Culdcept Revolt - Prepare for Battle!

Culdcept Revolt title screen
Is it a board game? Is it a card game? Answer: YES, and the best you've ever played.

A bit about the Culdcept series

First things first: To help you understand the awesomeness that is Culdcept Revolt, first you need a basic understanding of Culdcept as a whole. Sometimes described as Magic: The Gathering meets Monopoly, the long-running Culdcept game series is vastly better than the sum of its parts. It's a lofty claim, and one that I make with confidence. (Of course, I might be just a little biased, seeing as how I founded the world's largest Culdcept fan community site!)

So, how is Culdcept better than Magic? Well, there's no endless cycle of the game digging deep into your wallet, for one. Every card is unlockable simply by playing the game... and you don't even need to win to make progress! This has the added effect of leveling the playing field - you can't buy your way to victory. Every Culdcept game also has exceptional balance, for another. You won't find any overpowered cards here. Everything has a counter and can be dealt with via adequate preparation and strategy. It's a remarkable gameplay achievement.

As for Monopoly, picture this: You land on your opponent's Boardwalk, and he has a hotel on it. Game over, right? Wrong! You have the opportunity to invade and take it for yourself, thereby avoiding the toll and adding it to your growing empire. In addition, you're not limited to one vanilla board - every Culdcept game features dozens of maps, and each map adds a unique twist to the gameplay. Even better, you're not stuck with a preset toll for each land you own - there's no low-rent Baltic Avenue here, unless you deliberately choose not to chain and level what you own.

Mashed together, these two genres - collectable card game + classic board game - form an utterly unique and unbelievably addictive gaming experience. As you might expect in a game featuring nearly 500 cards and several dozen maps, the learning curve can be pretty steep (you do have help, and I'll get to that in a bit), but Culdcept just becomes more and more addicting and ridiculously fun as you begin to realize just how deep this rabbit hole goes.

Culdcept Revolt match
Culdcept Revolt features many of your old favorites and many that are soon to be.

Simple to learn, challenging to master

As in every Culdcept game, Culdcept Revolt's gameplay flow is classic board game stuff. You draw a card (or cards), you roll the dice, you move the number of squares you rolled, and you do amazing things with the cards in your hand. You might summon a creature to occupy a vacant land or battle to capture an occupied one. You might cast a spell to gain an advantage, such as making an opponent roll a specific number on the dice or changing the color (element) of a land to increase your chain or decrease an opponent's chain. How well you perform actions like these, and how well you build your deck of 50 cards prior to each match, determines how successful you'll be.

Don't worry about learning the whole huge thing straight away. Where some of the previous Culdcept games threw you right into the fire, Culdcept Revolt does a magnificent job of feeding you new concepts in bite-sized chunks, so you won't become overwhelmed. The game is also very fair - you won't be facing computer opponents with superior decks until you've progressed well into the game's nicely done single-player Story mode and your knowledge, skill and card collection are well-developed.

And they will develop. It won't be quick, but you'll rejoice with each new insight you gain and with each new card you earn. It's extremely satisfying to polish your decks until they're sublime engines of destruction and it's even more gratifying to feel yourself attaining mastery of the game. That's a big part of the game's appeal - your sense of accomplishment. You will lose sometimes, and that's OK! As I said before, you'll always make progress, win or lose.

I feel compelled to add a quick side note here: You might read some frustrated reviewers or commenters elsewhere claiming that Culdcept games cheat... I can say with conviction that the games do not cheat. I have played many thousands of hours of Culdcept, and every single time I have encountered a setback due to a "bad" dice roll, it was completely due to inadequate preparation and/or strategy on my part. The game has multiple cards with which you can control the dice, so there's really no excuse for letting luck determine the outcome of your match. Prepare to the fullest, and unlucky dice rolls won't bother you much.

Culdcept Revolt stage select (story mode)
Story mode is quite a bit longer and much better than ever before.

The Culdcept experience, refined

Along with doing a great job of helping you ease into things, Culdcept Revolt also features a host of gameplay refinements aimed at making the game more approachable and, well... friendly. That might sound odd, since a basic element of the game is card-on-card creature violence, but hear me out. Previous versions of Culdcept featured a variety of cards with which you could severely deprive an opponent of magic (known as G, the game's currency), movement around the map, and even cards themselves - often all at the same time. While a deprivation strategy was certainly very effective, it could be brutal to play against, and just plain not fun. Omiya Soft (Culdcept's developer) has gone to great lengths to prevent this sort of unfriendly play in Culdcept Revolt. Most of the deprivation-oriented cards are gone, and the ones that remain tend to have limitations. Long story short: you'll virtually always have enough G to play with, unless you make a dumb move.

Culdcept veterans will notice immediately that Culdcept Revolt's gameplay is a whole lot faster than the previous games. In addition to the aforementioned change in the area of deprivation, Cepters now receive a small "round gain" G bonus that ensures you'll usually have enough G to work with, even if things didn't go your way during an opponent's turn. Also, your avatar simply moves around the map more quickly, and you have options in the Settings menu to speed the game up even more. These improvements mean that matches tend to average half an hour, where they sometimes would exceed three hours in Culdcept games past. This is an especially big deal, since the game is on a battery-limited handheld... nobody wants their battery to run out of juice mid-match.

Multiplayer play isn't enabled (yet) in my review copy, but judging by the outstanding online play in Culdcept DS and Culdcept for the 3DS - and from what players of the Japanese version have told me - local and online multiplayer is absolutely phenomenal, and it's where Culdcept Revolt really shines. There really is nothing quite like matching wits with other Cepters, whether they're your friends, or soon will be. You'll find yourself slacking at work while spending hours tweaking your decks with our online deck builder and talking strategy in our chatroom. Inspiration for a new deck or strategy will visit you at the oddest of times, and you'll love it. In addition, Culdcept Revolt features an Online Shop where you can purchase cosmetic items like book covers and new dice to use in the game. They're not necessary to play the game to the fullest, but they add a nice touch for those wanting a little more personalization.

