There are tons of unique takes on digital board games, some of which lean more towards traditional board mechanics and others that do their best to also implement card games. The Culdcept series started their take on the genre far back as 1997 for the original PlayStation, and has only seen a small handful of sequels since. The most recent release is Culdcept Revolt, featuring gameplay which is easily described as a combination of Magic the Gathering and Monopoly. Together, this creates a unique setup that doesn’t really seem as though it would work well, but manages to create something interesting.
Culdcept Revolt begins with the protagonist waking up with no knowledge of who he is. Fortunately, a mysterious voice informs him that he is a special kind of person known as Cepter. These Cepters have the ability to spawn an alternate world in which they play a special kind of mystical board game against other people. Unfortunately for the Cepters of this world, an evil man known as the Count seeks to rid their kind from the city he rules over. After going through some brief introductions, the player is introduced to the Free Bats. This group of rogues is trying to escape the tyranny of the Count and find freedom outside of the city, and the main character joins at first thinking he can find answers as to who he is. After a failed attempt at an escape, he decides to leave them to discover the truth of who he is while uncovering what exactly is truly going on.
When players start their first mission in Culdcept Revolt, they’ll go through a handful of short tutorial missions showcasing how the basic gameplay works. At the beginning of each match, players are set at a single starting point where they draw a card from their deck and take turns rolling dice to move across an assortment of colorful boards. The goal of each match is to earn a set number of points by placing monsters and leveling them up or gathering them from checkpoints. Once a player has moved they are able to either place a monsters if the space is blank, attempt to fight a monster currently on that spot or pay a fine to the player who owns that monster. Players must travel across the board touching white directional spaces in order to refresh their monsters in order to power the space they’re protecting, and gain more magic to use along the way. Other cards include spells and equipment, which can aid monsters or work against other players.
Playing the story mode reveals one of the glaring issues with Culdcept Revolt: it’s very slow moving. This might not be so bad when going up against other human players where it’s apparent that some thought goes into their moves, but having to watch an NPC travel across the board and move the cursor through their cards to select which to play grows increasingly tiresome as each match goes on. The random nature of the board also makes it hard to strategize against the NPCs as well, which could result in a loss simply from being unlucky in that match and therefore unable to continue the story. Culdcept is generous enough to still reward players with currency depending on how well they did if it resulted in a loss, so they are able to still purchase more cards in order to better their decks.
The deck system itself, while simple, is the most enjoyable part of Culdcept Revolt. After going through the beginning mission, players unlock the ability to purchase more cards to improve upon the basic deck they start with. As players continue they’ll unlock even more card packs they can buy in order to get rarer cards or ones a mix the four elemental monster types. Card packs are unlocked by mainly progressing through the story, so players will need to reach a certain point before all of them are made available. While these packs aren’t too expensive, those wanting to improve their decks for harder missions will have to grind early challenges to earn money or sell off cards they’re not interested in using.
Outside of gameplay, Culdcept Revolt has short cutscenes with visual-novel styled talking between characters. The cast is quite likable, and even the antagonists have funny moments that are usually well placed but occasionally a bit jarring amidst the serious tone of the plot. The characters are all presented on screen in the background and are fairly animated in the 3D environment when walking around. There’s no world that players can freely explore or walk through and instead every decision is made through menus to make things a bit quicker between down time. The music is quite varied and enjoyable to listen to, even managing to avoid getting repetitive during longer matches by changing the beat up during certain points.
Culdcept Revolt tries its best to combine classic board and card games, but the execution is lacking in more complex strategies, making players feel as though they’re not building towards a strong end goal. Those interested in Culdcept Revolt will likely find the most enjoyment in competing against others online, rather than NPCs who feel as though they’re wasting the player’s time going through every motion another human player would do in full detail. With a likable cast of characters, interesting story and a wide variety of cards to create unique decks, Culdcept Revolt has a good premise that doesn’t pay off quite as well as intended.