Itís a damn shame that Soulbringer
is too weak of an RPG to make it all that entertaining. Itís certainly not the worst (-cough- Blaze & Blade
-cough-), but itís definitely been done better enough times.
You play the part of the dutiful son, going to meet your eccentric Uncle Andrus to fulfill your fatherís last request. He lives outside of a sleepy little town called Madrigal where youíll be spending a good bit of your time. Upon arriving near the town by boat, youíre given your first simple quest and set on your way.
The first quest is decidedly trivial, and itís nice to complete it and get the nifty little sounds that signify that youíve done something good. So you go traipsing into town, set to find out just whatís going on and meet your Uncle Andrus. This happens soon enough, at which point the game... explodes.
For most of the rest of the time youíll be spending with the game, youíll have five or six things going on to keep track of. This sort of non-linearity is cool when done right, but Soulbringer doesnít quite cut it. The journal that your character keeps is nowhere near as useful as, say, Deus Exís, and youíll find yourself straining to remember just what it is you need to do. I used to enjoy paper-and-pencil annotations of my games, but once they started coming with intelligent journaling systems, I hoped that pastime would go the way of the dodo. Alas, that is not the case.
The world of Soulbringer itself slowly reveals itself to you, and itís an interesting world, if a bit stilted and dry. There are lots of things to be done and people to talk to, and the town is certainly more, er, ďtownishĒ than in most RPGs, but the game just feels like itís lacking something. Despite the somewhat intriguing storyline, the game never managed to pull me in enough to where I was genuinely interested in what was going to happen next.
The combat system also left me flummoxed. Sometimes I could wail on an enemy with a few clicks and watch them fall in a matter of seconds. Other times, enemies of the same strength would simply destroy me with a swing or two. Was I not targeting properly? Did my character just enjoy getting a good beating? I checked the instructions to make sure, but it seemed like I was doing everything right. The combo system, in and of itself, is actually quite cool if used properly. But I always found myself in panic situations where I simply clicked buttons until the enemy died or my remains were scattered liberally about the ground. It could have been a flaw in my play-style -- I come from the old school of ďGet in Their Face and Smack Them AroundĒ -- and I could get past the various baddies eventually, but it became decidedly non-trivial.
Itís hard to put a finger on what bothers me about Soulbringer. Sure, the graphics arenít the best, but Iím not a zealot when it comes to that. Iíve clocked more hours in Final Fantasy IV/2 than any other RPG. Itís just an unfulfilling experience -- a game that never quite gets up off the ground, one that presents some neat ideas but never really uses them. Itís the One That Got Away, basically; unfortunately, it Got Away from the developers before it became a masterpiece.