Other, more subtle gameplay changes are also intended to make the game easier to wrap your head around than previous installments. The most obvious of these changes are the dice. There are two of them now (the previous games had one), and they're the same on every map. Each 6-sided die is 1-5 and the Culdcept symbol, which is zero. If you roll double symbols, you just rolled a 12! Next, each map is now a single "area", which means you can chain lands of like color regardless of where they are. Also - and this will make many veteran players very happy - Element Gems have replaced the older games' stock-market-like symbol system. The Gem system is much more streamlined and easier to comprehend, and you can read more about them in our Guides section. There also plenty of other refinements that make things nicer, but I won't bore you by listing them all - you'll just have to play the game and see for yourself!

Patronus Wonder Charm Redivision
The sheer talent on display in the new card artwork is eye-popping.

It's all in the cards

Omiya Soft has clearly spent the years since the series' last true sequel, Culdcept Saga on the Xbox 360, poring over every last little card detail. Culdcept Revolt features almost exactly the same number of cards as Culdcept Saga, but nearly half of them are brand new, and almost all of the existing cards have seen adjustments and changes. They've clearly touched everything, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for gameplay balance perfection. In addition, they've taken the opportunity to introduce a mind-blowing level of creativity. There are very few cards you might consider "filler" in the game, and even those cards can be used very effectively.

I mentioned earlier the attention paid to reducing "mean" tactics like deprivation. Because the developer has gone to great lengths to make the game more friendly to play, it also is much more focused on the epic map-control war and overall is much more fun and compelling because of it. Because dominating the map is essential now, every creature stat, G cost and ability now has considerably more weight to it. For example, Culdcept Saga had somewhat weak (but very handy) Immediate creatures that you could play "keep-away" with... they're gone now. In their place are creatures with the Vigorous ability, which never become Fatigued (normally), but have their own weaknesses. There's that "everything has a counter" dynamic again.

Cards with a discard requirement for use often have the Synthesis ability now, meaning that you get an enhanced effect if you discard a specific kind of card with them. Shining Geyser is a very strong 30HP direct-damage spell normally, but if you discard an Instant spell card with it, you can instantly kill virtually any creature that has 40HP or less. Scary. Another fun new ability is Synergy, which makes a creature stronger if a creature of a specific element is on the map. The Fire creature Ammon gains ST & HP+20 if an Earth creature is in play, for example.

Item cards have also obviously received a great deal of attention. No longer do most of the Item cards simply increase your creature's ST and/or HP in battle. In Culdcept Revolt, their effects are much more varied and creative. Along with the Item cards' added utility, many creatures now have intriguing Item Limits that forces Cepters to be very careful when building a deck. When your opponent is forced to stop on your level 5 Old Willow... and then kills it and takes your valuable land because Old Willow can't use that Warlock's Disk you have in hand, you learn the importance of Item Limits the hard way.

The Spell phase of your turn has also gotten a really nice makeover. I mentioned that about half of the cards are new, and the new spells are fantastic, of course - you just have to love spells like Tiny Army and Redivision - but it's the surprising move of a creature's Secret Art ability (veterans know this as a Territory Ability) to the Spell phase that really turns the game on its head. For those new to the series, a Secret Art is basically a creature spell. In Culdcept games past, you use these during the end-of-turn Territory phase, but no longer. Now you use a creature's Secret Art during the beginning of your turn, meaning that you can't use a spell card and a Secret Art in the same turn, usually. This also will Fatigue non-Vigorous creatures, meaning you can't use Territory commands with that creature in the same turn. This change makes a lot more sense in terms of gameplay flow, but it will also catch more than a few veteran Cepters off-guard!

I do have a few issues with Culdcept Revolt, but none of them are deal-breakers:

  • I miss Culdcept Saga's match replay-saving feature. Being able to save your game-end graph screenshot is a nice touch, but being able to live-stream to Twitch or share match replays would've been a big plus.

  • Having to play about 2-3 hours into Story mode to unlock online play is a little irritating. Yeah, I get it... it's to keep new Cepters from having a bad experience. But, would it have been so hard to add a simple "Are you new to Culdcept? Yes/No" question that would allow you to skip the tutorial and dive right into the deep end? Likewise on unlocking card packs - if I'm not a new player, why do I have to wait to unlock S, R and E-rarity cards?

  • C'mon guys - it's 2017. Don't force everyone to play as the same male Story mode protagonist. Accommodating additional player-character options at game-start is not difficult and would have added a lot to the game.

Culdcept Revolt match results screen
Zonx is about to win the match? Old Willow says NO, and Yuma pays up, too.

OK, let's cut to the chase

My overall opinion of Culdcept Revolt probably isn't going to surprise anybody... I mean, after all, Culdcept Central exists to promote the series and bring Cepters from all over the world together to enjoy the series as much as possible. Even so, if the new Culdcept game was garbage, I absolutely would describe to you in vivid detail how it disappoints... but rest assured, it absolutely does not disappoint.

Culdcept Revolt is an impeccably polished and well-thought-out CCG / board game hybrid that benefits immensely from its developer's 20 years of experience. It's as deep and rewarding a strategy game as you'll find on any platform, and arguably the deepest portable game ever devised by man. If you let it, the game will suck you in and never let you go.

Overall Grade: A+

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 September 2017 08:04

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