Thursday, February 23, 2012

Summoner (Mac)

Summoner Mac
Summoner (Mac)
by Graphic Simulations
Platform:   Mac
4.2 out of 5 stars(10)

2 used & new from $19.99

(Visit the Best Sellers in Role-Playing list for authoritative information on this product's current rank.)

From the creators of the award-winning Descent and FreeSpace series comes Summoner, an original, graphically brilliant role-playing game. Summoner crafts a unique look and complex story in an intriguing fantasy setting. Summoners have toppled empires and challenged gods. They are venerated as saviors and feared as destroyers. With rings crafted by the ancient Khosani, the gifted can call forth demons, dragons, and elementals, but only the strongest can hope to control the forces they unleash.

The player takes the role of Joseph, who has yet to embrace or control his power as one of the last remaining Summoners. To save his kingdom from annihilation, Joseph and his reluctant companions must journey to the lost empire of Ikaemos, the island monastery of Iona, and the forest labyrinth of Liangshan. Their quest for the Summoner's rings is the only hope for salvation.

Summoning is an ability unique to Joseph. As you progress through the game, Joseph will find ancient rings that can harness his summoning ability. Each of these rings has a specific property (darkness, flame, light, etc.). When used by themselves, or in combinations, they have the power of summoning a creature to Joseph's side. In multiplayer mode, Summoner is a party-based hack-and-slash type of game. The players can travel from level to level, killing monsters and collecting items and experience. Along their journey, players will also complete short quests.

After they finished up Descent: FreeSpace, the game designers at Volition had one desire: to make an incredible roleplaying game. Well, FreeSpace 2 was too tempting, and half of the team went off to work on the incredible space combat simulation, while the other half started working on some RPG ideas. Now, under the publishing banner of THQ, Volition has started to show early builds of the upcoming Summoner, and we have to say it elicits bucketfuls of drool.

The story centers on Joseph, a young man who had an unfortunate accident -- he wiped out his entire village. Granted, it wasn't really his fault -- the village was under attack, and he used some unique fledgling powers to summon a demon to combat the invading force. It worked, too -- except for the fact that after dispatching the last of the invaders, the demon turned and started bashing up the village and killing people left and right. Ostracized and haunted by his deed, Joseph heads out into a world filled with fun and adventure.

The engine looks fabulous. While many aspects of how it'll work are still up in the air, what we saw showed a 3rd person view of four-character party. The camera is movable, although Volition is still debating whether or not to keep the camera fixed at a high or low angle, or let it be free-form. The angle of the camera will affect how the artists create the artwork, however, so it'll likely be fixed, and more than likely that it'll be fixed at a isometric view very similar to Baldur's Gate.

The similarity to Baldur's Gate is an apt one, as the team has taken several ideas from the hit RPG of last year. One such quality is the instant-pause mode -- hitting the spacebar freezes the game and lets players input commands to their party. Hitting the spacebar again executes the given commands. It's a system that works well, and should be used in more games, as far as we're concerned.

Each of the characters is rendered in loving detail, and even light maps on different items and weapons look impressive. Capes flow and move when a character runs, including tassels and ponytails. Volition used the hardware available to them extensively, and might even add more cool effects as new hardware accelerators are released onto the market. The unoptimized engine ran smooth as silk as Joseph and company ran through the countryside and through cities.

The game will contain most of the usual roleplaying conventions, although characters and places have a decidedly feudal Japanese influence, as well as the typical fantasy-esque Middle Ages European feel. While Joseph, since he's the main character, can be just about any profession from sorcerer to fighter, other characters to join your party will have pre-determined professions. The game will have hand-to-hand fighting, magic spells, and bountiful mini-quests and sub-plots to pursue.

However, it's good to know that some of the normal conventions are modified and updated. For example, while hand-to-hand combat will work just like most games (pick a target, choose "Attack," and watch the action), the modeling of the characters is so accurate that the designers can create choreographed battles, with thrusts, parries, and dodges for each character. As a test, they even examined the Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace trailer and re-created the fight scene between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan, and Qui-Gon using the game's engine! They project that as characters grow more experienced in fighting, the moves will become more diverse, so players won't watch the same combat animations again and again. Plus, should the party encounter a low-level character, you'll actually be able to see a fighter decapitate the creature with a swing, while parries and thrusts will be traded between more equal opponents.

The spell system will follow suit with some amazing spell effects that make full use of the 3D environment. Currently, the team has about 40 spells planned, and their goal is to make sure that each one is actually useful. Rather than use the typical cop-out of creating several different versions of the same spell, they want to make sure that each one makes sense, and grows in power as the character raise their levels higher.

The real unique aspect of the game is Joseph, however. Because he is the Summoner, he can do just what his title implies -- Summon creatures. He'll be able to bring forth elementals, demons, and a variety of other entities. While they're not sure how many different creatures he can summon, Volition will make sure that it's plenty to keep players busy. The trick is that the summoned creature only sticks around for a certain period of time. Furthermore, Joseph can only control the creature for so long. If he's too weak to control a nasty demon, the rest of the party could fall to the same fate as his hometown.

With their incredible 3D engine and some marvelous innovations in how RPGs look and feel, Volition has a hit on their hands. We can't wait to see more of this game come Fall 2000, and we'll certainly keep you updated on any progress the game makes. Until then, however, we'll just have to keep drooling in anticipation.

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