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Review: The Chosen: Well of Souls

Andy Chalk | 23 Oct 2007 21:00
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Facing off against you and your stalwart pals is a bestiary that can generously be described as limited. The game offers only a few different monster species on each level, creating variety, such as it is, by dividing each species into five types: Velox, the melee-fighting base model; Mitter, who throw rocks; Incantator, who throw spells instead of rocks; Sanar, who can resurrect other fallen monsters; and Magnus, basically the same as Velox but roughly doubled in size and hit points. Aside from minor variations in coloring - and size in the case of the Magnus sub-species - the enemies are virtually identical to one another save for their attack types. Largely as a result, strategy in the game can be reduced to "Kill Sanar first." Everything else is just clicking on the nearest bad guy.

This is where the wheels start to come off. You will click. And you will click. You will click some more. You will continue to click until your mouse, your finger or your patience gives up under the strain. To paraphrase the Bard, "The click's the thing wherein you'll cause permanent tendon damage to your fing(er)." And while it's true that many other games don't offer a whole lot more in the way of actual gameplay, they're able to disguise this fact by rewarding the player with a definite sense of progress as he makes his way through the game. New and more challenging enemies appear; equipment becomes progressively more powerful and effective; wealth accumulates. The Chosen: Well of Souls, on the other hand, provides none of this. Along with repetitive gameplay, you'll also encounter repetitive levels, enemies and loot drops; your character at level 20 is very likely to be using largely the same type of equipment as he was at level one. It's a very damaging aspect of the design; without "money and stuff" to measure your advancement, it becomes easy to lose sight of why you're bothering to play the game in the first place.

The game does attempt to insert a layer of strategy by introducing day-night cycles and designating some monsters as nocturnal, making them tougher and more dangerous at night. But there's no gradual progression from day to night to allow the player to prepare for the change, or even as a nod to realism. One minute the sun is up and it's day; the next, the sky is dark and it's night. Not that it amounts to much beyond a slightly-increased rate of potion guzzling - and believe me, you'll be doing a lot of that, no matter what time it is - and anyone sufficiently determined to avoid the heightened difficulty can skip night-fighting entirely by just standing around waiting for the sun to magically and instantaneously appear in the sky. It's an interesting idea that's reduced to near-worthlessness as a result of stumbling execution.

Numerous other small issues plague the game throughout. The voice acting is bad, particular the cut-scene narration, which actually approaches Beyond Divinity in terms of brain-jarring awfulness. Equipment wear occurs at such a rapid pace that I began to wonder if it was actually broken; the few magical items I found or purchased deteriorated so quickly that I simply could not keep up with maintenance, and having expended what little gold I had accumulated on repairs, I was forced to abandon them in favor of making do with whatever happened to be dropped by dead monsters. Camera height cannot be adjusted, and while the camera can be zoomed with the mouse wheel, camera rotation, a far more important function, is keyboard only.

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