Culdcept is a series that has been around for a while. After all, Omiya Soft released the very first installment back on the Sega Saturn in 1997. People might point to it and say, “This is Monopoly with Magic the Gathering mixed into it.” And there is that here. But it is really a far more complicated and strategic affair, one that takes time to understand. Fortunately, the solo Quest mode is there to walk everyone through these complex concepts.
The story of Culdcept Revolt doesn’t really matter. After all, each chapter’s matches are placed in certain orders, with people often able to pick and choose the order in which they play them. While you are working toward an overarching goal and resolution, it all loses its punch when you can essentially view such things out of order. Your avatar is an extraordinarily adept, amnesiac Cepter, which is someone who can use the magical cards to battle. An evil count is using his minions to harass and kill other Cepters in the city. You are fighting for good, freedom, and knowledge against evil. You know, the same old thing.
What matters are the lessons you learn. Culdcept Revolt eases you into its mechanics. Sometimes, it can feel like this happens a bit too slowly. The first segment, Awakening, consists of six smaller segments and one real match teaching you about laps, spells, summoning, battles, and tolls. All of this feels like it could have been condensed into one. The Rebels, the next tutorial area, is much better paced. It Introduces the Free Bats, the rebel Cepters, and introduces you to battles against multiple people. It makes sense to have these three matches preparing you for online matches. After all, at launch the first few are going to be simple ones. Others will also only have the basic Economy, Standard, and Elemental Packs of cards available and be building basic decks. And taking this time to really hammer home the importance of balance in a deck, by having one that has about 20-30 creatures, 10 items, and 10 cards, and rely on chains, where you attempt to focus on dominating one kind of land to increase the value of the creatures summoned to it and your overall magic totals, is really important.
My only regret is that the Quest mode can lock too much away. It is fine for the first few game modes to be stowed away until someone completes the first few maps. People shouldn’t be building their own decks or playing online until they’ve gone through what are the tutorial segments. But it is disappointing that packs with more advanced cards, ones that are rare, can use Secret Arts when they are not fatigued or be evolved, are similarly locked up until after you have invested hours in the campaign. I understand why this is, but wish it had been easier to earn these games. After all, this is a game that is best played with other people.
This especially hurts when it comes to Drifter of the City, the third segment. There are 15 stages you need to complete here. This does unlock new cards, new opponents, and the ability to remove handicaps from characters. It also teaches you about things like Fortune Tellers, where you can choose to draw one certain kind of card from their book, Spell Circles where you can pay a fee to cast one of two spells, and Warp tiles that transport you from one to another. It is here that you will very likely begin building your own decks, finding which elements work best for you and which leave you flummoxed. (Fire and wind are aggressive, while earth and water are defensive.) The Wild Bull match in particular helped me realize I work best with defensive decks, building up one that is filled with earth cards like Rock Troll and Cactus Wall or water cards like Wall of Ice.
Still, it can feel like it holds people back. After all, a Culdcept Revolt stage can last a half hour to an hour, maybe even longer once you start getting into the more complex battles with 12,000G requirements and more intelligent opponents. As you sit and stare at empty spaces where these better cards are waiting to be purchased and new abilities await, it can’t help but feel like an insurmountable task. Especially when you are eager to start playing with others and craft your own decks, perhaps after following the series for years. There are 15 stages in that Drifter of the City block. That could be at least seven hours of time spent playing alone to unlock fantastic stuff for multiplayer. And the block after that, One Who Hides in Darkness, is 25 stages long.
Yes, it can be a bit annoying that Culdcept Revolt forces people to really play through a substantial amount of the campaign to unlock the ability to play with other people, purchase cards, build decks, and basically enjoy the game. And sometimes it can feel like the pacing could be a bit better. But patiently taking the time to play, learn the importance of placing characters on only one or two kinds of territories when you can, see the nuances of creatures from certain elements, and practice against AI with different focuses and decks really does help make you a better player.
Culdcept Revolt will be available on the Nintendo 3DS in North America on October 3, 2017 and in Europe on October 6, 2017.