I choose... Magic Missile!
Joseph's got a pretty screwed up life. One minute his village is getting ransacked and the next he's accidentally calling forth a dark demon of the netherworld that would eventually destroy the entire village. When I try to help out my little village, the worst result is a few broken dishes. Joseph, on the other hand, goes for genocide. Good job, Joseph. Way to go. I guess that's the way life goes when you're a summoner.
So what's a summoner, you ask? He is the chosen one, the man with the powerful ability to summon forth creatures and demons. He is stronger and more feared than any man or god...and in this case, he's a total klutz.
To fulfill his destiny as a summoner, Joseph must journey onward through aggravation. And that aggravation is the game itself.
THQ's Summoner follows the typical PC RPG formula, relying upon statistical growth to compel further play. But when games like this are presented on a console system they aren't nearly as smooth as they should be. In this case, the fighting system lacks control and involvement, the storytelling is weak, and as a whole, the game just tapers off to average.
Summoner's fighting system doesn't feel complete. You approach opponents and fight them in real time without switching away to some combat screen. On the surface, it seems a lot like the excellent Vagrant Story, but underneath it lacks that game's great control and flow. Your AI pals fight poorly and the random hits and misses make battles much more frustrating than they should be.
Joseph's summoning ability allows you to call another member into your party. This summoned character will have significantly burlier statistics and power than normal characters, which makes that guy a helluva lot more fun to play. Fortunately, there are some intelligent checks and balances built into mastering this power. If Joseph dies while the summoned creature is still alive, it will go berserk.
The cities are immense and have interesting design elements, but they're not very immersive. This is mainly due to the complete lack of realistic characters within cities. Townsfolk ramble on and have the personality of a wet newspaper. Hmm'if they made the playable characters a bit more interesting and communicative, then maybe I wouldn't mind talking to everyone.
Summoner's plot is pretty interesting. It includes some complex elements, from a believable religion involving warring deities to the machinations of an evil emperor. With this much depth, the development of the story throughout the game is promising, but because of character problems, it doesn't work as well as planned.
The playable characters are very run-of-the-mill. Additionally, nearly all conversations involve your character asking one word questions. For example, some NPC might go on and on about how much he hates Bactites, and all you get to select is the response: "Bactites?" This in turn will prompt the guy to tell you what a Bactite is. Conversations allow characters to develop, but I guess our hero doesn't have a very large vocabulary.
In addition to the main quest, there are many side missions to complete. Most are just retrieval missions. Some guy lost his sword. Go find that sword, bring it back, and get a reward. Whoopdee-do. I wish life was that simple.
Loading" loading" hold on, I'll tell you more about this game after I finish loading"
Even though there is some speech during the cut-scenes, you'll find yourself reading through pages and pages of text during gameplay. That's not my idea of a "next-generation RPG." Isn't this on a DVD? 6.5 gigs of information? That "no space for voice" argument just doesn't work anymore. If you insist on load times, might as well stick some voice in there.
Summoner's graphics are better than average, but you still won't see anything special here. Some areas look downright freaky due to some odd distant object fills. Other areas look great, with nifty design elements worked into the buildings.
Check this out. It's a video test of the Summoner characters playing Dungeons and Dragons. Based on that video test, it's obvious to see that the designers have some love for good ol' D&D. It's too bad the game itself isn't as creative. Why not try a RPG parody instead of the classic angst-ridden hero?
Summoner is an extremely ambitious game, but it misses the mark due to unoriginality and subpar presentation. The game is hardly the purported "must-have" title it claims to be. I just wish more time could have been put into it instead of pushing for a launch release. At times, it has the signs of an earnest first effort, but more often Summoner is dry and boring. I'm gonna summon me a beer now.