, and deal magic damage instead of "normal" damage. Creatures can also have their own built-in special abilities that take place during combat, and these will be visible to all players both during combat and all other turn phases.
Attacking creatures deal damage first, unless other abilities change that, but they can only win if they destroy the defending creature. If the defending creature still lives after their attack, they have protected the land successfully. If the attacking creature is then destroyed in a counter attack, the card goes away; if not, it returns to the player's hand, or the land it came from. Damage to HP remains in effect until the owning cepter passes a gate, at which point all creatures are healed and refreshed (creatures just cast, moved, or who've battled, are "fatigued," and can't use items or do anything beyond defend until refreshed). Defeating a defending creature is difficult, since all they need to do is survive one strike, but defeating them can cripple an enemy by removing highly fortified (and thus more G-earning) lands from their control.
All of this sounds fairly complicated, but once you get the gist of it through experimentation (maybe an hour, game-time), you'll be casting like a pro. Then comes deck editing, which is a whole new beast, and the real meat of Culdcept Revolt's strategy. After rounds–whether you won, lost, or forfeited (which is an option during any game that you're losing)–you'll get some G, which you can spend on booster packs of cards. Each deck or "Book" can be customized with up to 50 cards, and the starter decks provided at the game's start are decent frameworks to build from. There's no penalty for not winning quests, save you have to attempt them again (after a chance to purchase more cards and alter your decks).
What all of this adds up to is a great digital board game, with a nice RPG wrapping. The story, while not original, is engaging enough, given that the heavy draw is the super-addicting gameplay. One minor gripe with the game is the lack of inventive touch controls–choosing cards and cycling through menus in Culdcept Revolt seems like a natural fit for the touch screen, but no such luck. The touch screen is only used to view opponent details, which isn't super important most of the time. Still, the button navigation is perfectly fine, but it's a missed opportunity all the same. Another small issue is the speed of enemy turns in single player–you can choose to have them proceed at slow, medium, or fast speeds, and the fast speed is almost right for veteran players, but just a little slower than optimal. Nonetheless, games are fast enough to keep you from closing the shell and grabbing the TV remote, no question.
graphics and sound
The art design for Culdcept Revolt is pleasing for anime fans, and the talking heads are nicely scanned and colored. The sprite artwork is simple and very 1990's, which is fitting for the series, and will be welcome to fans of the genre. Still, there could be a lot more eye-candy, which is why the fact that the 3D feature in Culdcept Revolt is among the best on the 3DS is welcome. Gameboards pop, menus float at just the right distance and opaqueness, and we experienced none of the common eyestrain so many other 3DS games give us.
The music is reminiscent of medieval film scores, and is high-quality. The tracks that play during matches in single player vary depending on your opponents, and sometimes are a little goofier than the threatening vibe of the story calls for; also, some opponent's occasional quips come too frequently, though the voice acting is good stuff. Still, those minor gripes didn't hinder our good time, and can be completely muted with zero impact on fun for commuter train rides, or those preferring silent concentration.
All in all, recommending Culdcept Revolt to strategy and card game lovers is a no-brainer. With tons of stats, cards, rules, different game boards, and online multiplayer, there are truly hundreds of hours of game here. There's a reason people still play Culdcept Saga for the 360 over ten years after its release–it's fun!
If you can deal with a less-than-innovative UI, retro graphics, and steep difficulty, then you have zero reason not to go out and buy or download Culdcept Revolt right now. We'll see you on the gameboard, cepters!
|+ Great gameplay for strategy or board game lovers||– Steep learning curve|
|+ Fun PSOne-era graphics throwback||– Computer opponent's turns are a smidge slow|
|+ Huge multiplayer appeal||– Lack of robust touch-control implementation|
|+ Lots of cards, quests, and potential DLC content|
|+ Triumphant return for a great IP!|