On the outside it would appear Summoner is the basic rip-off of a Final Fantasy game. A reluctant hero(Joseph), a female thief(Flece) and the unlikely partnership(Jekhar and Joseph), but on the inside of this title is something really different. In the beginning we learn Joseph is responsible for burning down his village, accidentally of course. Joseph is a summoner and when an evil monster attached his village Joseph summoned an even more dangerous beast that he was not able to control. The beast that Joseph summoned did more damage than the attacker. I’ll stop there. After all, I don’t want to spoil it for you . Eventhough this game may sound like any run of the mill RPG, it’s not. This story is one of the most original stories I’ve seen in a long time and its really captivating and involving.
This is the area most in need of improvement. The French have one word for gameplay like this, but I’m not allowed to use French in my reviews. So, in plain English, the gameplay sucks. Yes, that’s right. Sucks. I can’t put it any better than that. The characters are acting independently (except for the one your controlling at the time that is) which frustrates you especially when you’re fighting more than one enemy at a time.
The game is sort of like Vagrant Story meet Final Fantasy. How, you ask? Simple. It’s because you’re fighting in real time using chain attacks (you know, hit the right button at the right time to keep the attack going) and it’s Final Fantasy because you have a party. Yes, that’s right. There are others tagging along next to you, all with their own chain attacks and abilities. Lucky for you you’re able to switch between any of the characters at any given time, which doesn’t help because usually once you get a character doing what s/he is suppose to be doing and you switch to fix the next character the AI (artificial intelligence) will take control of the character you just fixed and move him or her where ever the AI thinks the character should be. Too bad though because the AI is totally brain dead. So the end result is you constantly switching characters in battle.
Believe it or not, this is NOT the most frustrating thing about Summoner, not by far. The most frustrating thing about Summoner is the camera. You say it can’t possibly be that bad, Chris. Well guess what? It is. The camera is fine when it’s in low mode, but you see, 75 percent of the time you’re forced to use the high mode, which sets the camera almost directly over the characters’ heads. This in effect severely limits your sight of view, and as stated earlier, Summoner has the biggest cities and towns ever created on a home console. So you see a limited view of Summoner’s wonderful graphics is the worst thing that could happen in a game like this. Thankfully, the game is short, so you want kill yourself from the frustration of having such a limited view. Despite all these gameplay issues, Summoner can still be fun at times.
The graphics in Summoner are on a scale never before witnessed on a home console. The cities are huge...I mean big. If you see something in the background, no matter where it is you can actually walk up to it, go inside it, see it ,feel it and touch it. It’s truly amazing. The anti aliasing is good for the most part. No major issues, but it could be better. But then again, everything could be better depending on who you ask. The characters look more like those found in Everquest instead of Final Fantasy VIII, but the characters are not why you buy this game. The reason you buy this game is to see the size of these cities and towns which once again I must say are huge.
If not for the camera view, Summoner would surely get a better score in the fun department. Thanks to many kinks in the battle system, the worst camera view since Star Wars Dark Forces, and hardly(none) any mini games makes Summoner more frustrating than fun. In fact, the only fun thing about Summoner is the storyline, which is just sad. I mean a storyline should be the glue that holds everything else together. But in Summoner’s case, the glue has nothing to hold together, which is sad especially when the glue is as strong as Summoner’s story.
Summoner is the most frustrating RPG I’ve played in a while. But at the same time it is the most original RPG to be made in the last 5 years, in the sense of story line. Although most of the gameplay ideas failed in Summoner, it is a sure bet in this day and age that Volition or another company will use the ideals found first in Summoner and fix them or improve them so that they pass the grade in what ever game they’re used in next. You should buy this game if you enjoy good storyline or would like to play the most original RPG in the last 5 years. However, you should not buy this game if you have a low tolerance for frustration.