Culdcept Saga

boyward - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:

GAME TECH INFO

Computer Platform: Xbox 360 (Microsoft)
Produced by: Bandai Namco
Price Range: $31-40
Learning curve time: A few days
Age level: Teen to Adult
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)

     Reviewed By: Phil Rownd (boyward)
     STAFF REVIEWER

Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Genre: Other Card Battle
Christian Rating: 1 of 5 (awful)
Gameplay: 5 of 5 (excellent)
Violence: 4 of 5 (barely present)
Adult Content: 3 of 5 (mild)


Culdcept Saga.  Illustration copyrighted.

In 20 years of video gaming I can’t remember a single game that invokes the name of the pagan god Ba-al as a means of achieving victory. Culdcept Saga proves that there’s a first time for everything.

According to Culdcept Saga lore, when the goddess of creation made the world, she shared her abilities with the Cepters, enabling these chosen few to alter the world around them. The Cepters carry decks of magic cards that can summon monsters and cast powerful spells. The story takes a back seat to the gameplay, which is totally addicting because you, the player, are a Cepter.

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Culdcept Saga is one part Monopoly and one part card battling, like Pokemon cards or Magic: The Gathering. Gameplay takes place on a colored game board, and you just like Monopoly you’re rolling dice and trying to buy property and charge rent when your opponent lands on your square. You even get a bonus for passing “Go” (in Culdcept Saga, “Go” is a castle). The property squares are colored to represent the four elements: fire, water, air, and earth, and that’s where the card battling comes into play. The monsters you summon each belong to an element group, and if you place them on a square that matches their element, they become more powerful in battle. You’ll want to place your creature cards wisely, because you never know what spell or weapon card your opponent might play on you if he lands there. Like Monopoly, you can level up your squares (no houses or hotels here, though) and hope your opponent has to pay you big bucks for landing on “Boardwalk”– or whatever you want to call that square your goblin or demon fiend has occupied. The rest of the game becomes a battle to anticipate which card your opponent will play next and where he will land. It may sound like a lot of luck, but I’ve merely given you a description of how the game works on its most basic level. Culdcept Saga is possibly one of the deepest games I’ve ever played, with thousands of variables, any one of which can change the outcome of a 1-3 hour match. To succeed, you must memorize the variables and numbers on each and every card, re-think your strategies, obsess over your deck, possibly even dream about it.

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The press gave Culdcept Saga scores that fell somewhere in the “fair” to “pretty good” range, but dedicated Cepters always score it much higher. (I gave it a 5/5 for gameplay.) Culdcept Saga is hard to put down. It’s the kind of game that can hold one’s attention for hours, and it can take an hour or two just to complete a single battle. Win or lose, you’ll always be winning new cards for your deck (there are nearly 500 different cards to collect) and with your customized deck you can go online and play up to four other Cepters on Xbox Live. I really got into this game, and there is a small group of gamers out there who get absolutely obsessed over how they can tweak their card decks and alter their strategy, and it’s really eating into their life. If you struggle with video game addiction, you really don’t need Culdcept Saga begging you to come and play.

There are some other factors to consider, and I would recommend that you Christian gamers prayerfully read Deuteronomy 18:9-14 and ask the LORD whether you should even be considering adding Culdcept Saga to your collection.

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SPIRITUAL CONTENT
If the idea of using magic cards to summon creatures doesn’t faze you, perhaps some of the hand-drawn artwork on some of the cards will. Some of the card portraits have a ghostly or demonic appearance because… that’s what they are. Fantasy favorites like fairies, ogres, and dwarves are joined by more sinister spirits like the revenant, spectre, and wendigo. The written descriptions on the cards are often very dark and evil in tone. There is a constant stream of talk about gods, goddesses, heaven, hell, angels, demons, sorcerers, fortune-tellers, saviors, high priests, and praying to any one of them. It’s all out spiritual warfare on that Monopoly board with a mishmash of all kinds of spirit beings on parade– and these angels and demons can fight from the same deck of cards for the same master. Many of the monsters and spells will be familiar to gamers who play fantasy games, but some of the creature and spell designs are based on real-life pagan religion. I recognized some of the drawings as having been borrowed from Native American spiritism. And some of the spirits and rituals are borrowed from the enemies of ancient Israel. For example, your Cepter can summon the “Conjurer”. According to the game, the Conjurer is “a zealot who offers himself up as a living sacrifice to call terrible demons into the world.” To be more specific, this guy “summons Ba-al to a vacant land.” You may recall “Ba’al” was the Canaanite god that the LORD was commanded His people to drive out of their midst… and here I have his card in my deck! These are the facts. Now I’d like to briefly share some of my personal experience with you before moving on to the rest of the content. I unlocked only about 100 cards out of a possible 500, so what you’re reading here is merely the tip of the iceberg. I did not get a close look at the cards in other Cepter’s decks, but I can tell you that much of what I briefly saw did not settle well with me at all. After playing for 1-3 hours every day I was actually seeing these images in my dreams at night. I can easily see young children getting full-blown nightmares from what they see in Culdcept Saga. It’s absolutely creepy.

LANGUAGE
Variations on the d-word (printed, not spoken audibly). And while profanity is held to a minimum, some of the dialogue can be harsh. For example, “I’ll rip your brain right out of its skull!”

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SEXUAL CONTENT
The ESRB has cited Culdcept Saga for both “Partial Nudity” and “Suggestive Themes.” Approximately 1/3 of the female portraits wear revealing clothing, and some of those have exposed breasts. For example, we see the side of the Harpy’s breasts, and we get a frontal view of all of Peri’s chest with some jewelry covering up her nipples. Lamia is a topless snake woman, and while her card portrait shows only her naked backside, we do her completely topless from the front when her figure stands on the game board. There may be other instances of nudity throughout the game. I think the ESRB mentioned the “Suggestive Themes” because of the sultry poses some of these females take. Some of the male character portraits have been drawn naked and we see their bare backsides.

VIOLENCE
Battles involve hand-drawn portraits of monsters exchanging attacks and spells. The images on these cards are not animated, and all damage done by weapons is done to the cards themselves, not the creatures on the cards. So, for example, a swords cut cards in half, fire burns the cards, and acid spit eats through the cards as we hear the creature’s dying screams. There is no blood or gore, however the written descriptions on the backs of the cards can be quite vivid and morbid.

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I have recommended other fantasy RPGs to you in the past, and I stand by those recommendations. I am not opposed to fantasy, and the combination of Monopoly and card battles works great. In the future I hope to see similar games built on this concept. Nevertheless, I would submit to you that Culdcept Saga in particular is more than an innocent melding of Monopoly and cards. It takes the spiritual elements way too far. Whether the designers’ intentions were as sinister as was the game’s effect on me, I cannot say. But in deciding whether you are going to get involved with Culdcept Saga I strongly urge you to make it matter of prayer. After all, “When they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God?” (Isaiah 8:19).

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Year of Release — 2008

[tags] 2 stars, Other, Xbox 360 (Microsoft), T (Teen), Bandai Namco [/tags]




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Christian Answers Network.

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