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Summoner
Preview By: Marty Weisenburger
Developer:   Volition
Publisher:   THQ
Genre:   RPG
Est. Release Date:   10-26-00
Posted:   9-28-00

Whatever you say about the Playstation, you certainly can’t say the system is lacking in the RPG genre. To the contrary, Sony’s machine actually mainstreamed what was before a niche "genre for nerds". It might come as a surprise, though, to learn that the first good RPG to come our way might not be from Square, but rather from THQ – a company least known in the role playing market. However, Summoner – from Volition, best known for it’s PC titles Freespace and Freespace 2 – is one of the few games you’ll definitely want to pick up at the PS2’s launch.

The game’s title actually represents it’s storyline very well – the plot centers around certain individuals – Summoners – who are capable of calling forth demons and elementals to their aid. One such Summoner – Joseph – lives life with a great fear of his power. Rightfully so; in his childhood, he witnessed his village under attack and summoned a great demon to his aid. To his horror, he was unable to control the beast, which turned on him, destroying his village and killing those he knew and loved. Joseph, despite vowing never to use his powers again, begins a search for the rings of channeling and a quest to master his Summoning skills. Throughout Joseph’s adventures, of course, he runs into a number of different characters. Here’s a rundown of a few of your party members:

Joseph: As mentioned above, the main character of the game; after his failure and exile from his village, he flees to a small farming settlement, though shortly after, begins a quest to master his gift of power and destroy the Emperor of Orenia.

Flece: A thief/pickpocket that grew up in a slum district where her mother was murdered, after which she was raised by Tancred, the leader of a large group of thieves.

Jekhar: Jekhar is a descendent of the ancient Husofi, the "Hawk Children" who invaded Medeva a thousand years ago. Five years after Joseph destroyed his village and murdered his family, he joined the army of King Bellias VI

Rosalind: The daughter of Yago, Joseph's mentor, Rosalind joined the Order of Iona to master the shifting language of the gods and unravel the secrets of Ghuval's creation.

A few of the enemies mentioned on Summoner’s website include samurai, various skeletons and bone knights, demon mages, bacites (creatures with insect-like bodies and human/animal like heads and arms), and various golems.

Summoner’s story and characters have a good looking world to back them up, too. The continents of Medeva and Orenia have a look to them that I like to call a "dark age dojo" style, mixing a feudal orient into the typical knights and castles we’re used to seeing. While this isn’t exactly new, it should fit the game’s premise quite well. Of course, the game’s astounding visuals will bring the gameworld to life. Full scene anti-aliasing (FSAA) running in high-res mode means you’ll see none of those blasted "jaggies" that PS2 gamers have been complaining about. The architecture mentioned above will almost certainly be unmatched in detail by any other RPG on the market. Character designs, following the rest of the game’s style, look to be just as good. Cutscenes – done with the game’s engine – will be voice acted, though conversations will be text based.

One thing many role playing fans demand from an RPG is an innovative combat system, and they’ll definitely find that in Summoner. Although real-time, you’ll have the ability to pause the game at any time and issue commands to your party members. When the action’s rolling, you’ll have control of one party member, while your others are controlled by the AI. You’ll also have an interesting chain system at your disposal – when attacking, you can press a corresponding button as the blow connects to use a special attack, somewhat similar to the combo system found in Vagrant Story. Of course, you’ll also be able to summon monsters in the game – at the cost of both HP and AP (The latter is the game’s form of mana) – which range from smaller servants such as black imps to giant beasts such as golems and minotaurs. Your summoning skills will increase as you gather the various rings, while other attributes will develop as you gain experience. Inventory management will use a "paper doll" system, along with an inventory pool that items are placed into until equipped. As for length, Volition is betting on 30 or so hours if you play straight through, whereas taking the time to complete all the various sidequests and such will up the game’s timespan to 40 or 45 hours.

Surprisingly, despite Volition’s prior work on the PC, the PS2 version should ship at the machine’s launch on October 26th, whereas the PC version won’t be ready until January or February. Whenever it’s released, though, there’s no doubting that – with a deep storyline, inventive combat system, and stunning visuals – it’ll be an RPG that you’ll definitely want to pick up.

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