Soulbringer brings an eerie interactive landscape to your fingertips and succeeds in creating a fantasy world of mystery and intrigue. You begin in the dark, literally and figuratively, about the situations and events that surround your journey. The storyline unfolds slowly at first because your character knows nothing of the reasoning behind his father's wish that he visit his Uncle Andrus.
The controls and format are easy to get used to and after a couple of hours, you'll be very comfortable maneuvering your character, picking up items and checking inventory. When you begin, you have only a knife for defense. Magic is very prevalent throughout the course of Soulbringer but until you find Andrus you have no magical abilities.
As the adventure begins, you should start looking in barrels and other areas for hidden items. This becomes a necessary part of your journey like any RPG game; without them, you'll find the game infinitely more difficult.
Soulbringer allows you to choose how your character advances, making each iteration of the character you create unique. When you gain levels, you receive a certain number of advancement points that you can apply to one of five areas: strength, speed, combat, health and magic. This puts a good deal of control at your fingertips as each area affects how well you can perform certain duties. When you add more points to your defense or offense, it's easy to tell the difference when you fight an enemy.
The very first enemy you'll face in Madrigal is a simple brigand with a knife. Using your own knife, it's fairly simple to dispose of him. However, once you speak with Andrus and gain the use of a few spells, the brigands become more difficult to defeat. Ultimately it becomes necessary to obtain a spear from the local blacksmith since it's the most effective weapon against this type of enemy. As the journey progresses, you'll often have to acquire better weapons and more powerful magic to defeat the increasingly difficult enemies.
The number of characters in Soulbringer is another great feature. With over 60 unique NPCs, Soulbringer certainly offers a variety of speech and appearance. Although some of the enemies are exactly the same, you always come to a point where new characters are introduced. The storyline is very deep and involved. Not only does the manual present a story, but during the game you'll pick up books that give in-depth stories of certain events in the thousand-year history of the planet as well.
Some RPGs have fantastic music that plays throughout the entire game but Soulbringer utilizes minimal sound to provide a spooky experience. I've always loved the music of such high profile games as those in the Final Fantasy series but oftentimes music gets very annoying and repetitive. You will never have that problem in Soulbringer and when the characters speak, all you hear is their voice.
The game is definitely more macabre than many RPGs I've played and it can also be more violent. The gore in Soulbringer is extreme to the point of characters arms getting chopped off and blood spilling. There is a customizable setting from which you can choose three levels of gore. For the full effect, choose the Gore setting and you'll see full blood and limb removal. If, on the other hand, you choose the Normal setting, the aspect of limb removal is deactivated. It's also possible to shut off the blood effects entirely.
Your journey contains many intertwining quests and you will always be able to choose among them as you desire. Since the game is played in such a free form, you feel very much in control of your destiny. This feature, coupled with the ability to mold your character's attributes, truly makes every game you play an original experience.
A couple of interesting aspects about Soulbringer include the facts that scenery is always at night (never any daylight) and your character's appearance never changes. The overall image of the game actually benefits from the sky being black 100% of the time but it also means you'll never see the light of day.
As you gain new pieces of armor, your character never shows the change. Different weapons, of course, can be noticed very easily and magic as well, but clothing will always be the same. Both of these points can be construed in a negative or positive fashion, depending on personal preference, but they are worth mentioning.
Soulbringer unfolds the story in classic RPG fashion as in Final Fantasy II. Each new piece of evidence you discover and each new monster or enemy you face brings you another piece to the mysterious puzzle that is Rathenna's crisis. This is a good, solid RPG with 3D graphics and real-time combat added to the picture.
The deep 1000-year history of the fantasy world adds a fullness to the game and offers a basis for many sequels. If evil mysteries intrigue you, be assured that Soulbringer delivers!
Graphics: If you have 3D acceleration then Soulbringer has very crisp graphics and great weather effects (snow that falls directly in front of the screen as well as far away, etc.). The rotation and movement is very smooth and if the program ever stops responding when you do this, you need to get updated drivers for your video card.
If you like gore, you can have it and it looks very bloody but, if you don't want it, you can turn it off. Part of the reason the gameplay is so smooth is black background. Without a sky and clouds, the graphics can be focused on the land, buildings and people. On the downside, your character's clothing never changes.
Sound: The character voices are all unique and done very well. Every step you take can be heard, from the sloshing of snow to the tap of concrete. Plus, each blow to an enemy is audible and you can hear the blade cut into enemy flesh. The music in Soulbringer is practically non-existent, although it does come into play in key areas. This is cleverly done and actually enhances the game.
Enjoyment: The game is fascinating and provides hours of enjoyment. The mystery is interesting enough that you want to keep playing to find out what happens next. It's a very dark experience overall but offers some humor and sex appeal with certain characters (e.g., the hotel clerk and his daughter).
Replay Value: Each new game evolves differently because you have a hand in determining his fate. Due to all the separate quests, it's doubtful you'll complete all of them through one play of the game. Plenty will be left over to start again after you've defeated it the first time.
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