Attack the darkness again.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Maybe you’ll get it right the
next time. Hell, I fell asleep the first time I took the SAT.
The original Summoner also put me to sleep. Despite
a fair deal of hype, the game plodded along and was marred by long load times
and bland gameplay. But thankfully, Volition has listened to the classic adage
and makes leaps in the right direction with Summoner 2, a better, smoother
game than its predecessor.
The story has very little to do with the original. Maia has been prophesized
as the goddess Laharah reborn. At the tender young age of four, she usurped
the throne, aided by the King’s own brother, Taurgis. Twenty years later, she
journeys out with a small band of followers to discover exactly what destiny
has in store for her.
messianic, linear story is influenced greatly by classic Dungeon and Dragons
traditions like the first Summoner, but this time takes on some Middle
Eastern touches. The writing effectively uses period language to create a unique
atmosphere. The overarching events and plot take priority over in-depth character
development, but in all, it’s a good story.
The melee action is now done in full real-time. There’s a timing structure
to the attacks, but it just comes out as pure button-mashing. Blocking is not
as useful as it should be – a small delay before initiating the block keeps
the character vulnerable. At times you can accurately predict when to block,
but mostly, it’s a crapshoot. At its heart, attacking becomes an issue of stat
improvement; the action half of this “action/rpg” should have been refined better.
You can lock onto enemies, but the opponent-centric movement of your character
is rather sluggish. Another dodge move of some kind would have helped out immensely.
Combat mostly ends up as walking right up against your foe and whittling away
with your weapon, stopping for the occasional block or spell. I prefer the button-mashing
in Kingdom Hearts due to the added mobility
of your player and the sheer swarms of opponent.
In Summoner 2, being attacked by more than two opponents is a sure
death knell. You just can’t really keep your health up while sustaining multiple
sttacks, and you often cannot counter-attack quickly enough. Frantic escape
ends up as the best response.
To help you in this regard, Summoner 2 gives you a backup team of two
computer-controlled warriors. Their offense and defense styles can be adjusted
through the options, allowing you to create a strict melee man or a humble healer.
But unlike Kingdom Hearts, you’re able to take control of either support
character at the push of a button. It’s certainly more exciting to actually
control the other characters and gives the game much more variety. Still, I
would have liked the ability to send support commands in as well, such as directing
a teammate to attack a specific opponent.
Advancing in levels earns each character in your party points to distribute
across their different skill sets. Different properties can be built up, such
as stronger attacks, better defense or more specialized character traits like
stealth, heavy weapons, and specific spells. Though it isn’t nearly as burly
as some other console RPGs, it at least gives some sort of depth to character
This game wouldn’t be ‘Summoner’ without any summoning, now would it? Over the
course of her adventure, Maia gains the abilities of four upgradeable summons
– Blood, Eye, Sand and Tree. With each summoning, she transforms into a fabled
creature; for a limited window of time, she wields the added strengths and powers
of the beast. For the most part, the summons are very effective and look pretty
2 is a big game. There are scores of quest items to find, each playing some
part in the larger scheme of things. You’ll have to figure out the right time
to use an item, which gives the game a nice classic adventure element.
Graphically, though, the game is mixed. Summoner 2 has thankfully eliminated
the ugly draw-ins and long load times of the first game while maintaining huge
environments, but the close-up details are muddled and lack detail. I find myself
pulling back the camera so I won’t have to look at the game up close.
Pressing down on the left analog stick re-centers the camera. Problematically,
you won’t be able to keep forward movement after re-centering; what was once
forward is now off a slight degree to the left. You can get used to it, easing
your character back into line, but it isn’t the most intuitive maneuver. Again,
another good reason to pull back, giving you a broader view and less need to
adjust the camera.
The bulk of the cut scenes are devoid of mouth movements, a step backwards
in FMV design. Rather than heavy work on animation, there’s some fancy video
editing sharply done with artful filters to progress the storytelling. Most
of the voiceover cast has done a commendable job; emotional intonation is fitting
and there are appropriate accents for most of the characters. Much of the music
is background ambient filler rather than full melodies.
Summoner 2 is to the original Summoner what a case of shower
grout is to a clogged drainpipe full of hair. The game has come a long way since
the original and is headed in the right direction, but there are still more
than a few niggling details that keep it from earning a permanent spot in your