The original Soulcaster seemed to come out of nowhere. One day Xbox Live was saturated with a bunch of crappy indie “not games,” and the next there was this adventure/tower defense/RPG hybrid making everyone reevaluate what it means to be an indie game on Microsoft’s console. Pretty much everyone loved it, but as with most popular games, they wanted more.
And here it is. The sequel to the incredibly well-received original. An original that was featured in our very first Indie-Dome, no less. As with the first game, you play the part of a summoner who can’t do much of anything in a fight. And also as before, you get to conjure up the souls of expired warriors to do that which you cannot. So is Soulcaster II a huge step up from the original? Or is it just more of the same?
Soulcaster II picks up some time after the first game. You’re the same summoner and you get to reacquire your three ghostly pals to help keep you from dying like the frail piece of meat that you are. Fortunately, gathering up your old buddies doesn’t take very long and plays out more like a step-by-step tutorial. Once the gang is back together, it’s back to business; exploring new realms, discovering hidden secrets and treasures, killing hordes of enemies by strategically conjuring your friends and upgrading their abilities, and so on. There really aren’t any new gameplay features to speak of, but all of the old staples (health potions, enemy vaporizing scrolls, etc…) are still around and still as useful as ever.
Since it’s possible that there are people out there who haven’t played the original, I suppose I should take a little time to explain just exactly what Soulcaster II is. You know your character is useless in a fight, and you know you can summon spirit warriors (i.e. Guardians) to help you. Specifically you have three Guardians to utilize: a path-blocking, damage absorbing warrior; a physically weak, but speedy and damaging archer; and a crazy guy who likes to lob bombs at stuff. Careful placement of this trifecta is important to both your success and your survival, as each area has a different layout filled with defenseless open areas and chokepoints. There’s a lot of quick and dirty, on-the-fly strategy involved, so it’s important to really analyze your surroundings before the inevitable enemy spawning begins.
So it plays like the first and features all of the same items as well as the same Guardians. Is there anything actually new about it? Well, yes. The world itself is all new, with a bunch of unexplored areas to tackle (in one of two difficulties, no less). On top of that, Soulcaster II features new and improved music and graphics. It doesn’t sound like much but when going from the sequel back to the first game, there’s a very noticeable dip in quality. Basically Soulcaster II is Soulcaster, ground down and refined to a near-perfect balance of graphics, music and gameplay.
If you’ve played the first game and have been wanting to experience more, you’re all clear to purchase and download the sequel. If you’ve never played the first one, by all means give it a shot, then come back and grab this one. Or you could always skip it and jump right into the more refined product. Either way, if you’re looking for a retro-styled adventure game with plenty of strategy, you’ve found the motherload. It’s totally worth the price, totally worth your time and totally fantastic.
Things We Liked: Big improvements to both the music and the graphics. Still as engrossing as ever. Setting up a kill-zone with your team and just letting enemies come to you is a blast.
Things We Disliked: Mechanically it’s more of the same, but when “the same” means deep, entertaining strategy with RPG elements that’s not really such a bad thing.
Target Audience: Armchair generals with a love for fantasy. Tower defense fans who are getting kind of bored with the playing the same game over and over again. Retro adventure lovers.
(Soulcaster II – Developer/Publisher: MagicalTimeBean. Available for Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Indie Games. Unfamiliar with CFD!’s review system? Read our newly revised explanation here.)