Being a video game writer has its ups and downs. On the plus side, I get paid to write about something I love, get free video games, and remain in contact with almost every video game developer out there. The negative side is I rarely have time to really play a game that I want to, especially an RPG like Volition's SUMMONER 2. But sometimes you just have to set aside time to actually get into a game.
The original SUMMONER was a launch title for the Playstation 2. While it was met with adequate success, the game really wasn't that big of a hit. And even though the game did have its problems, it did well enough to warrant a sequel. And thus we come to the product, SUMMONER 2. It's bigger, better looking, and a lot more fun.
Like the first game, SUMMONER 2 is very text heavy, which makes it story driven. SUMMONER 2 is a tale about a young queen named Maia. One thing about this queen is that she is called the "the goddess Laharah reborn". In other words, she is thought to be the savior of all creation. But the King of Galdyr is after Maia's head and plans to invade her lands. The beginning of the game begins with Maia's ship being invaded by pirates, but I won't go any further. It would be too confusing for all of us if I had to explain the rest of it.
The original SUMMONER had numerous complaints about the graphics (especially the character models). This time around, Volition has made sure the graphics are one of the strong points of the game. The only problem with the upgraded graphics is that it doesn't seem like anything was done to make the framerate run any smoother. The game runs at about 30 frames per second, and the game seems to be very choppy in some places. Sometimes you're just walking along, and background textures just seem to mold and swap places with each other.
Unlike most other RPGs, SUMMONER 2's battle system is entirely real-time now. The only time the game is turn based is when you have to select spells or items and make them hot keys, and the battles flow a lot more smoothly than before.
Like the first SUMMONER, you can switch between characters in your group with just a simple touch of the R2 button. The only problem with this is that the A.I. for the characters in your group lacks. While they aren't brainless, they tend to do what they're supposed to be doing. A healer will heal your group during a fight, because that's what that person is supposed to be doing. Problem is, they keep healing even when they are getting beaten into the ground by an enemy. Simple logic says they would turn and fight, but apparently healing another character is more important.
The computer A.I. is a little bit smarter, though. They know how they should attack, when they should attack and when they should heal. And they only get smarter as the game goes on. Luckily, you have summons you can call on during the game to help you out. Calling on "Blood", "Eye", "Sand" and "Tree" will work every time, except during boss battles; and the summons get stronger throughout the game. But, to make the game a bit harder, there are only so many times you can summon these guys, and also limit the time you can host the summoned form.
My one complaint with the summons is that they really aren't that special. "Eye" is good at long ranged attacks, and "Sand" and "Tree" are used up close. But I don't understand why you just don't summon "Blood" every time? All three of his forms work just as well as any of the other summons in the game.
I really enjoyed listening to the music of SUMMONER 2. The orchestrated music is done perfectly, and really fits the game's theme. The voice-overs for the characters are done superbly, and really has the feel of a British stage-play. Not often do you find great voice-acting in a game, but this is it.
While the game does have its faults, what game doesn't? SUMMONER 2 is a worthy addition to any gamer's library and RPG fans should find something in here that they like.